Two main sections of the Chicago Riverwalk opened to the public over the Memorial Day weekend. Just before 1:00pm, the barriers were removed on two sections between Clark Street and State Street known as The Marina and The Cove. These are the first sections of the riverwalk to be completed on the main channel of the Chicago River since the portion just east of Michigan Avenue was finished several years ago.
Though the riverside “rooms” are open to the public, they’re not necessarily complete just yet. There are no concessions and some of the amenities are somewhat lacking. Here’s a reminder of what we were promised:
“The Marina is designed to accommodate restaurant retail space and public seating.”
“The Cove may allow for human-powered watercraft to dock.”
If nothing else, at least there’s plenty of places for people to sit and rest. Over the last ten years, places to sit have become rarer and rarer as the city has waged a war against people (homeless and otherwise) sleeping in public places. Park benches have been sacrificed for flimsy green chairs, and ledges are spiked with metal braces to spoil skateboarders’ “grinding” activities.
It’s the opposite of the urban planning of our forefathers who encouraged people to sit, enjoy and marvel at the city — witness the chairs and benches built into the historic planters along Wacker Drive. Today the mantra is “Get ’em in. Get their money. Get ’em out.”
The project to “activate” the Chicago riverfront has been a long process. Some parts are dark and dank with rats and mud. The few businesses there who try to eek out a living often don’t last more than one season. Others are shiny, new and promising. And still other simply don’t exist.
With four more main channel sections still to come (The River Theater [Clark to LaSalle], The Swimming Hole [LaSalle to Wells], The Jetty [Wells to Franklin] and The Boardwalk [Franklin to Lake]) and one section each on the North and South branches also under construction, the time has never been better for the urban metropolis to heal the wounds of the past and reconnect with the watercourse that gave it life.
Thanks to Steve Dahlman for the photographs used in this piece. Visit his Loop North News for stories you won’t read in any other Chicago blog.