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(Above) Chicago Riverwalk west of State Street on March 11. Photos by Steven Dahlman and Sarah Matheson except where noted. (Click on images to view larger versions.)

• Riverwalk still up for two design awards.
• Opening day celebrations will include music, art, and puppets.

30-Apr-17 – As the City of Chicago makes a “short list” of prospective Riverwalk vendors for new or otherwise unused spaces, the alderman of the ward through which the Riverwalk flows says they are trying to “nail down some design aesthetic guidelines” along the 1.25 miles from Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street.

42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly called the current designs by vendors of their spaces “ad hoc” and a “god-awful looking patchwork of aesthetic” but says it will get better as vendors are encouraged to make permanent improvements to the Riverwalk.

Photo by Sarah Matheson “What we don’t want to do is see it turned into a San Antonio River Walk, which is cheap and crappy-looking,” said Reilly (left) at a meeting of Streeterville Organization of Active Residents. “We do have that condition on the east end of the Riverwalk…because, frankly, the city is not sure what to do with that open space yet.”

Space east of Urban Kayaks and Island Party Hut – and as far west as Franklin Street – could soon house more restaurants or other amenities, says Reilly. 22 businesses, including three pizza restaurants, responded to a request for proposals, due March 9, for operation of concessions on the Chicago Riverwalk. The list includes current vendors such as Chicago’s First Lady Cruises, City Winery, Downtown Docks, Island Party Hut, Lillie’s Park Grill & Café, O’Brien’s Riverwalk Café, Tiny Hatt, Urban Kayaks, and Wendella Boats.

Vendors that would be new to the Riverwalk include BBQ Pontoon, a Chicago business that rents pontoon boats with food options like pizza and burgers, Chicago Zen, Cork & Kerry (an Irish pub), Dolce Vita Pizza, Kayak Chicago, Mista Pizza, Reality Bytes, Seadog Ventures, Shoreline Sightseeing, Slice Factory (pizza restaurant), The Northman (bar), VHG, and Wingstop, a restaurant that specializes in chicken wings.

(Right) Visitors, two and four-legged, to the Riverwalk last August. Photo by Steven Dahlman

One design award won, two to go for Riverwalk

Along with the Chinatown branch of the Chicago Public Library, the Chicago Riverwalk won an Architizer A+ Award this month, the largest awards program focused on the year’s best architecture, according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“The Chicago Riverwalk has redefined how people interact with the Chicago River, creating stunning new spaces that feature a variety of opportunities for recreation, education, and entertainment,” said Emanuel on April 14. “The Architizer A+ Awards recognizes what Chicagoans already know – that these important urban investments are quickly becoming some of the city’s architectural gems.”

The Riverwalk is up for two more awards. The engineering firm Alfred Benesch & Company is a finalist for an Excellence in Structural Engineering award for the Riverwalk from Structural Engineers Association of Illinois. Among the competition is River Point, the Riverwalk’s 52-story neighbor on the Chicago River, Union Station Transit Center, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, JTI Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and Hanking Center Tower, a 73-story building in China.

Photo by Steven Dahlman The finalists will give presentations at a meeting of SEAOI on May 2.

(Left) River Theater on June 13, 2015, its first full day of being open.

The Riverwalk is also a finalist for a Rudy Bruner Award. Named for the founder of The Bruner Foundation, a nonprofit organization located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the national design award “recognizes transformative urban places distinguished by their economic and social contributions to America’s cities,” according to the foundation’s website.

A committee of design and development professionals will select winners in June after reading award applications, visiting each site, and interviewing project participants. The winner gets a gold medal and $50,000. Four second-place winners will each get $10,000.


Opening day celebrations will include music, art, and puppets

Events on May 20, the day when current vendors are expected to be open, will go from morning to night and be mostly free…

9 a.m. Free river cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady. Board from Riverwalk on east side of DuSable Bridge at Michigan Avenue.

• Chicago Architecture Foundation will give free hour-long walking tours along the Riverwalk at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Meet at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Wacker Drive & Wabash Avenue.

10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free kayaking for children and parents at Urban Kayaks, located between Columbus Drive and Lake Shore Drive.

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bridge lifts to allow sailboats to get from winter storage to Lake Michigan. Between noon and 3 p.m., the public is invited to view bridge lifts for free from inside McCormick Bridgehouse.

Noon and 2 p.m. March of the Fish. The Art Side Out Studio, Mask Shop’s Parade Club, and King College Prep Marching Band will march along the Riverwalk – with large fish puppets – between Columbus Drive and Lake Street. They will march east at noon and west at 2 p.m.

• Between noon and 4 p.m., classic and antique boats will be on display between Wells Street and LaSalle Street. Also, Chicago Park District will offer free lessons, between Franklin and Wells Streets, on how to fish.

• A chamber ensemble comprised of members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will perform at 1 p.m. between Lake Street and Franklin Street, and 2 p.m. near Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Taipei City Government 5-6 p.m. Dragon Boat exhibition race along the Riverwalk.

(Left) A dragon boat. Photo by Taipei City Government.

8 p.m. One-minute grand finale display of pyrotechnic waterfalls at River Theater between Clark and LaSalle Streets.