ChicagoDowntown / Loop

An early afternoon visit to Trump's riverwalk

by Joseph Askins on 5/3/10

Trump Riverwalk, 401 N Wabash Ave, Chicago

Trump Riverwalk, 401 N Wabash Ave, Chicago Trump Riverwalk, 401 N Wabash Ave, Chicago

“Please enjoy our plaza,” read the signs near the entrance and exit points at Trump‘s new riverwalk. It’s not something many Chicagoans were heeding during today’s sunny and warm lunch hour. Joe Zekas and I have seen the Trump riverwalk from afar but until this afternoon hadn’t seen it up close. I think we both found its winding walkways tedious to navigate — visitors wind their way back and forth down terrace after terrace instead of being able to walk straight down from the older, higher plaza to the newer one below — and its landscaping a visual barrier to passersby who may not know about all the new space that has opened up.

It has potential, but judging from the sparse crowd enjoying it during its lunch break, it’s going to take time to become a popular midday destination.

Trump Riverwalk, 401 N Wabash Ave, Chicago

Trump Riverwalk, 401 N Wabash Ave, Chicago Trump Riverwalk, 401 N Wabash Ave, Chicago

Trump Riverwalk, 401 N Wabash Ave, Chicago Trump Riverwalk, 401 N Wabash Ave, Chicago

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan May 3, 2010 at 5:05 PM

I think once the retail starts to fill in, this will be a sure-fire hot spot.

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Dan May 3, 2010 at 7:06 PM

Do you have any marketing research to support your “thought”?

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Joe Zekas May 3, 2010 at 8:42 PM

Dan the first,

I think Joe called this right. It strikes me as a missed opportunity and a physical layout that almost actively discourages proceeding down to the river from the upper levels.

Instead of one grand set of terraced steps sweeping down to the river from the upper levels there are a series of smaller, more private stairs punctuated with landings. The stairs curve and meet at different levels. The river is almost difficult to discern from the upper levels where most of the traffic would naturally flow between Wabash and Michigan Ave.

The overall effect is of a public concourse at the upper level masked from and separate from the more private levels that directly abut the river.

Virtually the only places to sit are the steps – normal height steps rather than steps that invite seating.

To maintain the Trump brand the river-level retail is unlikely to be high-traffic retail. That, of course, remains to be seen.

Finally, the Trump plaza has to compete with far more interesting venues directly across the river which have the added benefit of being connected to a long sweep of riverwalk. See this video, and this one, for some of those venues.

I ate many a lunch (lunch being an attorney synonym for girl-watching) on the old plaza during the 70s when I worked in the IBM building. It was always a far livelier spot, flooded with people and activity during lunch hours with weather comparable to today’s weather.

I’ll check back several times over the summer. My first impression is of a venue that’s not going to attract crowds.

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Sheridan B May 4, 2010 at 10:39 AM

I like the terraces – I think they are intended to be cafe’s, from the design, rather than passages – I can’t really see retail locating there. If the riverwalk was extended west it might bring more pedestrians to the lower level. When I explored it the first time some drunk type decided to urinate right in front of me, in pretty much plain sight of the street – they are that desolate so far.

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