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Announcing the 2023 Our Great Rivers Grantees: Our Rivers as Catalysts for Change

The Chicago Community Trust has announced the next round of Our Great Rivers grantees.

Since 2018, the Metropolitan Planning Council has been tracking the progress of riverfront projects funded through The Chicago Community Trust’s support for Great Rivers Chicago and the Our Great Rivers vision. So far, 25 projects have been supported by The Trust, and are continuing to make major changes throughout the river system. Learn more about these projects in MPC’s interactive story map.

We are pleased to announce that The Chicago Community Trust (CCT) has selected the next round of Our Great Rivers grantees! In 2023, eight projects will be funded, including new projects and the expansion of existing projects. The grantees of this cycle will continue to focus on positioning the rivers as catalysts for community-led neighborhood investment in communities of color and in communities burdened by pollution or lack of access to quality natural amenities. In addition to leveraging the resources of existing community and municipal planning processes, grantees will make headway on the goals of the living, inviting, and productive themes of the Our Great Rivers vision.

2023 Projects:

OAI, Inc. will address the critical issue of maintaining green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) to reduce urban flooding, prevent pollution from entering Chicago’s rivers, and alleviate neighborhood flooding. This project will leverage public-private partnerships, cross-sector collaborations, and workforce development to increase equity by maintaining and protecting natural assets in Black and Latinx communities and creating jobs. Funding from the Our Great Rivers grant will support existing activities and build capacity for program expansion to the next level and promote the river and river-adjacent areas as public spaces and catalysts for economic development.

Alliance for the Great Lakes will continue to empower and educate community leaders of Calumet River-adjacent neighborhoods to become active participants in the City’s process of updating Industrial Site Guidelines for the Calumet River corridor. Alliance for the Great Lakes, as part of the Calumet Connect Partnership, has been organizing community leaders to create a model community engagement process for the Calumet Industrial Corridor Modernization initiative and other planning processes within the City. Partners have advanced policies that ensure equitable land use practices and lead community advocacy events that elevate local leaders, activate community members, and uplift successful community-led campaigns to catalyze neighborhood development and create more environmentally safe community spaces.

Delta Institute will partner with the Illinois International Port District (IIPD) and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) to advance several goals and objectives articulated in the IIPD Master Plan. Part of the funding will also go toward launching the IIPD Resident Advisory Committee to engage local leaders to address impacts of stormwater treatment wetlands on the Port. Created in 1951, IIPD is a port facility located near Lake Calumet on the southeast side of Chicago with approximately 1,800 acres, including active industry and multimodal shipping operations, a public golf course, and numerous undeveloped or underdeveloped parcels that offer recreation to conservation to new businesses.

Current will expand H2NOW Chicago, the first real-time water quality monitoring platform in a U.S. river system to measure microbial and other pollutants. Initiated in 2019 and launched publicly in 2021, H2NOW streams water quality data for the Chicago River via an online data visualization platform. Creating and improving public accessibility of information about water quality enables safer and more productive use of urban rivers for recreation and economic development, and better stewardship to improve the health and vitality of waterways. H2NOW will inform policy advocacy, system management, investment decisions, and individual use decisions. It will also help demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits of investments in improved water quality, ultimately allowing local neighborhoods the ability to leverage the river as a catalyst for local economic development.

McKinley Park Development Council (MPDC) is a first-time recipient of the Our Great Rivers grant. MPDC will develop a framework plan encompassing river-adjacent properties along the South Branch of the Chicago River. The plan will incorporate properties between the Canalport Riverwalk and Damen Silos frontage, Richard J. Daley Park, and Ping Tom Memorial Park and builds on an existing partnership with UIC’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs to work with graduate students to lead workshops.

Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF) will make tangible strides to advance a community articulated vision centering the activation and development of two sites: the 100th street/skyway community access site along the west bank of the river and the Schroud/Hyde Lake gateway site that will connect the community to both the Calumet River and Wolf Lake. The project will also yield rich data that will inform the City of Chicago policies for site design and land use policies within the broader Calumet River geography. 

Calumet Collaborative’s project will directly support Riverdale residents’ efforts to position themselves as the primary beneficiaries of ongoing redevelopment in the Calumet Region, including the upcoming Red Line expansion, riverbank investments, and redevelopment of vast amounts of publicly owned land. Calumet Collaborative will coordinate river site activations and other community programming, site planning for riverbank community open spaces, and pre-development activities for community identified brick and mortar projects.

North River Commission will continue their work on Confluence, a highly collaborative project with a broad array of stakeholders that establishes its priorities and strategies through direct community engagement and over 170 small business owners each year. The project aims at activating an underutilized, river-adjacent site in Albany Park to establish a new neighborhood gateway, promote a platform for economic activity, and act as a catalyst for investment in a vital neighborhood commercial corridor. This year North River Commission began coordinating on a new project under Confluence, a mixed-use development on Lawrence Avenue which will include affordable housing. The development will be the first known affordable housing project in Chicago to be installed adjacent to the river and plans to provide direct public access to the river.

Stay tuned for progress updates on these exciting projects!

In the coming year, MPC will continue to convene project leaders and their partners to build upon the existing cohort of river activators to share best practices, support local initiatives, and advocate for improved planning processes across the City which fully integrate the riverfronts.

Looking for information about past Our Great Rivers grantees? Find the summary pages for those years here: