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Plans For New Riverline Neighborhood Near South Loop Look Gorgeous

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Sep 13, 2016 4:47PM

Chicago's newest neighborhood could hold more than 3,600 housing units and take ten to 15 years and $1.5 billion to create out of almost nothing. But that's task at hand for developers set to break ground on a 62-acre riverfront prairie just south of the South Loop's Roosevelt road.

The Riverline, as it's known, is bounded by Harrison Street, Roosevelt Road, Wells Street and the Chicago River. According to new renderings released of the project, the fledging neighborhood will feature gorgeous public parks and architecturally appealing apartment buildings along the south branch of the Chicago River, featuring plenty of public, riverfront walkways and water taxi docks. The plans were created by Chicago's Perkins+Will architects for developers CMK Cos.

For a city government that's increasingly obsessed with transforming and reusing public park land near the city's center, the Riverline is a natural, but ambitious progression from the recent redevelopment of the downtown Riverwalk and the West Side's Bloomingdale Trail.

“This project represents not just a major investment-but a major vote of confidence-in the future of Chicago,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at the groundbreaking Monday. “Throughout Chicago’s history, our rivers have strengthened our city’s industries. Today, our rivers can strengthen our city’s communities."

The first phase of the project will feature Ancora, a 29-story rental building with 420 units near the River City apartment towers, and Current, an 18-story condo building with nine nearby townhouses and 251 condo units. The mixed-use development will also feature retail outlets to serve residents that would otherwise be heading north into the South Loop to shop. With apartment amenities such as a "rooftop amenity deck, clubroom, demo kitchen for small events, a jam room and screening room," Ancora sounds like it will also be a ritzy addition to Chicago's ever-growing stock of luxury rentals with sky-high prices. Seriously, a "jam room"?

Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin says the Riverline looks promising; "the designs for individual buildings are several cuts above the banal norm of the present building boom," he writes. But he cautions that a project this large will be hard to pull off, even for very experienced development firms, pointing to the long stagnation of Block 37 before it was finally built and open many years behind schedule.