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New Sections of Chicago Riverwalk Open

New Sections of Chicago Riverwalk Open

Riverwalk lineup inculdes array of dining, educational, cultural and recreational activities

The new riverwalk on the Chicago River is nearly complete and people were quick to head out there to feel it out for themselves. It's gorgeous — and packed! Canoers stop for a quick explanation of the buildings.
CC: Don Harder

As part of Chicago’s efforts to transform the river into a recreational frontier, Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently opened three new sections of the Chicago Riverwalk and announced the lineup of vendors that will provide dining, educational, cultural and recreational activities.

“It’s exciting to see the vision of the Riverwalk coming together and becoming a reality. It’s a big step forward in making the river the next great recreational frontier in Chicago,” said Mayor Emanuel.

Located along the main branch of the Chicago River, the Riverwalk is being constructed as a continuous walkway and recreational amenity connecting the lakefront with the heart of downtown.

The three new sections, which connect the existing Riverwalk, are thematically named: The Marina (from State to Dearborn) features a restaurant and area for boats to dock; The Cove (Dearborn to Clark) offers rentals and other amenities for kayakers; and the River Theater (Clark to LaSalle) connects Upper Wacker to the river through a series of steps and a ramp to accommodate wheelchairs and strollers.

The final phase of the Riverwalk construction will begin 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). Highlights from the construction process can be viewed here.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) has been working on the Chicago Riverwalk since East-West Wacker Drive reconstruction began in the 1990s. The roadway was reconfigured to accommodate the expansion of the riverwalk to promote a pedestrian walkway and activate the space as a public amenity. The East-West Wacker Project included utility build-outs for the future Riverwalk build-out for the entire length from Michigan to Lake Street.

Approximately 1.5 million people visited the first phase of the Riverwalk (east of State Street to Lake Shore Drive); the new sections are estimated to bring 3.1 million visitors, increasing spending and earnings. The new sections of the Chicago Riverwalk are financed through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act (TIFIA) program.

“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 U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. “I supported TIFIA’s expansion and am pleased Chicago seized the opportunity to tap the program for this valuable project.”

The following dining and activity vendors are confirmed for summer 2015:

LOCATION: Lakeshore Drive to Michigan Avenue


Electric bike rental and guided tours

485 East Riverwalk South- adjacent to Lake Shore Drive


Urban Kayaks

Returning to the riverwalk; kayak rental and guided tours

435 East Riverwalk South


Island Party Hut

Island-themed food and beverages, charter boat rentals, live music

355 East Riverwalk South- between Field Drive and Columbus


Wheel Fun Rentals

Family-friendly bike rentals 305 East Riverwalk South- immediately east of Columbus


Cyrano’s Café & Wine Bar

Returning to the Riverwalk; French food and wine

233 East Riverwalk South- immediately west of Columbus


Mercury Cruises

Charter boat tours in conjunction with the Chicago Architecture Foundation tours

112 East Upper Wacker Drive


LOCATION: Wabash Avenue


O’Brien’s Riverwalk Café

Returning to the Riverwalk; food and beverages, live entertainment on Thursdays

45 East Riverwalk South (east of the bridge)


Bike and Roll Chicago

Bike rentals, guided walking, bike, and Segway tours

316 North Wabash (Upper Wabash Plaza near the Vietnam Memorial)


LOCATION: The Marina- State to Dearborn


City Winery

Food beverages, and live music

11 West Riverwalk South- State Street Side


Downtown Docks

Transient docking for motorized recreational boats

27 West Riverwalk South- Dearborn side


LOCATION: The Cove- Dearborn to Clark


Flanders Belguim Beer and Fries

Belgium-style beer and food

55 West Riverwalk South- Dearborn side


Urban Kayaks

Kayaking outpost for paddlers

71 West Riverwalk South- Clark Street side


LOCATION: The River Theater – Clark and LaSalle


Wendella WaterTaxi

Water taxi service on weekends

105 West Riverwalk South

In addition, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) will offer weekly music series and programming, which will take place later this summer.

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 at the edge of the Chinatown and South Loop neighborhoods. The park includes a Riverwalk, native plantings, topography, new vistas, boat landings and a “disappearing” staircase into the water.

WBC partnered with OpportunitySpace to build the Riverwalk’s official website: OpportunitySpace is an online marketplace that enables creative urban development. The company aims to make it simple to explore, acquire, and develop property, so that cities and towns are built to reflect the people who live in them.


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