Emanuel Opens New Section of Lakefront, Announces Future Plans

The Chicago Shoreline Protection Project and the mayor's "Building on Burnham" plan look to improve the city's lakefront, river and neighborhoods

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the completion of the Chicago Shoreline Protection Project at a ceremony Wednesday at Fullerton Avenue Beach.

The project includes the creation of 5.8 acres of new park space, as well as a new lakefront trail at Fullerton Avenue Beach that boasts separate paths for biking, running and walking. The project was made possible by a partnership between the Chicago Park District and the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers.

"This ongoing partnership between the federal government and the city improves and protects Chicago's shoreline, allowing for an expansion of Lincoln Park and creation of split lakefront paths on this busy shoreline park."

Emanuel was joined at the announcement by Sen. Dick Durbin, Ald. Michelle Smith and Chicago Park District Superintendent Michael Kelly, among others.

In addition to this, Emanuel announced a plan Tuesday to invest in a series of park projects to invigorate Chicago's neighborhoods, lakefront and river.

"With this new plan, we will put every child within reach of an opportunity to stay safe, to stay engaged and to stay on the road to a brighter future," Emanuel said. "Every child in every neighborhood deserves to have these opportunities within their reach. Soon, they will."

Among other projects, the "Building on Burnham" plan calls for the creation of a pool and event space at 31st Street Beach Harbor, the improvement of Montrose Beach's concert area, the addition of a triathlon training space at Ohio Street Beach and the construction of a climbing wall at Steelworkers Park.

Under the plan, Chicago's lakefront bike path will be widened to include separate lanes for bikers and runners. The separate lanes will be added from Fullerton to Ohio and from 31st to 51st. 18 miles of the pathway will also be repaved with clear north and south dividers to increase safety. 

As part of the "Burnham" initiative, the city will also open four new boathouses along the Chicago River. Access to the river will be increased to nearly "every mile from the city limits on the north to Little Village." Other additions to Chicago's riverfront include new pedestrian bridges downtown. 

The mayor's plan also hopes to increase Chicago's protected natural areas to 2,020 acres by 2020. The Chicago Park District currently manages 65 protected natural areas that cover 1,400 acres.

New "gathering spaces" within the Burnham Wildlife Corridor will also be created as part of the initiative. The spaces will be created by five teams of artists and community organizers.

The Burnham Wildlife Corridor is located within Burnham Park, located on Chicago’s south lakefront. It consists of a 100-acre strip of natural areas. It also serves as a habitat for migratory birds.

The five winning teams were selected from a pool of 22 proposals. All teams have experience with public art and connections to the corridor’s neighboring communities. The Chicago Park District will award $20,000 grants to each group.

Over the course of two years, community organizations affiliated with the winning teams will create programs to celebrate the ecological context and cultural significance of the installations.

Teams are expected to complete their installations by June of 2016. 

Emanuel's Tuesday announcement took place at the Hamilton Park Fieldhouse, which was designed by the plan's namesake, architect Daniel Burnham. Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago led to the creation of North Michigan Avenue, Wacker Drive and the city's lakefront parks.

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