Our Great Rivers

A bold vision,
a historic opportunity

Imagine a river system in Chicago where communities, habitats and industries prosper together. A lunch break on the banks of the Calumet. A farmers market on a channel in Little Village. Swimming in the North Branch. In 2015, The Chicago Community Trust secured the approval of Mayor Emanuel to work with partners on the city’s first-ever vision for its complex river system, made up of 150 miles of land along the Chicago, Des Plaines and Calumet rivers and tributaries.

Today, that vision is complete. It looks ahead to 2040, when Chicago’s rivers will be inviting, productive and living places, and when what can only be imagined today becomes real. Now the Trust will use that vision to fulfill our commitment to sustainable communities. We invite you to join us.


Our Great Rivers comes at an important time for Chicago. Too many people are leaving the city; civic pride in many communities is at a nadir. Our rivers can be an integral part of the solutions. At a time when our city and many of our neighborhoods are struggling, we can create jobs, improve communities and increase civic pride by investing in our rivers.


The Chicago Community Trust supports ideas that hold promise for exponential impact. A high-functioning river system in Chicago is one of these ideas—a catalyst for sustainable development with a large geographic reach. Our Great Rivers elevates a massively underleveraged asset to a level on par with the award-winning 606, a booming Fulton Market and our prized lakefront.”

—Senior program officer Michael Davidson explains why the Trust has played a leadership role in this initiative.
Learn more: Chicago’s Next Frontier


Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the podium during the Great Rivers vision launchPhoto by Lou Foglia/Sun-Times

At the August 17 unveiling of the Our Great Rivers Vision, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced his support: “Our Great Rivers identifies concrete ways to continue to invest in our riverfront in ways that strengthen and connect neighborhoods and improve the quality of life of all Chicagoans.”

Read the City of Chicago press release

Explore the vision

Completed in summer 2016, the visioning process was led by Metropolitan Planning Council, under the guidance of a diverse leadership commission and resource group. More than 6,000 people contributed their ideas.
Download the Vision Statement (PDF)
Visit the Great Rivers Chicago Vision website

Explore the vision