Riverline Project to Transform Chicago's Other Waterfront

The Chicago Riverline project will revitalize a riverfront long treated as a backwater and add at least 3,600 units, but no low-income housing.

Chicago broke ground on the Riverline residential community this week, according to ABC News Chicago.

The project is expected to take a decade to complete and will feature high rises, townhouses, public green spaces and a new riverwalk longer than five football fields.

The current neighborhood, called the South Loop, sits across the river from industrial and transportation resources and has long been overgrown with brush.

Chicago is a growing city that has been focused on redeveloping key areas along the Chicago River. Earlier this year, the city completed an expansion of the Chicago Riverwalk, a six-block public walkway that was part of a $420 million transportation reconstruction project connecting downtown Chicago to the river.

We have a second water front for about 100-plus years. It was ignored because it was the industrial highway. Now it's become a new recreational space and living space for the city of Chicago from the north side to the south side," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement.

Some people who live in the neighborhood are looking forward to the three and a half acres of green space Riverline developers have planned, and the ability it presents in getting them out by, or on the water. The vision is a cluster of eight buildings festooned with waterfront parks, kayak rentals, retail shops and more.

They want the rivers to be part of the urban fabric,” Josh Ellis, director at the Metropolitan Planning Council and resident of Chicago's South Loop neighborhood, told the Wall Street Journal.

Riverline will have at least 3,600 homes including condos and rentals. However, none of the new units will be designated low-income housing. Instead, the developers will contribute at least $8 million to Chicago's affordable housing trust fund.

Affordable housing advocates in the city have opposed projects like this and have voiced concern about the trust fund not actually being used to develop any low-income housing required by the city's Affordable Requirements Ordinance.

"Almost none of the money has been used to build affordable housing in the neighborhoods where new development is happening, where the most affordable housing is being lost," Eithne McMenamin, associate director of policy at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, told the Chicago Tribune back in late 2014.

"It doesn't create balanced development. It further divides the city," she said.

While Riverline looks like it will surely revitalize a key parcel with promising mixed use development that expands housing and recreational opportunities, it seems it will do so without low-income people.

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