City scouting for more Riverwalk concessions
21-Oct-15 – As the new Riverwalk’s first season winds down, the City of Chicago is looking for concession operators for next year. A “notice of availability” was issued on October 16, seeking a mix of recreational, cultural, entertainment, food and beverage, and retail facilities.
Existing concession operators have understood they are not necessarily a permanent fixture on the Riverwalk and would have to re-apply for next year. Chosen concessions will get a one-year contract with the possibility of a one-year extension.
New businesses this year included bars, a music venue, and a dock for motorized boats visiting the Riverwalk. But the mayor’s office offered more ideas for possible concessions, such as facilities for human-powered boating, retail stores “of a cultural or environmental nature,” educational facilities, or “any other type of family-friendly concessions.”
The season will end on Sunday, November 1, for the 14 businesses on the Riverwalk. Not all of them are certain they will be back next year but the consensus is that this year went well. Two new stretches of Riverwalk, Marina Plaza from State Street to Dearborn Street and The Cove from Dearborn to Clark Street, opened to the public on May 23 – River Theater opened on June 12 between Clark and LaSalle Streets – but the first concessions did not open until June 11.
The last concession to open was The Hideout, on August 20, when the bluegrass quartet The Wandering Boys performed for a crowd of about 250 people on the Riverwalk west of Wabash Avenue.
“The season went great,” says James Morro, owner and manager of Urban Kayaks. “The city did an amazing job promoting the walk and driving traffic. It was a very successful year by any definition. We look forward to many more and will be applying to remain where we are next season.”
Ron Silvia, owner of Downtown Docks, says the season was “great” for them, too. “We were open just in time for the July 4th holiday weekend and we look forward to the opportunity to grow and serve our customers in 2016.”
And while a spokesperson for City Winery says it is “too early at this time to comment” on next year, the wine bar west of State Street clearly benefited from being on a stretch of new Riverwalk that opened first and had particularly high traffic all summer.
A pre-proposal meeting is scheduled for November 4 at City Hall for vendors interested in participating. Proposals, due on December 2, will be reviewed by a committee of “city personnel familiar with the Riverwalk.” Their criteria will include each vendor’s experience and qualifications, operations plan, projected sales, and how much the city will make off the concession.
Franklin Street Bridge closed Thursday through Sunday
As construction of Phase 3 of the Riverwalk continues, the city announced the Franklin Street Bridge will be closed for four days starting on October 22. Chicago Department of Transportation says the bridge needs to be raised so that the under-bridge section of Riverwalk can be installed. The bridge will close to all traffic at 6 a.m. on Thursday and re-open on Sunday. Northbound vehicles will be detoured to LaSalle Street, then west on Grand Avenue.
Phase 3 will extend the Riverwalk from the west side of LaSalle Street to the north side of Lake Street by the fall of 2016.