Chicago River Blue

Learn more about the Chicago River Blue Awards!

For eight years, Friends’ Chicago River Blue Awards program has encouraged and rewarded developments along the river and throughout the watershed that best exemplify sustainable design for people, wildlife, and clean water. An independent multi-disciplinary jury of planning, consulting, engineering, academic, legal and policy professionals concerned with river-sensitive design judge the projects. This years' winners were honored at Friends’ annual gala, the Big Fish Ball, on Tuesday, June 13. A complete list of the winners can be found here.

Since 2010, Friends has recognized 32 projects within the Chicago River watershed for their river-sensitive design principles. Congratulations to our past winners!

Why we care

Photo: Chicago Riverwalk Framework Plan

Flowing past urban and suburban communities, through forest preserves and parks, industrial and commercial districts, and the heart of downtown Chicago, the Chicago River is a 156-mile meandering blue-way that connects millions of people to nature. Wild, wonderful, and nearby, the Chicago River provides wildlife a place to live, considerable recreational opportunity, and an ever-increasing diversity of economic benefits derived from the waterfront economy.

As a result, the Chicago River is emerging as one of the best opportunities for improving quality of life for the people who live and work in the greater Chicago metropolitan area.

Yet the pressure to develop the river’s edge to maximize these opportunities has the potential to destroy the magic the river provides. It is critical to continue the focus on river improvement and move towards a comprehensive understanding of what kinds of actions will protect the river and its health and provide public access.

It is also imperative to adopt sustainable land use and development techniques and address how our water resources are managed throughout the Chicago River watershed to provide a systematic approach for growth. How water flows in, on, and through properties impacts the quality of the Chicago River. Water conservation, whether along its banks or miles from it, and on-site management matters.

To address these issues, Friends of the Chicago River developed Chicago River Blue, a campaign aimed at educating, encouraging, and rewarding developments that take people, wildlife, and clean water into special account. We provide guidelines and resources through access to our panel of planning and design experts and hold an annual award ceremony, the Chicago River Blue Awards, to honor those whose work exemplifies the "Blue Principles for River Design".

Photo: Ping Tom Memorial Park Boathouse, a 2014 Chicago River Blue award winner.