Before you begin

Who owns the property?

Make sure to find out who owns and manages the land you’re interested in working on, as you’ll need to gain their permission and work with them to make your idea a reality.

Land: If you know the address of the property you can visit the Cook County Assessor's site to find the Parcel Identification Number (PIN). Once you have the PIN, go to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds site and click on the “Search Public Record” button along the left side of the page. Once you type in the PIN, you will be able to view documents associated with the property.

Water: In most cases, the owner of a riverfront parcel also owns the riverbank and the first 30 feet of riverbed. The water itself is a public amenity, though the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should be consulted about infrastructure and any project involving the navigable waterway (including the seawalls). The city and the state also oversee permits for certain activities in and on the water.


How do I come up with an idea?

You don’t have to come up with a whole new idea. Many of the activities you are already involved in could transfer to a riverfront setting, such as a walking group, performing arts class, or book club.

If you don’t already have an idea, think about the stretch of river closest to you. What is missing from that space? What could make it better? This place evaluation checklist and place evaluation game can help you evaluate your space and develop ideas to activate it. Make sure to include community members and stakeholders together to give their input. Placemaking Chicago contains many resources to help you think about how to make your space inviting and active, and how to include residents and other local partners in your placemaking process.

Chicago’s people spots are great inspiration for small-scale parklets that could be located along the river, and show ideas for amenities and small business.

Original photo from Travel for Senses. Modified by Metropolitan Planning Council

Still don’t have an idea? Check out this list of ideas and case studies for inspiration.


How do I assess my capacity?

It is vital to assess your capacity before undertaking a project of any size. Your ability to successfully execute your idea relies on time, knowledge, organizational resources and financial resources. Small projects can make a huge difference, and even small projects can involve a lot of planning and logistics. Guides such as this can help you thoroughly evaluate your individual or organizational capacity.

I have my idea, where do I start? 

Spread the word

Stay up to date and keep track of our progress