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Circular riverwalk and museum in Portage Park adds to river redevelopment spree

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Portage Walking Museum proposal designed by Perkins + Will

An early rendering of the Portage Walking Museum, a proposed new northside park and public space seeking funding and community support.
Perkins + Will

Redevelopment of the Chicago River has been a recent theme for the city and local designers and architects; an entire exhibit of new ideas for waterfront can be found at the River Edge Idea Lab in the Expo 72 Gallery downtown, part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

One of the more intriguing river projects currently under consideration, the Portage Walking Museum, designed by Perkins + Will, a wide ring that would encircle the Chicago and Des Plaines rivers near Irving Park Road, may end up being more than just a idea.

According to DNAinfo, the original concept, dreamed up by the Portage Park Neighborhood Association last September, honored the area’s history as a portage site for canoes crossing between rivers. Centered around a ring that would include a number of art installations and public spaces, the design also includes a parklet and boat. Not surprisingly, given the location, references to water and boating abound: a park entrance near the Six Corners Shopping Center evokes the shape of a warped canoe, and a fountain and reflecting pool at Merrimac Park calls attention to the divide between the Great Lakes watershed and Mississippi watershed.

The local community group has already rallied some significant supporters for the endeavour. Both the American Indian Center and Chicago Public Art Group have helped with concepting, and the Metropolitan Planning Council, which likes the idea, helped recruit designers from Perkins+Will, who have laid out a full proposal.

While the project is still in a nascent stage, and would need buy-in from various local agencies, supporters have started applying for grants, and have been eyeing an summer 2018 opening date. The Chicago Community Trust just awarded the project $75,000 earlier this month, earmarked for two art installations and gardens. The project is currently on display as part of the Between States—50 Designers Transform Chicago's Neighborhoods exhibit at the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Perkins + Will
Perkins + Will