Riverwalk to re-emerge with new look


(Published April 1, 2019)

By Jesse Wright, staff writer

As the weather turns warm and the streets of the city begin to go from brown to green, the Riverwalk, too, is reemerging after months of extensive renovations.

In mid-December, the city closed the thin, serpentine ribbon of land hugging Wacker Dr., from about Michigan Avenue, and excavators scraped the landscape bare. But finally, later this month, the Riverwalk will re-open, fresh and newly developed, though landscaping will continue through the end of Spring, according to a city spokesperson.

The 1.2-mile development project is focused on some of the oldest parts of the Riverwalk, according to a news release and the spokesperson said the renovation is intended to accommodate more visitors and businesses.

The Riverwalk is a hotspot for dining, drinking and boating recreation as well as bicyclists, joggers and walkers. Urban Kayaks, Island Party Hut, The Northman, and Chicago’s First Lady operate businesses along this portion of the Riverwalk though more will be coming.

“Vendors in the Esplanade section are also making improvements to their locations,” said the spokesperson. “A portion of the Civic District will be getting a new community marketplace. Eight new Riverwalk vendors will be in operation beginning in June.”

There is not an exact date for the re-opening, the spokesperson said it would likely be at the end of April.

“A new path is being installed along with new lighting, seating, landscaping and a railing along the dockwall,” the spokesperson explained. “A new Community Marketplace is also being constructed between Wabash and Michigan Avenues. Portions of the ramp have been removed to create the market which will feature local minority- and women-owned businesses. An elevator is also being installed in this area.”

In addition to commercial improvements, the city will invest heavily in native plants.

“More than 100 new trees are included in the landscaping, which will provide a diverse variety of species,” the spokesperson said. “The new seating areas will be available to the public and guests of the businesses in that area to enjoy a picnic or beverage.”

The project is expected to cost $10 million, according to a city news release issued last year. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the project will boost the city’s economy.

“The riverfront investments we are making will make the entire 1.25-mile stretch inviting to residents and visitors, increase recreational opportunities and continue to promote economic growth,” he said.

The work is being done by Fleet and Facility Management, the city department that oversees the Riverwalk.

(Snag the before/after images from P. 14/15). Caption: The Riverwalk project will bring more venders to the popular walking area and it will also add more greenery and more space for pedestrians. Photo and artist’s rendering courtesy the City of Chicago

While the Riverwalk was still nowhere near finished in late March, the city expects to have the area finished in late April. Photo by Jesse Wright

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