Take a virtual ride on the new Lathrop riverwalk

Looking southeast towards downtown on the new causeway. Photo: John Greenfield
Looking southeast towards downtown on the new causeway. Photo: John Greenfield

I’ve always thought of the riverwalk by the historic Lathrop Homes housing project, which begins just southeast of the Diversey Avenue bridge over the Chicago River, as a bit of a hack. The simple paved trail, officially called the Jimmy Thomas Nature Trail, ran a couple of blocks north of Diversey, meeting up with Leavitt Street, an excellent low-stress northbound biking street. But few people seemed to know about the route.

The old riverwalk configuration east of the river. Image: Google Maps
The old riverwalk configuration east of the river. Image: Google Maps

That’s sure to change soon, since the riverwalk was recently rehabbed into a first-class facility as part of the controversial redevelopment of Lathrop Homes into mixed-income housing. The new development will feature 1,116 apartments, including 494 market-rate units, 400 public housing apartments, and 222 affordable units.

The most notable thing about the riverwalk redesign is that while the old path hugged the shore line south of Diversey, the new trail features a curving causeway over the river south of the bridge, providing a dramatic vista.

Anti-homeless installation under the Diversey bridge by the new path. Photo: John Greenfield
Anti-homeless installation under the Diversey bridge by the new path. Photo: John Greenfield

As with the old path, there’s hostile architecture under the bridge to discourage people experiencing homelessness from taking shelter under the span. Previously there were boulders under the bridge; these have been replaced with odd concrete pyramids that some observers have likened to an alien hatchery.

The new benches. Photo: John Greenfield
The new benches. Photo: John Greenfield

On the other hand, the long concrete benches installed along the new trail lack the “armrests” that are routinely included on seating in Chicago public spaces to discourage people from sleeping on them. However, they do feature anti-skateboard rails.

A crew team passes by the new dock. Photo: John Greenfield
A crew team passes by the new dock. Photo: John Greenfield

The new skating highlights native flora, and other features include a new dock (already slick with Canada goose droppings) and a circular concrete dog run. Overall, the new riverwalk is a nice facility, so it’s likely that it will become a popular route for people biking between Logan Square and points northeast.

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