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City Seeks Contractors to Run Concessions on the New Riverwalk

Rendering of "The Jetty" portion of the riverwalk.

The Chicago Riverwalk extension, between State and Lake, moved forward today. This promenade promises to be a major downtown attraction, as well as a scenic, car-free route for pedestrians and bicyclists. The city held a pre-bid conference for organizations and partnerships interested in assisting with the planning and operation of concessions along the riverwalk. Interested parties need to respond to a request for qualifications by April 7.

This new segment of riverwalk will stretch about a half mile along the south bank of the waterway, incorporating six different themed sections delineated by the river bridges. The different areas would range from “The Jetty” fishing area to “The Cove” kayak dock to “The Swimming Hole” water play zone.

Possible amenities could include boat and bike tours and rentals, restaurants and cafes, educational facilies, and retail – especially shops or stands with an environmental or cultural focus, according to a press release from the mayor’s office. The city is looking for operators of recreational, cultural, entertainment, restaurant and retail establishments to help with the planning, development, operations and management of the new space.

The Chicago River and surrounding land have the potential to be a top entertainment and recreation destination for residents and tourists alike,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement. “We look forward to seeing proposals that will optimize the Chicago River area and, ideally, showcase Chicago businesses.”

Applicants who are deemed qualified by the Department of Procurement Services will be eligible to respond to a future request for proposals to help manage and operate the riverwalks, currently slated to be issued on May 2, with responses due by June 3.

Chicago received approval from Congress to redefine the navigational channel allowing the build-out of the path by 20 feet under each bridge, 25 feet between each bridge, and 50 feet between Franklin and Lake. The City has obtained a $98 million loan for design engineering and construction of the project from the U.S. Department of Transportation through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

The city plans to pay back the loan in approximately 35 years, with about 75 percent of revenue coming from tour boat and retail fees, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation. Some of the remaining money may come from riverside advertising.

Construction of the portion between State Street and LaSalle Street is already underway, and LaSalle Street to Lake Street construction is expected to begin later this year. The project is expected to be largely finished by 2016.

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