A large section of the South Branch of the Chicago River was straightened in 1926 to provide more space for the railroad tracks and to encourage expansion of the downtown area to the south side.
This part of the South Branch is currently characterized by large areas of privately owned vacant land and low seawalls. Its proximity and panoramic views of the south Loop skyline are its most alluring attributes. Existing focal points around this site are the St. Charles Air Line Bridge, a designated landmark due to its impressive pair of bascule bridges and large concrete counterweight, and Bertrand Goldberg’s River City which was built in 1986 and includes a 70 slip marina. The challenge at this site is how to provide a new river walk extending from privately owned land to pass under the railroad bridge and then to connect to Ping Tom Memorial Park.
Ping Tom Memorial Park converted 17-acres of an old rail yard into a new park with rolling green spaces, a children’s playground, and landscaped gathering areas, taking full advantage of the river views. In 2013, a new boat house facility was completed and it offers kayak rentals and a public boat dock. That same year, a new Chicago Park District field house located at 18th Street was also completed and includes a state-of-the-art fitness center, indoor swimming pool, and a multi-purpose gymnasium.
Riverline Development is a new multi-phased development along 7-acres of the South Branch between Harrison and Roosevelt. The project integrates five high-rise buildings with river walk amenity and recreational experiences such as kayaking, water features, children’s play area, and public amphitheater. The first phase of the project is ongoing and will include over 400 residential units, a new 3.5-acres park and restored shoreline, and publicly accessible river walk.
South of Roosevelt Road Development is a 62-acre parcel owned by Related Midwest. A multi-year phased development has been conceptually envisioned for this area for a variety of uses including residential, commercial, retail, and cultural, with an enhanced river walk, landscaped open spaces, and infrastructure improvements.