Construction Update
Plans Come Together For Riverline’s Public Spaces

The massive Riverline development that’s going to bring thousands of new homes to Chicago’s South Loop is progressing noisily along South Wells Street, and more quietly behind-the-scenes.

Rendering of Riverline (Courtesy of Perkins+Will)

Rendering of Riverline (Courtesy of Perkins+Will)

Since November of last year, various city departments have been chewing over a 550+ page document from Michigan Avenue architecture firm Perkins+Will and West Loop landscape architects Hoerr Schaudt outlining some of the features of the public space that will be created between the project’s residential towers, and along the Chicago River.

Among the items that got our attention are:

  • Pictures of children wading in a small artificial stream
  • Pictures of children frolicking in a “splash pad”
  • Lots of landscaped hills and mounds
  • A “play slope”
  • An Archimedes screw, presumably as a water feature
  • Glorious, sinuous, LED-underlit seating
  • What might be a small canal with a bridge over it, leading half a block inland.

There’s also what appears to be a small canal with a bridge over it, leading half a block inland.  But we might be reading that portion of the diagrams wrong, as our copy is absolutely terrible. So bad that most of it is un-publishable.  But those bits that look like something are presented below for your consideration.

It looks like this is going to be a showcase merger of urban living and nature-at-your-doorstep.  The kind of blurring of indoor and outdoor living spaces that you see occasionally in Scandinavia, or in Vanouver’s beautiful, but failed, Olympic village.

It’ll be very green.  Very tactile.  Don’t look for a lot of straight lines.  We’re talking mounds of hills, and rivers of creeks.  Just as the use of enormous glassed-in lobbies blurs the barrier between indoors and outdoors, the landscaping and play areas here make enthusiastic use of water to give you the sense of experiencing the Chicago River just a few feet away, without running the risk of being swamped by the wake of a passing barge or bumping into the body of a drunken conventioneer leisurely bobbing downstream.

The best part is that it looks like a great deal, if not all, of this showcase greenspace will be public.  In the paperwork, the city is very specific that at least the following amenities are in the public domain:

  • The riverwalk
  • A new children’s playground
  • A new dog park
  • A new amphitheater
  • New walking trails
  • A new outdoor elevator (possibly connecting to the Roosevelt Road viaduct)

Location: 1000 South Wells Street, South Loop

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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