Great Rivers Chicago Vision Plan, Chicago, United States
Ross Barney Architects / Metropolitan Planning Council

Great Rivers Chicago is a vision to unlock the potential of the Chicago, Calumet, and Des Plaines Rivers and riverfronts. The entire river system has steadily gained a vocal collective of advocates, all looking to reconnect the daily experience of the City with the dynamic and changing life of the River. With over 150 miles of riverfront and 70+ species of fish, the river is an evolving ecosystem of inestimable natural value.

Great Rivers Chicago embarked on a robust public outreach campaign to engage local communities in the evolving conversation of planning and investment along Chicago’s waterways. After scouring countless riverfront plans and reports, the Metropolitan Planning Council and Ross Barney Architects hosted nearly 100 outreach meetings, collected more than 5,500 responses from Chicagoan’s, and organized 5 community charrettes.

The 5 place-based examinations offered unique opportunities to examine new planning and investment that would unlock latent potential. Some locations were embedded within residential areas, others spanned across forest preserves or industrial parks. The community outreach strategy was adapted for each site, conducting pre-meetings and fact-finding conversations with critical stakeholders to understand existing conditions and hear ideas for the future already on people’s minds. These stakeholders included city agencies, regional planning officials, local elected representatives, and community organization. Each meeting also identified action items: next steps to make the vision a reality; from securing funding to convening broader local stakeholder groups to sustain momentum.

By reinterpreting the relationship to water, Great Rivers Chicago focuses on five place-based examinations that manifest new dimensions and perceptions.

System wide in its scope and recommendations, Great Rivers Chicago is the start of an evolving perception and deep appreciation of Chicago’s second shoreline. 

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