The final phase of the Chicago Riverwalk opened in 2016, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel is already talking about making improvements to the popular attraction. The Chicago Sun-Times obtained a copy of a speech that Mayor Emanuel will deliver later today, which outlines his vision for the future of the Chicago riverfront. Though it’s light on details (and sources of funding), the speech touches on the Mayor's plans to upgrade the portion of the Riverwalk that runs east of State Street.
That section of the Riverwalk is actually the oldest portion of the attraction, predating the additions made between the State Street and Lake Street bridges. The area currently houses the Vietnam Memorial, O'Brien's Riverwalk Café, a dock for Chicago's First Lady Cruises, Island Party Hut and Urban Kayaks. Later this year, the Northman will open a beer and cider garden in the spaces that formerly housed Cyrano’s Cafe & Wine Bar, near Columbus Drive.
A recent report by the Chicago Tribune revealed that Riverwalk businesses earned $11.6 million last year—a figure that is expected to increase in 2018. By improving the older section of the attraction, the city is clearly hoping to boost its revenue and create even more spaces to rent out to restaurants, vendors and businesses.
According to the Sun-Times, Mayor Emanuel will also propose a new trail connecting Chinatown's Ping-Tom Memorial Park and the western end of the Riverwalk at Lake Street. He's expected to tout progress on the 312 RiverRun project that will bypass the Irving Park, Albany Park, North Center and Avondale neighborhoods; plus, expect to hear about the addition and rehabilitation of bridges to the lakefront at 35th, 39th, 41st and 43rd streets.
It's worth noting that Mayor Emanuel is up for re-election next February, so if he's not voted back into office, the city's plans for the Riverwalk (and any other riverfront projects) could change drastically.