Between 1958 and 1973, central Chicago lost 21,000 of its inhabitants to the suburbs. This tidal exodus, which Goldberg had hoped to begin turning back with the construction of Marina City, was still in motion by the late 1960s. In response to this, Goldberg began conceptualizing what was envisioned to become a dynamic and affordable high density, mixed-use "new city center" along the southwestern outskirts of Chicago's Loop. By 1970, consolidation in the railroad and printing industries had left much of the South Loop lifeless and derelict. With Dearborn Station's closure in May of 1971, the sprawling ganglion of railroad tracks south of the station was finally obsolete. Simultaneously, construction of low and middle-income housing in Chicago, both privately and publicly funded, had nearly ceased, and the shortage was palpable. Known as River City, Goldberg's project was intended to help offset the decline in affordable rental units adjacent to the central city, while helping remake a once vibrant area.

Beginning in 1968, in a collaboration with Harris Ward, CEO of the Commonwealth Edison Company, Goldberg set out to build "a new concept of a city" that would be an extension of Chicago's downtown from 350 acres of disused railroad property that stretched from the river to State Street on the east, and from Congress to 18th Street on the south. However, Ward soon fell ill and his replacement brought the development in a new direction, eventually hiring Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to design what would become know as Dearborn Park. Goldberg believed that he may have been cut loose from the project because "they needed someone with more muscle... and someone who was probably less dreamy... to mature the project."

With the original tract now broken up among several interested parties, Goldberg pushed forward with a smaller but no less ambitious plan to be built in a long, narrow band alongside the east bank of the Chicago River. Despite support from institutions such as the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and Roosevelt University—as well as being told by the White House and HUD that the River City proposal was on "the cutting edge of urbanism"—Goldberg's early, sprawling plan of residential towers, mid-rise apartments, businesses, manufacturing, education, health care facilities, religious institutions, and parkland was never fully realized. Perceived as a conflict with the city's "Chicago 21" plan and competing downtown developments such as the aforementioned Dearborn Park, the project became mired in political limbo for years. A greatly scaled-down River City—one serpentine concrete mid-rise residential structure—was eventually completed in 1984.

  1. Marina City Detroit, Detroit, MI, 1962-1967. Rendering, n.d.
  2. River City I (2 triads), Chicago, IL, 1972-1979. Rendering, c.1976.
  3. Bertrand Goldberg to Robert C. Wood, Undersecretary Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), June 17, 1968.
  4. River City I (9 triads), Chicago, IL, 1972-1979. Triad model view, c.1974-1976.
  5. "The Federal Screwdriver FHA Turns it On." Sketch, from Woods Hole urban development conference, Woods Hole, MA, June 1966.
  6. River City I (9 or 2 triads), Chicago, IL, 1972-1979. Triad plan, c.1974-1976.
  7. River City I (9 triads), Chicago, IL, 1972-1979. Clark Street level plan, March 8, 1974.
  8. River City II, Chicago, IL, 1983-1986. Interior view, c.1984-1986.
  9. River City II. Exterior view, c.1984-1986.
  10. Bertrand Goldberg to Adeline Burns, November 21, 1977.

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