Mayor Emanuel outlines plan for expanding Chicago's Riverfront

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Monday his vision for the Chicago Riverfront, where development has drawn hundreds of thousands of people to the Chicago River annually.

For more than a century, commerce the Chicago River's primary function and the lakefront was the place for recreation and entertainment.

However, things have changed with clean-up efforts along the river and the development of the riverwalk.

"What you see now with the infrastructure and architecture, it's as popular as the lakefront now," said Michael Kelly, of the Chicago Park District. "I think it's only going to get even more popular now that people have seen what it can be."

Mayor Emanuel says he is committed to making that happen. With millions of dollars in development and improvements already in place along the lake and river, the mayor said he is committed to going even further.

One ambitious plan is to connect Ping Tom Park in Chinatown to the riverfront path in the Loop -- several miles of new path. Specifics about the plan would be announced in the coming weeks, Emanuel said.

"I'm excited about the future and being able to walk from Chinatown all the way downtown. It will bring new people into our community," said David Wu, of the Ping Tom Park Council.

"From barely nothing, all told, we're creating more than eleven new miles of accessible riverfront space," Emanuel said.

The mayor says the riverwalk has not cost taxpayers anything, and in fact is making money and creating jobs.

His plans call for future development along the river to add to its appeal and rival the lake, making Chicago a two-waterway city.

"We're just beyond thrilled. We're really involved in the planning and execution and we think it's all really good," said Margaret Frisbie, of Friends of the Chicago River.

"The decisions we collectively, in this room and others, make in the next two or three years will shape the river and the surrounding communities for the next 20 to 30 years," Emanuel said.

There are also plans to extend the riverwalk from the Loop to the lake.
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