Leveraging The Chicago River for Equitable Economic Development in Albany Park
Confluence is a planning project to improve and activate a series of sites at Lawrence Avenue and the Chicago River, to establish a stronger neighborhood gateway to Albany Park. The project will create a platform for lively economic activity, a space for authentic cultural expression, and a catalyst that spurs investment on Lawrence Avenue as a vital neighborhood commercial corridor.
North River Commission is currently undertaking a community-driven planning and implementation process that will envision a new, iconic, and dynamic riverfront destination that supports local business and bolsters new equitable investment in the Lawrence Avenue corridor.
Confluence is a project of Great Rivers Chicago, funded through Our Great Rivers, with generous support from the Chicago Community Trust and assistance from the Metropolitan Planning Council. Thank you to Perkins & Will and Omni Ecosystems for providing their generous pro-bono planning and design services and support on this project.
Get Excited about Local Park Improvements
On Wednesday, October 4th, the Chicago Park District and North River Commission held a community open house to invite residents to learn about important improvements coming to four river-adjacent parks; Ronan, River, Kiwanis, and Legion. We promised attendees and those who were not able to be there in person that we would share feedback we received as well as important improvement information.
We had a great turn out at the meeting with 130 residents attending interacting with 9 staff from the Chicago Park District. This special newsletter provides key information brought forward during this open house. Attendees shared on large note cards their "likes," "dislikes" and their questions. Some of those topics raised are wildlife concerns, the smell from the MWRD pumping station, and how to get more information as the projects move forward. We are happy to share that input and additional information.
Improvements Announced For Refugee Farm In Albany Park
BY: Ian Achong 7:30am on October 9, 2023
New upgrades have been announced for the Global Garden Refugee Training Farm at 2902 W Lawrence Avenue in Albany Park. Located on the intersection with N Sacramento Avenue, the urban farm is connected to the adjacent Ronan Park along the north branch of the Chicago River. Now the Chicago Park District is leading the park’s improvements which will include the farm itself.
Riverfront Parks In Albany Park, North Park, Lincoln Square Getting Upgrades To Bolster Ecosystems: Ronan Park will get a new public plaza, while work to stabilize the shoreline from erosion and remove invasive species will take place at Legion and Kiwanis parks.
By Alex V. Hernandez October 10, 2023
Block Club Chicago
Four parks along the north branch of the Chicago River and North Shore Channel are getting upgrades to improve their shoreline ecosystems and add amenities.
- Confluence, plan implementation at 4 river-adjacent parks, $6.8m TIF investment, projects will be completed in 2024
- Ronan Park:
- construction of entrance promenades from Lawrence, pavilion, event area, river overlook, bike tools kiosk, benches, new signage
- enhancements to Global Garden Refugee Training Farm and subscription plots including new growing mediums, municipal water access, vehicle access, new fencing [starting in October 2023]
- retention of Sculpture Garden and riverside nature trail
- RiverLab at River Park: Construction of a new, purpose built, nature center for the ecology and paddling program, which includes a new, more accessible, boat launch and storage.
- Kiwanis Park: riverside trail improvements and rehabilitation, including seating, make the trail more safe and usable throughout the year, additional native plants, improve river bank stabilization and habitat quality.
- Legion Park West: restoration and river access, removal of invasive species, reintroduction of native species and additional riverbank stabilization
- Ronan Park:
- Urban Rivers, in-stream river habitat, installation in Spring 2024, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation/NFWF Chi Cal Rivers grant. Builds on the success of the Wild Mile installation. www.urbanriv.org
FAQ's / Frequently Asked Questions
We gathered all of the questions and comments and consolidated below of few of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ). We will continue to develop and share the FAQs to keep you informed.
- Will there be improvements to enhance safety at the street crossing at the new Ronan Park along Lawrence at Manor?
- The plans that we currently have do not feature changes or improvements to the crossing near the Ronan Park Lawrence entrance at Manor. The current plans do not include CDOT improvements and are within to Ronan, River, Kiwanis, and Legion Parks, as well as Global Gardens Refugee Training Farm.
- Will there be any way to mitigate use of motorized bikes and scooters on the paths in River and Legion, including slowing them down or keeping them away from the walkways?
- Plans do not include mitigation of trail use by motorized bikes or scooters.
- Is the statue "The Overseer" staying in Ronan Park?
- Yes, The Overseer is part of the collection that makes up the Sculpture Garden, The sculpture will be moved, likely in the spring, before construction starts.
- How can I connect with the River Park Advisory Council?
- The River Park Advisory Council meets virtually, next meeting is October 18, via Zoom.Their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RiverParkAdvisoryCouncil/
- And, their email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Find out more information here via the Chicago Park District: https://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks-facilities/river-park-council
- Is there any way to incorporate extended bike paths by NCPHS to Foster?
- There’s a plan to extend the street bike path from the Valley Line Trail west of Pulaski to the North Shore Channel Trail. There is no current plan to extend bike paths yet on the other side near NCPHS to Foster.
Confluence focuses on the area at the intersection of Lawrence Avenue and the Chicago River. The project area includes Ronan (River) Park, including the River Trail Plaza, and the Ronan Park Natural Area. The area also includes a city-owned, Neighborspace-managed, urban agriculture site that hosts Global Gardens Refugee Training Farm and the Peterson Garden Project. The project location also includes Meeting Tomorrow, a thriving business campus with a riverside office complex, warehouse, and parking area. Additionally, the project considers the North-South bike trail, which encompasses the Manor Greenway, portions of Lawrence Avenue, and trails within Ronan Park.
Confluence is a community-involved process engaging neighborhood stakeholders with business owners on Lawrence Avenue, and residents of the surrounding communities to create a shared vision and series of improvements on site. The project will implement physical improvements and programming on site that will create amenities for residents and attractive features that draw visitors to the area, support local businesses, and spur further equitable economic development in Albany Park.
In the winter of 2020/2021, NRC worked with a community steering committee and the firms Perkins and Will, and Omni Ecosystems, representing a team of architects, landscape architect, green infrastructure experts, and urban designers, on a 12-week planning process. The process focused on community engagement to develop a concept and vision for the project.
NRC met with and listened to local residents, businesses, organizations, local government, and recreational users of Ronan and River Park. The purpose of this process is to get feedback on current perceptions and uses of this area and to build an ongoing relationship with members of the community as we move towards developing and facilitating improvements and programs in the area. We met with and spoke to stakeholders in multiple forms, including small group conversations, one-on-one meetings, steering committees, and public open houses on-site.
The planning process will help to realize the potential of this site as a neighborhood gateway. NRC is continuing to work with residents, businesses, organizations, and other local stakeholders to bring this project from planning to implementation.
Global Garden Refugee Training Farm
Global Gardens Refugee Training farm is a 2 acre urban farm in Albany Park whose mission is to improve access to fresh vegetables for newly arrived refugee families and their urban neighbors, feed the souls of displaced farmers through re-connection with the soil and food production, provide supplemental income for participating refugee farmers, and foster new, refugee-operated farms.
NeighborSpace is the only nonprofit urban land trust in Chicago that preserves and sustains gardens on behalf of dedicated community groups. We support community gardens – through property ownership, insurance, water, stewardship, education, tool lending, project planning, fundraising support, troubleshooting, and more — allowing community groups to focus on gardening and on their community-building vision, generating food, beauty, play, health, and safety for their neighborhoods.
The following is a targeted timeline, and subject to community input and funding availability.
Fall / Winter 2020
- Kicked off Community-Driven Planning Process
- Established Steering Committee and assisted with formation of River PAC
- Created a vision and plan
- Made requests for funding for infrastructure and programs
Spring / Summer 2021
- Facilitate public art and placemaking improvements, and with River PAC, facilitate programs on-site, including cultural events
- Explore further funding opportunities
- Establish partnerships in the community to maintain programming and create further improvements on site
North River Communities Neighborhood Plan
The North River Communities Neighborhood Plan presents a vision for the future and a framework for making decisions that align with long-term goals. It is the result of two years of work led by the North River Commission (NRC) and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) with the community’s residents, business owners, workers, and leaders. The plan focuses on the North River communities, a core section of NRC’s service area on the northwest side of Chicago.
The Neighborhood Plan formed the inspiration for Confluence, as it called out the project area as the potential for a new neighborhood gateway that would help to improve the experience of Lawrence Avenue. This project is also taking place in conjunction with SSA #60 and Albany Park Chamber of Commerce "Global Roots, Local Heart" initiative.
Project Lead: Eve Miller, email@example.com