Change comes slow. Especially when it runs headlong into 150 years of history. That is certainly the case with the Chicago River, a waterway long maligned and mistreated at the heart of this city. While many have long embraced the River's potential, it has taken a long time for it to be treated as the amenity that it should be: anchoring economic activity, quality of life improvements and aesthetic grace to neighborhoods well beyond the Loop.
The bit about how we should view the river actually comes from a 2011 blog post about Mayor Emanuel's announcement that the City would be building boat houses to help advance the river's place as a resource and amenity in Chicago's neighborhoods. He made that announcement with the (sadly) soon-to-be-former-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who had signed off on federal funding to help get the project started. Last week, the Mayor made another big announcement with another respected federal official in tow. US Department of Transportation Director Ray LaHood joined Emanuel to announce that Chicago had been invited to apply for funds to finish the Chicago Riverwalk project -- adding restaurants, fountains, recreational and education features, fishing spots and other ammenities all along the main branch of the river. While this sort of investment would have been unthinkable a few decades ago, it is a testament to both the mayor's vision and the hard work of river advocates to change the state of the once-foul waterway.
We are on the cusp of a river renaissance in this town---and it will be further spurred by this sort of investment. Change comes slow, but things seem to be speeding up!
Under the Michigan Avenue Bridge 2 image by jmogs via Flickr