The new Chicago Riverwalk is a major public amenity at the river level along lower Wacker Drive, extending from Michigan Avenue west to Lake Street, it offers a mix of concessions and public activities. Symbolic links to the City’s past are evident, while creating state-of -the-art facilities for citizens, visitors and fans of the River as it flows through the City of Chicago. The Chicago Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Plaza commemorates the sacrifices of Illinois’ fallen soldiers, connects people to the riverfront, provides an escape from the steel and glass of the City, and bejewels the City’s waterfront. Its public objectives and finished forms embody what a memorial plaza should be; a remembrance of those that served, and a celebration of the living. The Plaza occupies land, reclaimed by the rebuilding and relocation of Wacker Drive, to create an urban park, with terraces and bench-lined ramps that gently transition from busy city streets to more quiet spaces near the river. It provides a green refuge in the center of the City while creating a vital link between the upper Wacker Drive and the Chicago River.
The next phase of the Riverwalk will enable uninterrupted public waterfront activity along the Chicago River’s south bank, from Lake Michigan west to the confluence of the river’s north, south, and main branches. Working with Sasaki Associates and a host of specialty consultants, six new blocks will be added. Within a restrictive 25 foot build out area, the new Riverwalk links a series of distinct civic spaces or “rooms,” each named for its unique program. These include the Marina Plaza; Cove; River Theater; Swimming Hole; Jetty; and Boardwalk. An integral link to the streets above is provided at the River Theater, a block-wide set of stairs that connects the city with the river and the river with the city. A fully accessible path is geometrically woven into the stairs to become a central circulation feature. These variety of “rooms” create a series of diverse new opportunities along Chicago’s downtown riverfront, ranging from unique dining options, to expansive public event programming, to new amenities for human-powered craft.