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The North Side Is Getting 2 Massive New Riverfront Projects

By Emma G. Gallegos in News on Oct 5, 2017 5:17PM

A rendering of the Riverview Bridge at night (Courtesy of Epstein)

Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel invoked the name of Daniel Burham for a wildly ambitious project that envisioned the Chicago River and all its branches as the city's "next great recreational park." Today we received news about plans for two massive nodes in the mega-project: one in River West and another further north along the river.

The two projects demonstrate the range of what Chicago is attempting to do by redeveloping the formerly industrial river for the 21st century. The 312 RiverRun project will be a massive undertaking to connect several North Side neighborhoods and offer them new recreational opportunities. The project in River West is an attempt to lure new tech companies to the city.

A rendering of the Riverview Bridge at sunset (Courtesy of Epstein)

312 RiverRun

Today the 312 RiverRun project broke ground. When it's all done, there will be a continuous path from Belmont to Montrose avenues.

The centerpiece of the project is the lengthy—and if the renderings are any indications, quite elegant and lovely—Riverview Bridge that will cross over the North Branch of the Chicago River and under the Addision road bridge. It will be 1,000 feet long and 16 feet wide, and it will arch upwards 18 feet so that boaters can enjoy the river underneath. The car-free bridge is scheduled to be completed next year. It will help to connect some already-existing and soon-to-be-constructed paths for pedestrians, runners and bikes that will cut through Irving Park, North Center, Avondale and Albany Park.

"Investing in bike and pedestrian paths are an essential part of making our communities greener and healthier," U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said, in a statement. "The Riverview Bridge will connect vibrant neighborhoods and give residents across the city safe and convenient access to some of Chicago's world class parks and recreational opportunities."

In the next phase of the project, CDOT will also replace and widen the Irving Park Road Bridge and begin construction on other stretches of the path, with a goal of completing it by late 2019. The project will extend the pedestrian and bike path under Irving Park Road that will connect California Park and Horner Park.

Alongside the path, this project's stretch of 95 acres will see a huge expansion in athletic opportunities, including softball fields, baseball fields, fitness centers, playgrounds, an ice skating rink, tennis courts, a BMX trail, an outdoor pool and boat houses.

"We are thrilled that the 312 RiverRun will bring together communities and expand recreational and fitness options on Chicago's North Side," Chicago Park District CEO & Superintendent Michael P. Kelly said in a statement. "This project is yet another example of our commitment to investing in our city's riverfront and reclaiming it as an invaluable resource for recreation."

A map that demonstrates the path of the lengthy Riverview Bridge (Courtesy of Epstein)

River District

Downriver, further details about the plan to redevelop River West being dubbed River District were announced and submitted to the city today. A quarter of the 37-acre development is slated for public open space, including a half-mile of continuous riverwalk. But the emphasis on this mixed-use development is to create a tech center for Chicago, modeled on hubs like Seattle and San Francisco and hoping to attract tech giants—namely Amazon, which happens to be in the market for a second headquarters.

By the numbers, the project is hoping to bring 19,000 jobs, 5,900 residential units, 9 million square feet of commercial and residential space and 18 buildings, according to Crain's.

"Our vision is to turn these 37 acres into a vibrant, mixed-use district," Murray McQueen, president of Tribune Real Estate, told the Tribune. "We look at it as a city in the city."

The property to be redeveloped stretches from the river to Halsted Street, Crain's says. A new street would be added that would intersect with both Chicago and Grand avenues. Tribune says the entire project as envisioned would connect the North Side with River North, and the Fulton Market district with the Loop.

Emanuel is firmly behind the effort to lure Amazon to Chicago, though the city hasn't submitted any sites for consideration just yet, according to the Tribune. McQueen says that it was coincidental that Amazon happened to be looking for a second headquarters as the site became available. He says that whether Amazon chooses the site or not, Tribune's vision of a tech-centric mixed-use neighborhood will stand.

Tribune Media owns the parcel of land to be redeveloped that currently includes the Chicago Tribune printing plant, whose lease runs until 2023. There are 30 acres to the south of the plant and 7 acres to the north. It's submitting plans designed by architecture firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz for redevelopment to the city today. If the city approves the plan, it will begin work in 2020 on the southern part of the site first, Crain's reports. It will be submitting plans for the 7 acres north of Chicago from Riverside Investment & Development separately.

Plans for this project were made possible by city legislation that passed this summer, which rezoned 760 acres of the North Branch Industrial Corridor, according to Curbed.