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New riverwalk takes shape along the south branch of the Chicago River

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The privately maintained pathway will soon be open to the public

Photos by Jay Koziarz

The revamped eastern segment of the Chicago Riverwalk isn’t the only new waterfront improvement headed downtown. Crews are putting the finishing touches on a quarter-mile-long pedestrian path between Harrison Street and the River City Apartments along the river’s south branch.

Masterplanned by Perkins+Will and designed by Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects, the new riverwalk is part of the larger Southbank development from Lendlease. It will offer a waterfront viewing platform, a kayak launch, natural landscaping along the river’s edge, and the potential for a future water taxi stop.

A stone amphitheater at the adjacent Southbank park can host small public events and concerts, according to a statement from the developer. Although privately funded and maintained, these open space amenities will be available to the public when it is completed later this year.

Future phases of the development could include a tower that cantilevers over the path.

So far only one building of the multiphase Southbank development, The Cooper, is complete. Other residential structures are expected to follow in the future. The recently topped-off Alta Grand Central under construction at the southwest corner of Wells and Harrison is not part of the Lendlease project.

The upcoming Southbank riverwalk offers a preview of what a revitalized south branch of the Chicago River could look like in the future. The first segment will be eventually joined by a new pathway crossing in front of the Riverline development to the immediate south. Just beyond that, a 100-foot-wide public riverwalk is planned at the sprawling mixed-use megadevelopment known as The 78.

The new walkway is designed to be fully accessible from Harrison Street.
It follows a meandering path above natural landscaping along the water’s edge.
Alta Grand Central (left), The Cooper at Southbank (center), and the River City Apartments (right).
The future Southbank park is already starting to turn green.
The sprawling riverfront site is still fenced off from the east.