More than a mere marina, the $85-million 31st Street Harbor is both a destination within the Chicago's park system and an extension of the neighboring community. One of the largest harbors constructed in Chicago in 50 years, it is intended to transform an underused portion of shoreline into a public amenity.

Photos Courtesy of Scott Stevenson / Westrec
The $85-million 31st Street Harbor is one of the largest such projects constructed in Chicago in 50 years.
Photo Courtesy of Dixi Carillo / AECOM
The harbor is both a destination within the city's park system and an extension of the surrounding community.

A green roof atop a parking structure and harbor services building also serves as a park, affording visitors views of both city and lakefront amid forms reminiscent of dune landscapes. A nearby playground, one of the harbor's signature components, features both fixed and flexible space, including rubber dune mounds, a water play area and a custom climbing wall.

In addition to the 1,000-slip marina, other uses include a great lawn, community room, dedicated shower facilities and a public boat launch ramp.

One of the more popular amenities is Peninsula Park, a 3/4-acre green space located on a parcel formed by an open coast breakwater sheltering the new harbor. Built in water up to 24 ft deep, the breakwater was engineered to withstand 15-ft-tall waves.

The marina itself features the longest horizontal dock runs in the city as well as new advancements in marina technology. Each dock not only includes LED lighting but sanitary sewer pump-outs, integrated ice-suppression systems and phone, cable and Internet connections, among other amenities.

To reduce water pollution, the project team specified rain gardens, bioswales, infiltration vaults and treatment structures to accommodate stormwater flows and promote natural filtration.

During the project's planning phase, community members were invited to attend charrettes and other events where designers presented concepts.

Construction was undertaken by two contractors, one charged with overseeing the coastal breakwater and infill park and the other the landside and marina dock development. Changing weather conditions posed the greatest challenge, requiring precision scheduling to leverage each day that work was able to proceed.

31st Street Harbor, Chicago Key Players

Owner: Public Building Commission of Chicago

General Contractor: McHugh Construction (landside contractor), Chicago

Designer: AECOM, Chicago

Structural, MEP Engineering: Primera Engineers, Chicago

Submitted by AECOM