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.
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: Carson Poole, email@example.com