Riverwalk, why?

10/10/2012 10:00 PM

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The Chicago River is nice.

Really, we mean it, though those words may not come often out of the mouths of people who have spent much time with our cityís redheaded stepchild body of water.

Itís got a lot of potential if it ever gets cleaned up, and darned if it isnít fun to kayak in ó providing you take a shower (or three) afterwards.

But we have to say that Mayor Rahm Emanuelís plan for a $10 million expansion of the Riverwalk is pure folly.

How many of you have actually used the Riverwalk, save for a maybe a five-minute exploration of the ditch next to Wacker Drive? Thereís just not much reason to go down there, and itís foreboding at night, to say the least. Why anyone would want to go down there and have a drink is beyond us.

Weíre not saying the new designs arenít appealing. The new ideas do a good amount to liven up the space, and are much better than the existing open pavement. But the idea just seems like a massive waste of $100 million. How many cops could we add to our crime-ridden streets? How many roads could we repave? How many iPads could it buy for our schoolkids?

We just donít see the payback being anywhere near as great as the dollar amount it calls for. Riverwalks are a feature for other, smaller American cities with less ambition. Oklahoma Cityís features a Toby Keith restaurant. Austinís is a little-used ditch.

We could be proven wrong, though. The concepts are enticing, and the architecture teams behind them have made some of Chicagoís finest public spaces.

Weíll see. But for now, it seems silly.

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