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Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

Pilsen Could Get A Riverfront Park With Waterfalls And A Boardwalk Under City Proposal

While in early planning stages, the project centers on more than an acre of land where Throop Street hits the river.

Department of Planning and Development
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PILSEN — Pilsen could get a new riverfront park with cascading waterfalls, a boardwalk and access to the South Branch of the Chicago River under proposed plans shown to residents last week.

The city aims to transform a vacant acre where South Throop Street dead-ends into the river into a lush park. ComEd currently owns the site.

Officials from the city’s Department of Planning and Development, consultants from Tetra Tech, Site Design Group and Friends of the Chicago River presents a pair of options for the land at a community meeting last week.

The first concept includes cascading waterfalls, a walking path, art installations, naturalized shorelines, a seating area, a river overlook, a ramp to access the river and a cove.

Credit: Site Design Concept
Design concept for Throop Street Park

The second concept includes an open lawn, a boardwalk and a river overlook with more seating.

Credit: Site Design Concept
Design concept for Throop Street Park

The city’s Planning Department received a $60,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Coastal Management Program to study the feasibility of the project, said Michael Berkshire, a green project administrator with the city’s Planning Department.

The idea for improving the land along the South Branch emerged from the Fisk Crawford Taskforce that followed the closing of two coal plants in Pilsen and Little Village in 2012, Berkshire said.

The Throop Street site, which includes a bridge abutment and a small inlet, was identified as a potential place to put a park, he said. The city aims to restore the natural ecology of the area while providing a place for the public to enjoy, Berkshire said.

It will be a busy location. On a spot just east of the proposed park, a development firm is buying parts of the Fisk Generating Station site, with a goal of cleaning up the land and building a data center.

Last week’s meeting was the second of two gatherings where residents were asked what they would like to see at the new park.

Rob Reuland, studio director at Site Design, said the team took 20 concepts produced by residents during an initial meeting into account while forming the two proposed designs for the park.

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Among some of the elements residents wanted to see were “natural areas with appeal to all ages,” “something not overly programmed,” and a rehab of the land that “incorporates art,” Reuland said.

Later this month, the city’s Department of Planning will submit a report to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. 

From there, the city will determine whether the plans are environmentally feasible, nail down the cost of the proposed park and identify potential funding sources.

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