Mayor Rahm Emanuel, First Lady Amy Rule, city officials, Riverwalk architects, site designers, artists, vendors and other local partners celebrated the opening of the newly transformed Chicago Riverwalk East from Michigan Avenue to Lake Shore Drive, completing the 1.25-mile Riverwalk. With the completion of this $12 million investment, every block of this award-winning 1.25-mile promenade and recreational amenity has been modernized or developed for the first time. To mark the completion of the Riverwalk, the City of Chicago is celebrating the Chicago Riverwalk Season with free public programming and vendor specials throughout the week.
“Chicago is reconnecting with the River in a way that improves our quality of life, protects our environment and enhances economic development that is sustainable for future generations,” said Mayor Emanuel. “The completion of Riverwalk East is a major milestone in that journey. We are finally fulfilling Daniel Burnham’s original vision of Chicago as a true two-waterfront city.”
In August 2018, Mayor Emanuel announced plans to improve older sections of the east end of the Riverwalk from Michigan Avenue to Lake Shore Drive, building upon the success of the Riverwalk and creating even more opportunities for residents and visitors to interact with and enjoy the Chicago River.
The design team, led by Mueller and Mueller, worked with the landscape architecture firm of Site Design Group to substantially complete this reimagination of Riverwalk East. This design emphasizes the transition from a park-like environment on the east end near Lake Shore Drive to the urban civic space of Michigan Avenue and creates areas of public seating surrounded by landscaping. The new Riverwalk East space includes: 10,000 square feet of “play” space; 94 new LED dark sky compliant light fixtures; three public restrooms; approximately 150 new tree plantings from 35 different species to increase the diversity of the urban tree canopy, and 20 types of furnishings from the Riverwalk palette increasing public seating by over 500 along the Riverwalk.
“I have been designing public spaces in the City of Chicago for the past twenty-five years," said Ernie Wong of Site Design Group. "It is an honor to have worked with Muller 2 and the Department of Fleet and Facility Management on the site improvements for Riverwalk East! The design intent was to take a largely urban hardscape on the west end and transiting to a natural and lush landscaped corridor. The project adds valuable open space, better pedestrian access to the river and seating to view the natural asset in the heart of downtown Chicago.”
In line with the Mayor’s goal of bringing more public art to the Riverwalk and throughout the city, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and the Department of Fleet and Facility Management (2FM) led a Riverwalk East Gateway Project committee to select a new work of art that will create an iconic visual marker for the south bank of the Chicago River just east of Michigan Avenue. The committee selected Weather Station by the Chicago-based artist team Iñigo Manglano Ovalle and Bill Baker. Manglano-Ovalle is a renowned conceptual and visual artist working across media to create large-scale installations and architectural interventions, and Baker is a structural engineering partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), whose innovative structural engineering design and research have been vital in realizing some of the world’s most recognizable structures.
Scheduled for completion in fall of 2020, Weather Station comprises an array of seven slender, stainless steel towers of varying heights – each culminating in a wind vane and anemometer – collectively rising from the river bank to a height of 117 feet.
“The Chicago Riverwalk has become an escape from the everyday with one-of-a-kind visual art projections at Art on theMart and new works of public art that enhance what is truly a magnificent urban space,” said DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly. “Once complete, Weather Station will become an iconic public art landmark rising from the banks of the Chicago River with its animated stainless steel towers."
Additionally, a submarine memorial designed and funded by a group of Navy volunteers is another new addition to Riverwalk East, and will be dedicated on Saturday, May 18. The memorial commemorates the twenty-eight submarines manufactured in Wisconsin that used the Chicago River to connect through various waterways to the Gulf of Mexico and on to the war efforts after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“We are incredibly proud of our work in Mayor Emanuel’s incredible vision to expand on Daniel Burnham’s dream of making Chicago a two-waterfront city and in building a Riverwalk that is the envy of cities around the world,” said Department of Fleet and Facility Management (2FM) Commissioner David Reynolds. “I know I speak for all Chicagoans when I say I can’t wait to enjoy every inch of the new features and amenities of the east end of the Riverwalk, both this summer, and for years to come.”
As part of additional investments in the Riverwalk, Mayor Emanuel, the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) and 2FM developed the Riverwalk Community Marketplace between Michigan and Wabash Avenues, a new concessions program to highlight existing vendors in the City’s culturally diverse communities. Construction on the marketplace began in the fall of 2018. This investment includes the expansion of the existing path to create a corridor for the placement of kiosks.
Following a 2FM public solicitation to identify marketplace vendors that encouraged minority and women-owned vendors to apply, the new Community Marketplace will open in June and will feature the following nine new vendors:
“I founded Justice of the Pies in honor of my late father and have operated in the City Market program for the past few years," said Maya-Camille Broussard. "I am thrilled to be part of the Community Marketplace program and to bring my specialty pies and quiches to the Chicago Riverwalk! This is a great opportunity for a small, minority and woman-owned business.”
In conjunction with the completion of the 1.25 million Chicago Riverwalk, DCASE, 2FM and local partners are kicking-off the Chicago Riverwalk Season celebration today with a week of free public programming and vendor specials. The celebration features a new Art on theMART program, a pyrotechnic display, lantern procession, public programming, vendor specials and more. Starting today, the Chicago Riverwalk will offer a preview of summer programming including Art on theMART, new works of public art, fireworks, tours, kayaking, fishing at the Jetty led by the Chicago Park District, and walking tours led by the Chicago Architecture Center and Chicago Greeter tours. For complete details, visit ChicagoRiverwalk.us
Additional programming will occur throughout the year, including a new event by Beam Suntory to coincide with the launch oftwo new pathways at City Colleges to prepare students in the fields of beverage and bar management, developed in partnership with Beam Suntory. On the evening of August 22nd, Beam Suntory will host Between Two Bridges: A Jim Beam & House of Suntory Highball Experience on the Jetty. This inaugural ticketed event is a vibrant experience that takes people on a journey of music, art, and food – all highlighting the refreshing highball cocktail featuring Jim Beam® Bourbon and House of Suntory spirits, which include Suntory Whisky Toki™, Suntory Roku™ Gin and Suntory Haku® Vodka. All proceeds from the event will benefit City Colleges of Chicago.
In 2011, Mayor Emanuel tasked 2FM, the Chicago Department of Transportation and leading architects, engineers and designers to expand the Riverwalk from State Street to Lake Street, creating a new connected path system. To create this vision, the Mayor worked with the United States Department of Transportation to identify funding for the continuation of the Riverwalk through a federal program called the Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act (TIFIA). Nearly $100 million was secured to construct the segment on the Main Branch of the Chicago River from State Street to Lake Street. Designed by a team lead by Sasaki Associates, including Ross Barney Architects, Benesch and Jacobs Ryan Landscape Architects. State Street to LaSalle Drive was completed in May of 2015 and LaSalle Drive to Lake Street was completed in the fall of 2016.
“In 1983, the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) launched the first architecture river cruise to tell the stories behind the iconic buildings lining the river. In 2019, Chicago has public spaces on the banks that match the design excellence of the skyscrapers above,” said Lynn Osmond, President and CEO of the CAC. “The Riverwalk is Mayor Emanuel’s enduring legacy, but not the whole story. The Riverwalk tops a diverse list of design initiatives that elevate the civic space and public role: co-located libraries and senior housing, Lake Shore Drive pedestrian bridges, mixed-income residential projects, awarding the high profile O’Hare Global Terminal project to a thriving, woman-led Chicago architecture practice. Mayor Emanuel’s support has put architecture and design at the center of Chicago’s debates. In 2015, he established North America’s largest architecture and design exhibition, the Chicago Architecture Biennial. In 2018, he was a vocal supporter as the CAC moved to a larger, high profile new home above the Riverwalk where we introduced expanded exhibits and a larger civic role.”
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About the Chicago Riverwalk
The City of Chicago’s award-winning Chicago Riverwalk, a 1.25-mile promenade through the heart of downtown, has quickly become one of the city’s most popular destinations for art, music, dining and the enjoyment of natural habitats, beloved by Chicagoans and visitors alike. The Riverwalk is managed by the Chicago Department of Fleet and Facility Management with programming support from the Access to the space is free and open to the public daily from 6 a.m.–11 p.m.