Riverside elected officials next month will discuss and could potentially make a decision on the look of a floodwall being designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would run along the east bank of the Des Plaines River from Park Place to the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad right of way and along Park Place from the river to roughly Woodside Road.
The village board has not made a final decision to build the wall, but settling on how such a wall will look if they do give the go-ahead was a critical step, especially after computer-generated images from the Army Corps depicting a white wall of concrete late last year caused a bit of alarm.
Since then, the village asked its engineering firm, Christopher B. Burke Engineering Ltd., to create renderings of a floodwall, using the village’s historic connection to Frederick Law Olmsted as a guide.
On March 18, Village President Ben Sells unveiled three design options, all of which are based upon walls Olmsted designed or co-designed. Burke engineering’s senior landscape architect, Douglas Gotham, used walls in Olmsted’s Franklin Park in Boston, Prospect Park in Brooklyn and The Rockery in Easton, Massachusetts, as guides for the examples shown to the village board last week.
“It became apparent through our examination that a common element in all his projects that contained walls was the tendency of [Olmsted] to use stone unfinished as much as possible,” Gotham wrote in a memo to Village Manager Jessica Frances last week. “He preferred the natural appearance of stone and obviously used stone native to the region.”
According to Village Engineer Orion Galey, the Army Corps would use form liners to create the stone-like finish of the wall, which will constructed of poured-in-place reinforced concrete.
To get the “stone” to have color, the concrete can either be dyed or it can be painted afterward if the village wants a multicolored effect.
In the Franklin Park-inspired option, the wall would be formed to look like it was constructed of irregularly sized stones and topped with a rounded capstone, with rectangular capstones atop the columns that will line the wall at regular intervals.
The Prospect Park-inspired version would feature a wall whose lower two-thirds would appear built of irregularly shaped and colored stones topped by what would look like a smooth-faced limestone cap.
The third option would combine the Franklin Park style and The Rockery, where walls are made of large boulders, by stacking boulders at an angle against the river-side of the concrete wall.
Sells told trustees that he would seek feedback from both the Riverside Landscape Advisory Commission and the Riverside Preservation Commission on whether they had a preference.
The village board will discuss the floodwall design options and accept comment from members of the public at their meetings on April 1 and April 15. If there’s some sort of consensus, the village board could choose a design at the second meeting, which would then be sent to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency so they can review it as required under state law to make sure doesn’t affect the village’s national landmark status.
Sells revealed last week that the Illinois Historic Preservation Office did, in fact, review the proposed floodwall in 2015 and ruled it did not affect any historic properties. However, those ruling are good for only two years, so Riverside will seek another based on the preferred design.