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.

  • Eric Allix Rogers

    I hope they’ll give some thought to separate paths for pedestrians and bikes. The awesome success of the river walk has really reduced its usefulness as a bike route.

  • Fred

    I fully expect this conversion to make this area totally useless for non-tourist type biking.

  • jeff wegerson

    Oh good grief more adverstising to trash up the city: “Some of the remaining money may come from riverside advertising.” Maybe they could sell corporate naming right to the bridges. Not!

  • Lizzyisi

    I think it probably will and I’m of two minds about it. We have so few good transportation cycling routes (and almost no safe dedicated transportation cycling routes) that it feels malicious when we lose any. But I think pleasant, developed pedestrian-oriented spaces, which allow casual cycling, are necessary for the city. So, while I don’t like the idea of the route being taken away from transportation cyclists, I really like pedestrian-space development. And, personally, I just can’t hate a lovely river walk.

    If wishes mattered, I’d wish that the development would go through but that an alternate transportation-cycling route be developed in conjunction with making the river less hospitable to through-cyclists.

  • Fred

    I concur.

    My wish would be a continuous path along the river for transportation/exercise cyclists that connected up to the 606ingdale and the North Branch Trail that starts at Lawrence. I, and I bet many others, would switch to using it instead of the Lakefront Path. So it would be both an amazing commuter route and provide some relief on the crowded Lakefront Path.

  • cjlane

    It’s totally useless NOW, unless you have some sort of fancy water bike. This is the south side of the river, from State St west to Lake St. *NOTHING* discussed in the post will remove even 1′ of a useful “non-tourist type biking” route.

  • Last year Gabe Klein said any advertising would be “very tasteful and very limited.”

  • The riverwalk extension won’t make the river less hospitable to bicyclists, since it’s currently impossible to bike along the river from State to Lake and this will make it possible to do so, albeit slowly.

  • jeff wegerson

    Like the bus shelters no doubt. After a while one gets used to it. It’s hardly noticed anymore and then there is psychic room for more. It’s one of those things you only really notice when it’s all gone or you go to a place that has none. Sometimes it becomes so much a fabric of the environment that some people bemoan its loss. “That strip used to have an excitement to it. Now it’s so bland.” But other people can get an epileptic-like reaction to even the most tasteful and limited. Selling a city’s soul to cover expenses is by definition tasteless or worse leaves a bad taste. But don’t mind me. I’m an extremist radical. Very much at the edge, if not over it.

  • Lizzyisi

    Ah, well, there you go! Clearly, I’ve never cycled there! :)

  • cjlane

    The path–if not real usability for cycling–is part of the long term plan for riverfront uses.

    Even that, tho, is all about the *north* bank of the river thru downtown, as the south side goes to, well, the south side. And this path, to the extent fully built out and connected down/up (Chicago–where you can’t really tell which way a river flows) stream would tie to Ping Tom.

    The connection to the 606 would require an under/over pass of the Kennedy and the parallel rail line from the vicinity of the soon-to-be-closed Finkl–sure, could use Cortland as the crossover, but less favorable.

  • scott moorhouse

    Hot dog stands everywhere!!


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