Connecting With South Branch Communities

Friends' Amy Heldman (left) discusses South Branch river opportunities with neighborhood residents.

In October, Friends of the Chicago River’s planning team helped host two community input gathering events along the South Branch and Bubbly Creek to connect with residents, business owners, and other community stakeholders about river edge sites and upcoming plans in the area. The meetings were initiated by the City of Chicago’s River Ecology and Governance Task Force, which Friends and the Metropolitan Planning Council provide leadership and administrative support for. The Task Force is a rich coalition of community partners, nonprofits, and government agencies that work together with the City of Chicago on river-edge issues.

Fun and interactive board displays, designed by Friends’ team, were used to help gather local opinions, ideas, and concerns from participants. Neighboring residents and business owners from the surrounding communities of Bridgeport, McKinley Park, and Pilsen came and shared a wide range of ideas including expanded community amenities along the river, greater public access and connectivity between sites, and further investment in restoration. Feedback from participants was compiled and shared with task force members, city agencies, and the people who joined in this community-based event.

Summary of Community Feedback

Overall, the focus of discussion was vacant river-edge sites and other river-edge opportunity areas. One site, the “Damen Silos,” is currently the focus of a Request for Proposals process announced by the site’s owner, the State of Illinois. Another vacant site, located along Bubbly Creek at 3000 South Pitney Court, is privately owned and currently for sale, providing the potential for public open space and key habitat development. The goal of these events is to help the River Ecology and Governance Task Force understand local perspectives on river related issues, so that we can be well-informed advocates for innovative river-edge planning and urban design.

The Chicago Department of Transportation and their consultant team from MUSE Community + Design, and HDR, also attended to connect with community members about their just-getting-started “South Branch Parks Access Study.” The study will be focused on studying the feasibility of further connectivity along the South Branch riverfronts.

Other partners include the Shedd Aquarium who sponsored a community canoe paddle with Friends during the events, and the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Maritime Museum who provided their space for these meetings.