Riverwalk speaks of Emanuel's legacy

As Mayor Rahm Emanuel winds down his term, he's working to shore up his legacy by opening the final phase of the Chicago Riverwalk.

On Monday, he took a stroll down the final phase from Michigan Avenue to Lake Shore Drive in what could be called "Legacy Lane" for him.

"Today, the river has come into full view for the city of Chicago. It's become a second waterfront," Mayor Emanuel said during a ribbon cutting ceremony on the Riverwalk.

It's a project Mayor Emanuel noted was done with zero taxpayer dollars.

"This is one of the greatest urban spaces created on the globe in the last century," said Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Mark Kelly.

Emanuel, sometimes criticized for focusing development efforts on downtown at the expense of the neighborhoods, said that's not true.

"You know facts have a weight, you can always have your own opinion, you just can't have your own facts," Emanuel said.

The mayor pointed to projects like grocery stores that have replaced food deserts in Englewood, Woodlawn and Bronzeville. At 63rd and Halsted there are now numerous other businesses as well.

"I come over here to enjoy Chipotle, Starbucks, Wingstop. We have a lot of areas that you know, the community enjoys," said Alysha Jones, an Englewood resident who works right across the street.

In defending his development legacy, Mayor Emanuel also noted many other projects, including parks and playgrounds, as proof that his administration has invested in neighborhoods and not just downtown.

"[The] 606, neighborhood. Big Park in Little Village, neighborhood. The Big Marsh in Calumet, neighborhood. The parks and playgrounds that we talked about, neighborhood," Emanuel said.

While the Riverwalk may be the crown jewel of Emanuel's development legacy, one aldermanic ally said other communities have also benefited under the mayor's leadership.

"Most important for his legacy is the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund which has generated almost $200-million in available dollars that are not taxpayer funds, but are used to invest in our communities," said Alderman Ray Lopez, 15th Ward.

Although the biggest potential development prize, Amazon's second Headquarters, is something Emanuel could not bring home, he will leave office with two other major projects along the Chicago River in the works. Those two projects include the Lincoln Yards up north and The 78, just south of Roosevelt Rd.
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