The idea to transform form the banks of the Chicago River into a walkway for the residents of the city were initially put forward at the dawn of the 20th century, but these plans never came into fruition until almost 100 years after these initial plans were laid out.
Urban Planner Daniel Burnham unveiled his Chicago Plan in 1909 and simultaneously, he asked the owners of riverside and lakeshore real estate to put up a corridor for the purpose or leisure and recreation for the city. Burnham?s concept of a riverside public recreational facility has been carried out for the majority of the Chicago Lakefront where pockets of park spaces have been stringed together to form one long stretch now known as the Chicago Riverwalk.
However, the development of this public space was not a walk in the park so to speak. Most of the lakeshore properties were in the possession of the city government, but almost 100% of the riverfront real estate was owned privately which the public are not allowed to access. Thus, the development of the Chicago Riverwalk took off very slowly.
It was in 1999 that the establishment of a lengthy uninterrupted public esplanade along the banks of the Chicago River was resurrected through the relentless efforts of then mayor Richard M. Daley. He imposed the Chicago River Corridor Development Plan which mandated all real estate developers along the river to follow prescribed setbacks to make space for the building of public pathways. The portions that would not be covered by private developers were built by the local Chicago government. The waterfront gave birth to approximately 28 miles of waterfront boulevards.
The first moves to develop Chicago Riverwalk were taken during the advent of the 21st century starting with the rebuilding of Wacker Drive and the establishment of the river esplanade found along the north bank of the great river in the middle of North Lakeshore Drive Bridge and Michigan Avenue.
In 2002, a boardwalk at the south bank of the Chicago River was inaugurated when summer 2009 hit, this recreational corridor already extends up to the Lake Michigan. The boardwalk spans the .69 miles or 1.1 kilometers and have attracted visitors and Chicago residents in thousands. Residents who would like to relax in a scenic walk go here where different diners and cafes have opened up. Guests can also enjoy other attractions such as public art exhibits and boat rides. The promenade also passes Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. Going here, visitors can ride a water taxi or rent bicycles from the Riverwalk.
Strolling along the Riverwalk, visitors can swing by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza located in the middle of State and Wabash Streets. Also called the Wabash Plaza, it was conceptualized by Ross Barney architects and is made of ramps, a terraced lawn and of course, a memorial. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is adorned with a beautiful waterfall and a pool which depicts a timeline outlining the important events that happened during the war. Over 2,900 names of Illinois men who died fighting for the country in the Vietnam War are carved on a wall.