CHICAGO (CBS) — A new leg of the Chicago Riverwalk will open this weekend, marking a significant new step for what the Emanuel administration hopes will become a major tourist attraction.
“The Chicago River was an eyesore and now it’s catching everybody’s eye,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel says.
The first phase opened almost three years ago, and it’s quickly become a favorite spot for downtown workers.
You could call it a coming out party for Chicago’s second waterfront. This weekend, the last three blocks of the more than mile-long renovated and expanded Riverwalk will open to the public.
The newest section of the Riverwalk stretches from LaSalle Street to Lake Street, and features a walkway connecting the riverbank and upper Wacker Drive. That will provide pedestrians with a scenic view of the confluence if the three branches of the Chicago River.
It also will be easier for people to fish in the river, thanks to the new piers and jetties built along the river between Wells and Franklin streets, providing fishing spots and places to showcase floating floral gardens.
The Riverwalk also features a new zero-depth fountain, similar to Crown Fountain in Millennium Park, between LaSalle and Wells Street, the sunniest stretch of the Riverwalk.
No local tax money was used on the project, which was bankrolled by $100 million loan from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The loan will be paid back with revenues from vendors.
“We got a loan from the federal government paid for on revenue on both the architectural boat tours, taxies and retail.” Emanuel said. “There’s no public money yet it has inspired… billions of dollars of other investments for the city of Chicago.”
“It’s a really nice place just to hang out after work or even for lunch — we never really had anything like that before in the Loop,” Roscoe Village resident Lauren Bowen says.
Many vendors on the Riverwalk have said business has been so good they plan to stay open past November 1, which was when they were initially slated to shut down until next spring.
The space opens to the public Saturday, Oct. 22, and the city is throwing a party for the 50 workers and their families who’ve worked on this 3-year project.