A Plan for Chicago's North River Communities

Mar 16, 2016

A Plan for Chicago's North River Communities

UPDATE: The North River Commission Board approved the final North River Communities Neighborhood Plan on November 13, 2018!

Centered on the North Branch of the Chicago River and the North Shore Channel, the City of Chicago's North River neighborhoods of Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair, North Mayfair, and Ravenswood Manor boast many assets, including active commercial corridors, tree-lined residential areas, high quality architecture, beautiful parks, solid transit options, and two universities. Having long served as a port of entry for immigrant families newly arrived to Chicago from all parts of the globe, the North River communities are one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the United States, and feature a tradition of civic engagement.

The North River Commission (NRC) is partnering with CMAP's Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program to develop a plan that will build upon the area's valuable assets, as well as its past and current planning efforts.  Working with the area's community organizations, residents, and public agencies, CMAP and NRC will create a plan that draws on the area's transportation assets, engaged community, existing commercial corridors, and public open space to help guide and strengthen the North River communities in the decades ahead.

Planning Process

The study area for the project will be an area that includes parts of Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair, North Mayfair, and Ravenswood Manor. This study area is bounded by the North Branch of the Chicago River and North Shore Channel to the east, Bryn Mawr Avenue to the north, Cicero Avenue and Interstate 94 to the west, and Montrose Avenue to the south. The study area also includes Horner Park, a large area of riverfront open space that is a key neighborhood asset.  Within the study area are three CTA Brown Line stations (Francisco, Kedzie, and Kimball) that offer the opportunity for transit oriented development (TOD) and mixed-use development. The plan will explore ways to connect more residents to the stations, through both new development and improved bicycle and pedestrian connections. The plan will also provide an analysis of underutilized parcels near the transit stations and recommend uses that may be better suited for these locations.

Another topic of concern is flooding, both from the Chicago River and from stormwater. As part of the planning process, CMAP will analyze current conditions for flooding and provide recommendations for best practices in stormwater management on public and private land.

The planning process may include high-level analysis and broad recommendations for the larger NRC service area, but will primarily focus on recommendations for the key corridors within the study area. Along the corridors the plan will offer recommendations for physical improvements that can help fuel economic development in the neighborhood.

Lawrence Avenue corridor
The Lawrence Avenue corridor will be one major focus of the plan. The plan will consider recommendations for the length of Lawrence Avenue through the study area, but will focus most intensively on the eastern section. Particularly important are the areas surrounding the Kedzie and Kimball stations on the CTA Brown Line, which are also the focus of a recent grant NRC received to study equitable TOD.

Foster Avenue/Chicago River corridor
The Foster Avenue/Chicago River corridor will be the other major area of focus. For the purposes of this plan, the Foster Avenue/Chicago River corridor includes the area along Foster Avenue and the areas around the North Branch of the Chicago River east of Pulaski Road, as well as public open spaces located along the North Branch of the Chicago River from the North Shore Channel to Cicero Avenue.

Public Engagement

There will be numerous opportunities for the public to provide input and participate throughout the planning process. The NRC, in partnership with CMAP, will embark on a series of workshops and meetings with various community stakeholders and residents from the area to solicit and incorporate local input to the planning process.

On February 22, 2017, around 150 community members attended a public visioning workshop to help determine how the North River communities will look in 2030. The workshop was held at Roosevelt High School and generated great ideas from residents, business owners, and other friends of the North River communities.

On Tuesday, April 17, 2018, more than 80 community members attended a public open house for the draft North River Communities Neighborhood Plan at the Roosevelt High School library. The open house event provided an opportunity for members of the community to review the draft plan, identify the strategies they were most enthusiastic about, and discuss the plan with the project team. 

We encourage you to watch this space, where we'll announce upcoming opportunities for you to participate and help shape the North River Communities Plan.


Project Partners

The North River Commission (NRC) is the nonprofit community and economic development corporation for the northwest side of Chicago, from the Chicago River to Cicero and Addison to Devon. Founded in 1962 by concerned residents and neighborhood institutions, NRC unites over 100 civic associations, businesses, schools, institutions and places of worship to improve the quality of life in our community by creating affordable housing, quality education, arts & cultural endeavors, open spaces, and thriving neighborhood businesses. 


ULI Chicago Technical Assistance Panel

To develop strategies for preserving the affordability of housing in the North River communities, CMAP engaged the Urban Land Institute Chicago (ULI Chicago), a membership-based, multidisciplinary real estate forum that offers communities strategic advice from development experts through its Technical Assistance Services Program. In partnership with CMAP and NRC, ULI Chicago convened a two-day workshop in June 2017 to study the housing situation in the community and develop strategies for preserving and developing housing that would be affordable for middle-income families. The panel included housing developers, housing policy experts, and community development and finance professionals. Based on the panel’s collaborative review of extensive background information, community tour, and interviews of community stakeholders, ULI Chicago released a report, Workforce Housing Strategies for North River Communities. The recommendations in the plan’s housing chapter will be largely drawn from ULI Chicago’s report.


Alexa Schutz, Program Coordinator, North River Commission (alexa@northrivercommission.org or 312-860-7884)

Brian Daly, CMAP Project Manager (bdaly@cmap.illinois.gov or 312-386-8810)

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North River Communities Neighborhood Plan

North River Communities Existing Conditions Report

ULI: Workforce Housing Strategies for North River Communities