Chicago’s downtown Riverwalk keeps getting better

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Chicago's downtown Riverwalk keeps getting better
© Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune
Chicago's downtown Riverwalk keeps getting better
© Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune

You’ll be hearing a lot about the long-awaited debut of Chicago’s 606 trail this weekend, but don’t lose sight of Chicago’s downtown Riverwalk. It keeps getting better and better.

The latest stretch of this already-popular public space, expected to open later this week, consists of a monumental flight of steps between Clark and LaSalle streets that lets the city’s energy spill down to the south bank of the Chicago River.

Expect to see the people on those steps sunning themselves, munching on their lunch, holding hands and taking selfies. They’ll be taking in the river’s open-air theater of water, tour boats and skyscrapers. But they’ll be part of the play, too. People, after all, flock to public spaces to watch other people, not just the scenery.

Dubbed The River Theater, this new section of the Riverwalk follows two other just-opened blocks in what will ultimately be a $110million extension of this prime public space. When three more blocks are completed late next year, the project will create a continuous, 1 1/4-mile pedestrian and bike path reaching from Lake Michigan to Lake Street.

Yet the new sections don’t just repeat the old ones. They raise the Riverwalk to a higher level of urbanity, furthering its transformation from a hard-edged industrial waterfront to a welcoming post-industrial amenity. []

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