Redefining Urban Rivers for the 21st Century

Monday, May 8, 2017 | 7:30 a.m. - 8:45 a.m.
CM | 1.25
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You'll learn about: 

  • How Chicago and Spokane have capitalized on the shifting dynamics of economy, land use, transportation, industry, tourism, and recreation to transform their rivers for the 21st Century
  • Successful processes used to develop a comprehensive vision, action agenda and plans for 21st Century urban riverfronts
  • The critical components of broad and successful community engagement strategies 
  • Implementation lessons from Chicago and Spokane.

Comprehensive public engagement and collaboration among city agencies, civic organizations and business leaders leads to successful riverfront planning and implementation. In August 2016, the City of Chicago released Our Great Rivers, as part of the Great Rivers Chicago initiative. The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and local partners conducted the most comprehensive community engagement strategy in MPC's 82-year history. Through this and extensive collaboration with local government and the business community, we learned how Chicagoans use and perceive the rivers today and how they would like to in the future. The result is a vision and action agenda that calls for a productive, living and inviting river. The visioning process and implementation are guided by leaders from government, nonprofits and businesses and intersects with a city-wide review of industrial land use policy. Implementation is already underway.

A decade has passed since the Great Spokane River Gorge Master Plan was created, following the halted construction of a four-lane bridge over Spokane’s famous waterfalls. The consortium of non-profits, agencies and tribal interests that had stopped the bridge leveraged the community’s heightened awareness of the river’s potential by funding and creating the plan. Sparked by these events and by the concepts developed in the plan, Spokane has progressed in many ways, embracing the river as its centerpiece and investing heavily in improved access, water management, recreation and habitat restoration. 

AIPC members will learn about the comprehensive processes that Chicago and Spokane tackled and how these cities have learned from each other in the process. Authentic and transparent public engagement is critical. Educational take-aways can be applied broadly. 


Kara Riggio , Metropolitan Planning Council , Chicago , IL (see bio)
Madeline Shepherd , Independent Consultant , Ann Arbor , MI (see bio)