The East Riverwalk is the working name for the public riverfront improvement planned for the southeast corner of Schuyler Avenue and East River Street in downtown Kankakee. The East Riverwalk will be constructed on 1.06 acres along the north bank of the Kankakee River, which is primed to become the first public segment of The Currents of Kankakee, the new riverfront district first described in the 2018 Kankakee Riverfront Master Plan.
The Kankakee Riverfront Master Plan sets out a compelling, long-term vision, a multi-dimensional, public/private strategy, and a series of incremental implementation actions that will transform the region’s image, raise its marketplace appeal, and enhance its quality of life. The master plan is anchored by the dynamic Kankakee River – one of the cleanest in the country – and features a package of distinctive public attractions, multi-modal connections, and lively commercial and residential development. In cooperation with the City of Kankakee and the Kankakee Valley Park District, the Kankakee Riverfront Society (KRS), a not-for-profit organization of riverfront advocates, is coordinating a number of riverfront marketing and funding initiatives – and the planning, design, engineering, permitting and construction of the East Riverwalk.
In 2020, the City of Kankakee acquired the properties on which the East Riverwalk will be constructed through a state grant and a land donation. In 2019, the City was awarded a $134,000 Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to acquire two of the three East Riverwalk parcels. Joe Franco, Heritage Development and Construction, donated the third parcel, which will also serve as the City’s “match” to qualify for the OSLAD grant. Consequently, no taxpayer funds were used to acquire the East Riverwalk sites.
Because of specific grant requirements, the East Riverwalk is likely to include a gateway plaza, a boat dock, a canoe/kayak pull-out, a small parking lot and other improvements. However, the design of this groundbreaking park is far from complete. The City of Kankakee has engaged Hitchcock Design Group, a nationally recognized riverfront consultant and author of the Kankakee Riverfront Master Plan and OSLAD grant applications, to advance the Preliminary Design and Engineering for the East Riverwalk. During the next few months, the consultant team will confirm the project program and reach consensus with KRS and jurisdictional authorities on the type, location, organization, scale, character, permit requirements, construction schedule and potential cost of the East Riverwalk improvements. Despite the ongoing pandemic, the Preliminary Design and Engineering process will feature extensive community outreach and engagement that will include a broad cross-section of stakeholders using a wide variety of communication tools and techniques.
Based on thorough analysis of existing resources, best practices and stakeholder expectations, Hitchcock Design Group will deliver a Preliminary Design Report, near the end of the year, that will be instrumental for community outreach and fundraising. The report will also become the foundation of the Final Design and Engineering documents that will be used to permit, competitively bid, and when funded, construct the East Riverwalk improvements. KRS has not established a timeline for construction of the East Riverwalk.