2020 Goal: Ecologically sensitive shoreline development

Ryan Griffin–Stegink

This residential development along Bubbly Creek has a large area that returns stormwater to the ground, rather than letting it flow into the sewer.

New real estate development and substantial redevelopment projects along the rivers will demonstrably improve habitats on land and in the water, increase public riverfront access and better prepare the city and region to weather the effects of climate change.

“We need a balance between human habitat and natural habitat­.”

—Focus group participant

To do so, we must modernize and consistently implement river edge design standards and add ecological considerations to the Chicago Zoning Ordinance’s riverfront setback provisions. We must take a similar approach in suburban riverfront communities. Residential, commercial and industrial developments can and should enable public access to and through sites, integrate nature-based stormwater solutions into their properties and prevent erosion while improving the rivers’ edges by planting native vegetation that connects land and water.

Making it happen

  • Examine the ecological or recreational benefit of revising the Riverfront Development Ordinance to require a larger setback than the current 30 feet where possible.
  • Develop a model riverfront development ordinance for suburban adoption.
  • Adopt new design standards that support and increase native riverfront habitat along Chicago’s rivers.
  • Explore adopting an incentive-based rating system for riverfront development similar to the Waterfront Edge Design Guidelines rating system created for New York City’s waterfront.

Key players

Chicago Dept. of Planning and Development, Friends of the Chicago River, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, MWRD, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, suburban communities, real estate development community, environmental organizations

Our rivers, our role

Review local real estate development proposals and provide public comment.

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