Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=221217
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The view from the new Riverwalk Conference Room shows a water taxi on the Chicago River on Thursday. The conference room is an extension of the city's Riverwalk program.


Clean river may mean development and 53,000 jobs in Chicago, experts say

by K. Clancy Calkins
May 9, 2013


SabinaShaikh

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Sabina Shaikh, senior consultant at Cardno ENTRIX,  said that riverside development will attract people to move to Chicago and work in the city.

Study results prove that continuing to clean the Chicago River will bring jobs to Chicago and benefit the economy, according to Margaret Frisbie, executive director at Friends of the Chicago River.

At a press conference Thursday the organization, along with its partnering organization Openlands, outlined the results of a decade-long study on the economic impact of various river improvement operations, including sanitation, flood control and green development.

The objective of the study is to provide accurate information that quantifies the return on investment in the River. According to the official report, the lack of data “hinders infrastructure improvements and prevents policy changes which will transform the Chicago River.”

There has already been evidence of how the River benefits the economy, but now the study proves it, said Greg Van Schaack, senior managing director at the Hines development group.

“Miller Coors, Boeing and BP are all located on the River,” Van Schaack said. “That’s not an accident.”

All three companies were previously located in Chicago suburbs before moving downtown.

He said office buildings like these can be of double value than other real estate in the Loop.
“Real estate on the River has a higher value to both tenants and developers,” Van Schaack said. “As the River gets cleaner, the properties will continue to be more valuable.”

He said that offices with a River view will attract companies and provide a better work atmosphere. “People want a connection to nature when they’re working in a city,” Van Schaack said.

Sabina Shaikh, a lecturer at the University of Chicago, who was the consulting engineer on the study, said development could lead to 846 permanent jobs and private developments could produce approximately 52,400 construction jobs.


Frisbie urged private investors to support the construction costs associated with cleanup of the Chicago River.

“There’s still a lot to do,” Frisbie said, adding that construction and implementation cost would amount to $4.6 billion. She said the study proves investors will see 70 percent return on every dollar they invest.

“We know that people want the Chicago River,” Frisbie said. “Together we can work to make this one of the world’s greatest metropolitan rivers.”