Chicago Inches Closer to Finishing Riverwalk Between North Avenue and Division

You may or may not have seen blog headlines in the last few days stating that Chicago is getting a new riverwalk.  Well, that’s not quite the truth.  It’s more like the next door neighbor of the truth.

What really happened is that Chicago city council approved money that will be used to put together a plan to develop a framework which will guide other people sometime in the future to use some unknown source of money to finish the riverwalk that partially exists between North Avenue and Division Street.  If that seems like a lot of steps to get from A to B, it is.  But coming up with money for a plan is an important step in the right direction.  The goal is to have the plan  done by the end of the year.

A view of the current secluded riverwalk off Kingsbury Street. (via Apple Maps)

A view of the current secluded riverwalk off Kingsbury Street. (via Apple Maps)

If you’ve ever ventured down the concrete path at the end of Weed Street in Goose Island, or stumbled down the dirt path behind the Old Navy parking lot, you know it’s another world back there along what is officially called the North Branch Canal.  There’s a couple of old boathouses once used by the Chicago Rowing Foundation before it moved to Bridgeport, a few hundred feet of docks, and behind Whole Foods a very civilized quayside path to take a stroll down, or from which to toss a fishing line into the water to test your luck.

Nothing to see here. Certainly not a tarped-up yacht. Hiding in the trees. At the end of Eastman Street.

Nothing to see here. Certainly not an incognito yacht. Hiding in the trees. At the end of Eastman Street.  Your dinghy is showing.

But those riparian delights come to an abrupt halt at Blackhawk street where the neighborhood reverts to its 20th century self.  It’s all rusty sheet piling, light industry, and jungle grade overgrowth.  A sort of no-man’s-land of brick dust, machinery noise, and river rats.  And according to Apple Maps, it’s an awesome place to hide a yacht.

A drawing of the potential riverwalk along the North Branch Canal (via Chicago Department of Planning and Development)

A drawing of the potential riverwalk along the North Branch Canal (Site Design Group via Chicago Department of Planning and Development)

This is the part of the canal that the city envisions as a waterside promenade.  A linear oasis for people, plants, and aquatic life stretching down to Division Street.  And the owners of that yacht had better shove off soon, because in addition to approving a quarter-million dollars to come up with a plan for the new riverfront park, another quarter-mil was approved to build a public pier where Eastman Street meets the water tout suite.

Site Design Group in the South Loop has already put together a vision for the area.  This is the same firm that helped turn Stearns Quarry into Palmisano Park.  Site sees water taxi stops, floating docks, underbridges, overlooks, wildlife corridors and more.

WTTW reports that real estate developers are anxious for this plan to move forward so they can continue moving the neighborhood from its industrial past into a residential and commercial center tailored to whatever it is that comes now that the hipster craze is fading away.

Just ignore the fact that on the other side of the water is a massive Waste Management garbage transfer station that turns your used Band Aids and packing peanuts into someone else’s problem 24 hours a day, except Sundays.

Location: 900 West Eastman Street, Goose Island


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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1 Comment

  1. There’s an interesting story behind that “yacht” hiding in the weeds. She was hand built out of steel by a Chicagoan who passed before her launching, and then was acquired by an eclectic individual who finished the construction of the yacht and lived on it for several years on the various branches of the Chicago River, before it was seized by the City for illegal mooring and ordered to move south to the Calumet River. The owner made a three part Youtube documentary where he pleads for leniency from the City, which is an interesting watch, even if you don’t agree with anything the man says.

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