When any neighborhood starts to turn around in Chicago, it needs a beachhead. A physical symbol of the future of the neighborhood so large and so impressive that it signals a point of no return. Think Aldi and Target in Uptown. Or 1K Fulton in West Town. Or Kingsbury Plaza in River North.
In Bridgeport, that beachhead may well be the Studio Gang-designed boathouse now under construction at 2754 South Eleanor Street.
It’s the fourth boathouse to be built by the Chicago Park District in recent years, as the city tries to wrestle the Chicago River back from the jaws of industry and present it to the public as a source of civic pride on a shiny, though slightly smelly, platter. The first two opened in 2013 at Ping Tom Park in Chinatown and Clark Park in North Center. 2014 saw the opening of another in River Park in Ravenswood.
And just when you thought “River Park” was an unimaginative name for a park on a river, the new $8.5 million boathouse is under construction at Park 571.
Construction has been ongoing for a little under a year, with a goal of opening before the snow flies. As you can see in the photograph above from Joe Zekas at YoChicago!, that’s not an entirely unreasonable timeline. To the layman, the building appears mostly assembled and the work going on seems concentrated on the landscaping.
Even though this building is expected to open just in time for winter, that doesn’t mean it’s useless. Inside one of the buildings is a 5,800-square foot heated training center where skullers and others can practice their craft year-round.
The other building provides 13,000 square feet of boat storage and repair space.
If all this leaves you scratching your head and wondering, isn’t that still a very industrial area? The answer is yes. The photo below really puts the boathouse in context.