Since Burnham's 1909 Plan for the city of Chicago, public access to the river has continued to be a goal for the City of Chicago, according to the Chicago Riverwalk Development Committee. The committee, which includes business and civic leaders, formed in 2007 to further the development of the Chicago River.
Currently, the main branch of the river is experiencing the most change. Construction workers are working to finish a section of the Chicago Riverwalk west of Wabash Avenue to State Street.
The new expansion of the riverwalk will allow the public to stroll along the south bank from State Street to Lake Michigan. The new expansion offers outdoor cafes, bars, river tours, and even a small museum about the history of the Chicago River and the Michigan Avenue Bridge House.
Zoe Olson of the McCormick Tribune Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum has seen the evolution of the riverwalk firsthand. "The riverwalk itself: I mean, I am amazed how fast it has gone up. People seem to be enjoying it a lot," said Olson.
Olson says that the expansion of the riverwalk has brought more people to the museum including Berwyn native Jim Zeremba, who is familiar with the older version of the riverwalk. "We bike rode and walked this for many years, but we never crossed over Michigan south ... no this would be west of Michigan, and this is the first time we've done this. So, it's an adventure," said Zeremba.
Sections of the Chicago Riverwalk currently span along both the north and south banks of the Chicago River. The Chicago Department of Transportation plans to eventually connect the riverwalk's south bank expansion further west to Franklin Street, with an ultimate goal of extending the riverwalk to Lake Street.
The riverwalk's future, past, and present
The future connection phase of the Chicago Riverwalk is shown in red, while the blue section shows the current connection phase. The older riverwalk, which connects Michigan Avenue to the lakefront is shown in yellow.
Chicago Department of Transportation Spokesperson Melissa Woods says that the ultimate goal is to extend the south bank's riverwalk to Lake Street.