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Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, members of Friends of the River and a number of local partners today celebrated the official grand opening of the newly transformed and expanded Chicago Riverwalk, encompassing the area between State Street and LaSalle Street. Located along the south bank of the river, the Chicago Riverwalk is being constructed as a continuous walkway and recreational amenity connecting the lakefront with the heart of downtown.
“We are celebrating this transformative project that has turned the Chicago Riverwalk into Chicago’s next recreational frontier,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “For far too long, the riverfront was a forgotten part of our city. Now thanks to an innovative partnership with the federal government and our residents, we have reclaimed this public space for the people of Chicago to enjoy.”
Today’s celebration included exciting activities such as yoga, kids’ activities, live music, live performances, as well as multiple dining opportunities for residents and visitors to check out Chicago’s newest attraction.
The three new sections of phase two are thematically named: The Marina Plaza (from State to Dearborn) featuring a restaurant and area for boats to dock; The Cove (Dearborn to Clark) offering rentals and other amenities for kayakers; and the River Theater (Clark to LaSalle) connecting Upper Wacker to the River through a series of steps and a ramp designed to accommodate wheelchairs and strollers.
Chicago Riverwalk vendors will provide dining, live entertainment, biking, kayaking, cruises, boat rentals and water taxis for the summer season (May- November 1). In addition, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) will offer weekly music series and programming, which will also take place throughout the summer.
“The Chicago River is one of our city’s greatest – and underutilized -- natural assets. I commend Mayor Emanuel’s effort to connect the lakefront with the heart of downtown and to turn the valuable, underused real estate along the river into an attraction for city residents and tourists alike,” said Senator Dick Durbin. “I supported TIFIA’s expansion and am pleased Chicago seized the opportunity to tap the program for this valuable project.”
These six new sections of the Chicago Riverwalk are financed through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act (TIFIA) program.
"TIFIA is an innovative approach to financing important infrastructure projects that I worked to strengthen when I was Transportation Secretary. As an Illinoisian I cannot think of a better use for it than to build a spectacular new Riverwalk for the City of Chicago,” said Ray Lahood. “Just after MAP-21 passed, Mayor Emanuel came to me with his vision for this project. Several years later I am proud to see the result of our work together in the form of a great new public space that generations of Chicagoans will enjoy far into the future.”
The final phase of the Riverwalk will begin construction this summer, extending the Riverwalk to Lake Street, with the following three themed sections: The Water Plaza (LaSalle to Wells); The Jetty (Wells to Franklin) and The Boardwalk (Franklin to Lake).
Mayor Emanuel’s goal of making the Chicago River the city’s next recreational frontier launched in 2011 with the construction of three new boathouses in neighborhoods throughout the city, as well as a fourth in the Bridgeport neighborhood that is set to be completed by 2016. The city’s commitment to investing in increased recreational usage of the river is also evident in the recent expansion of Ping Tom Memorial Park that opened along the Chicago River, north of 18th Street at the edge of the Chinatown and South Loop neighborhoods. The park reflects the city's pledge to develop the riverfront with a $6 million investment in new parkland, riverwalk, native plantings, topography, new vistas, boat landings and a "disappearing" staircase into the water.
The six-block section of the Riverwalk was designed by a team of architects including Sasaki Associates, Ross Barney Architects, Alfred Benesch & Co. Engineers, and Walsh Construction.
For more information on the Chicago Riverwalk, please visit www.chicagoriverwalk.us.