Not even the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) could fill the seats at last night's Riverwalk extension presentation at the Chicago Architecture Foundation. We jest. The seats weren't filled because most folks are headed home at 5:30 on a Wednesday, many have already seen renderings for the transformative six-block project, and details were recently made available online. Ross Barney Architects produced the glossy set of designs back in the fall, rooted in six distinct typographies: The Marina (State to Dearborn), The Cove (Dearborn to Clark), The River Theater (Clark to LaSalle), The Swimming Hole (LaSalle to Wells), The Jetty (Wells to Franklin), and The Boardwalk (Franklin to Lake).
CDOT's Michelle Woods took the lectern to discuss the components of each and how consensus was reached. Working west from the east end of the Phase Two designs at State Street (Phase One being the completed leg from Michigan to State), The Marina will feature a plaza for al fresco dining and lounging, restaurants, and docking areas for small watercraft; The Cove will supply native marsh plantings and ecological activities; The River Theater should act as a beacon to street-level passerby with its grove of trees and broad stairs to the water's edge; The Swimming Hole (to be rebranded), the site with the most sun, will include a wading pool, concessions, restrooms, and docking; The Jetty will be defined by floating gardens, small piers, and ecological programs, and may be a desirable spot for catered events; and, finally, The Boardwalk will maximize its 50' build-out with gardens, earthen mounds, and a meandering footbridge to Lake Street.
CDOT estimates that 2.8 million souls will visit the beautified and functionally connected Riverwalk annually, about a million shy of NYC's High Line but almost equaling Lincoln Park. Rosy estimate or realistic? If the spaces live up to the renderings and if seasonal obstacles are somehow solved, then its potential draw is great.
Construction could start as early as this summer with completion 15-18 months later, depending on when the city is invited to apply for a special government loan. To date, the only budget that exists is the one for design work. Another $90-$100M is needed.
Following the presentation, various comments were made regarding off-season strategies, transit and foot traffic connectivity, shading, and compatibility with Wolf Point riverfront designs. Woods replied that CDOT has taken each point into account, and that planning of and public debate over the project has been running for several years. The plans before us are the culmination of all of that, only now there's real momentum.
·Plans For Six-Block Riverwalk Extension Unveiled [Curbed Chicago]
·Chicago Riverwalk Plans to be Presented at Community Meeting [City of Chicago]