“Our rivers are already tremendous assets, but they hold the potential for much more.”
—Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago
Chicago has a long history of innovation on our rivers. From the channelization and reversal of the Chicago River to the construction of some of the world’s first moveable bridges, we have always been up to the challenge of making our rivers work better for us.
Chicago is already hard at work reimagining our rivers again! Recent visioning, investments, and development along the riverfront, such as the Riverwalk, modernized boathouses, and the Great Rivers Chicago initiative, have shown us how our riverfronts can be exciting hubs of entertainment, recreation, and business.
Nine world-class architectural firms with experience designing award-winning riverfronts, parks and public spaces were asked to submit concepts for a unified river edge. Each firm has created their visions for three iconic sites along the Chicago River, with each site representing a typical edge condition: a building edge, an open space edge, and a bridge edge. The challenge for the firms was to seamlessly connect these various edge conditions and to provide inviting and active public spaces along Chicago’s river, the city’s second coast.
The primary goal for the River Edge Ideas Lab is to help inform the next wave of riverfront investment. Please take this opportunity to view these innovative concepts and tell us what resonates with you! These visions and your feedback will then be used by the City’s Department of Planning and Development to inform new river edge design guidelines.
Your input will shape important decisions about the future of Chicago’s riverfronts! Ultimately, feedback and ideas collected through the River Edge Ideas Lab will inform a new set of river edge design guidelines that will steer future development projects along the Chicago River.
On each firm’s page, you can view their overall design concept and then dive deep into specific ideas for each river edge condition. Once you’ve reviewed everything, please take the time to provide detailed feedback through our survey.
Using the designs and feedback from the River Edge Ideas Lab, Great Rivers Chicago, and other design and engineering studies, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development will update the city’s guidelines for riverfront development.
The Chicago Department of Transportation is conducting a study to understand the engineering needs and challenges of extending the Riverwalk from Lake Street to Ping Tom Park.
Metropolitan Planning Council convenes a committee of experts and key decision-makers who will help advocate for more productive, living, and inviting rivers.
The Chi-Cal Rivers Fund continues to support infrastructure improvements along Chicago’s rivers, and the Chicago Community Trust has recently created a new opportunity to fund community-led riverfront planning, programing, and projects through its Our Great Rivers Fund.