Rahm declares Riverwalk a summertime loafer’s paradise

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel tours the new section of the Chicago Riverwalk nearing completion between Clark and Lake Streets. He sat on the new benches with iron workers Dan Erhardt, left, and Jon St. Louis. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Boasting that a $100 million riverfront expansion will “open up an entire part of the city that has been literally walled off . . . for about 100 years,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday shook hands with construction workers as they put the finishing touches to a downtown section of the Riverwalk due to open to the public on Saturday.

The latest section of the Riverwalk, from State to Dearborn, has been dubbed “Marina Plaza,” and will host a City Winery and a canoe rental business. Construction workers on Friday were adding final decorative touches and assembling giant wooden benches along the river bank.

From Saturday, pedestrians will be able to stroll two blocks along the river from State to Clark streets without climbing back up to street level. In June, that will extend another block west to La Salle street. Next year, the final section should be completed, allowing an uninterrupted riverside walk from the Lake Street bridge to the lakefront.

Vendors awarded six month contracts along the Riverwalk include Urban Kayaks, WanderBikes, Island Party Hut, Wheel Fun Rentals, Cyrano’s Cafe & Wine Bar, Mercury Cruises, O’Brien’s Riverwalk Cafe, Bike and Roll Chicago, City Winery, Downtown Docks, Flanders Belgian Beer & Fries and Wendella WaterTaxi.

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel tours the new section of the Chicago Riverwalk nearing completion between Clark and Lake Streets. He walked beneath the State St. bridge. |Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Some will already be open for business on Saturday, including the Island Party Hut, a tiki bar on the east side of the Riverwalk near Columbus. The Marina Plaza should be open for motor boats to dock, and in another section from Dearborn to Clark, kayakers should be able to paddle in the river.

“This is . . . a part of the city that was closed for years, both to tourists, visitors, people who work here, people who live here,” Emanuel said. “Now we’re going to open up a part of the city that has been closed for generations, and it’s going to be something that people can enjoy for recreation, for entertainment and just for the pure pleasure of sitting down on a gorgeous day like today, reading a book, having a cup of coffee, or whatever beverage you want, and enjoying the waterfront.”

Emanuel said the expansion has triggered a “tremendous” amount of investment opportunities and job creation. He said he’s confident the city will have the resources to pay off a $99 million federal loan to make the Riverwalk self-sustaining.

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Art of the new section of the Chicago Riverwalk nearing completion between Clark and Lake Streets. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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