The first stretch of the long-awaited Chicago Riverwalk Expansion is finally open, marking the beginning of the end for the $100 million project. The current phase of construction isn’t set to be completed until the next month, but the stretch from State Street to Clark Street opened this past weekend, just in time for Memorial Day.
The project won’t be completely finished until 2016, but the opening is a great sneak peak of what’s to come. Each of the six blocks, called “rooms” by the project, will sport a different theme. So far, only two rooms, The Marina and the Cove, are open, with more to come in June and three more to begin construction this year. There will be kid-friendly areas, food and drink venues, and an educational ecology center. One room, the River Theater, will even feature space for live music and entertainment when it opens in June. The theater is comprised of stone slabs arranged on a terrace from the sidewalk to the river, providing audience seating to watch shows on passing barge stages.
While most of the concessions and businesses on the Riverwalk won’t be open for several more weeks, there’s already a diverse list of vendors, offering a range of services. Along with a plethora of options for food will be coffee bars, kayak and bike rentals, and cultural enterprises. Currently, over a dozen businesses have been awarded six-month contracts on the Riverwalk, with long-term contracts expecting to be awarded after those contracts expire. In total, the business enterprises will account for 100,000 square feet of commercial developments. All vendors are in a revenue-sharing arrangement with the city, with the city’s proceeds going to help pay for the $99 million loan from the federal government that was used for the Riverwalk.