Perkins+Will-Designed Riverline to Create New Riverfront Community in Chicago

The groundbreaking today of Riverline, with a master plan and residential community design by global architecture and design firm Perkins+Will, begins one of the largest and most significant Chicago development projects in a generation. The 14-acre development on land vacant since 1971 along the South Branch of the Chicago River promises to create a vibrant new community of 3,600 residences with 5.8 acres of greenspace and a restored river front. “We are creating a neighborhood of the city, integrating and weaving buildings into the city with new connections to the river,” said Ralph Johnson, global design director of Perkins+Will.

Riverline ( will bring a mix of rental apartments and for sale condominiums, high rises and town homes, amid lush planted walkways and a revitalized Riverwalk, to a site bounded by Harrison Street, the Chicago River, Roosevelt Road and Wells Street. Over the course of the project, 10 buildings of varying height and scale will be delivered. Phase One, which broke ground today, features two high-rise buildings that will have views focused on the river and downtown, in addition to the green spaces. Ancora, a 29-story, 420 unit rental apartment, will include 24 townhomes and skyhomes on the first five floors and apartment units on the 7th to 29th floors. Current, an 18-story, 251 unit condominium building will include 28 townhomes and skyhomes on the first five floors and condominium units on the 7th to 18th floors. Also, Watershed will consist of nine three-story townhouse buildings immediately south of Current.

The buildings will display variety, yet continuity and cohesiveness in their materials and color, says Johnson. The rental building Ancora, for example, will have a more industrial look, featuring steel, concrete, and glass. Current will incorporate a more refined version of this industrial character. Both will bring natural elements of the landscapes into the buildings’ public amenity spaces. “We have the opportunity to create a dialog among 10 different buildings, which is very rare,” Johnson said, “It will also establish an environmentally friendly and restorative connection with the river.”

Riverline is a joint venture of CMK Companies, Ltd., a leading Chicago‐based residential developer, and Lendlease, one of the world’s largest international property and infrastructure companies. Perkins+Will is also collaborating with landscape architects Hoerr Schaudt in the design of the master planning for the project.

The project is designed to revitalize a part of Chicago that is rich in history, but has been long overlooked. For the first half of the 20th century, the site was a thriving industrial center, following the straightening of the Chicago River to allow for large boat traffic. It also was home to Grand Central Station, a major passenger station from 1890-1969, when it was razed, leaving the site without any activity.

Now, large stretches of the city – from Harrison Street on the north to Roosevelt Road on the south – will be connected, forging a new neighborhood, with special prominence given to its location on the banks of the Chicago River. “It’s not a single building, it’s a neighborhood that gives us room to do things that really make a difference in the way people live and recreate along the river,” Johnson said. Riverline will add a new half-mile stretch to the Chicago’s Riverwalk, which will extend along the entire property. A striking design feature is Current’s soaring, v-shaped column – a signature of the four anchor buildings that will ultimately occupy the length of the development, and a distinctive result of the opportunity to cohesively design the Riverwalk and the architecture in unison.

By replacing the decaying seawall with sloping landscaping and regenerative, native plantings, Riverline will also recall its original natural setting. “On a typical riverfront development, there’s a seawall that sets you back from the edge of the water,” said Todd Snapp, Perkins+Will design principal, “We’re bringing you down to where you can touch the river, engage with it.” The site contemplates a new water taxi stop and a kayak launch, as well as places to fish and view natural wildlife. Water management through a network of wells, green roofs, and wetlands, will capture and clean storm water for use on site and to release back into the river.

“It’s an exciting moment for Chicago,” said Snapp, “This is a great opportunity to reengage, revitalize, and establish a new, unique riverfront community and destination for the South Loop.”

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