Started as a seedling group of just six companies, including Blutter/Shiff Design and Dresner Design, the River North Design District has flourished into a buzzing community of creatives who champion our city’s design scene, and this year, it celebrates its 10-year anniversary. Here, founder and executive director Jill Maremont takes us back to the district’s inception, fills us in on how they’re celebrating and reveals what’s still to come from the RNDD.

Elegant work by cabinetry manufacturer and RNDD member O’Brien Harris PHOTO BY CYNTHIA KIM
Elegant work by cabinetry manufacturer and RNDD member O’Brien Harris

How has the RNDD evolved over the past decade?

I remember sitting around a table at Studio41 10 years ago with our founding members, Mike Cao (RNDD president and Casa Spazio), EJ Silver (Studio41), Emily Roberts (Studio41), Mary Pat Wallace (The Luxury Bed Collection), Maria Giangrasso (Montauk SOFA) and Chris Frederick (Organic Looms), brainstorming about how to create a strong design community in River North. Today, RNDD is on the map with over 77 business members. We’ve created the largest annual design event of the year, The River North Design District Gallery Walk, and have had over 1,500 people attend last year’s opening. We’ve also grown our staff to include two of us, Jenny Maraccini and myself, and are thrilled to now have the resources to accomplish even more for our design community.

How is the RNDD celebrating the anniversary?

We’re celebrating with a series of weekly throwback posts on Instagram that document all of our supporters and past events. We also commissioned photographer Roberto Lopez to create a 10-piece collection in honor of our anniversary, which we will be releasing throughout the year. This collection celebrates the urban beauty and architectural vernacular of our neighborhood, showing how we see the RNDD—a vibrant, creative and inspiring part of Chicago with every resource at your fingertips. We’ll also be celebrating with an anniversary party hosted by Oscar Isberian Rugs on June 2.

How was Lopez selected to commission the 10-piece collection of photographs in honor of the anniversary?

Lopez has been photographing our events from the very beginning, and we can’t think of another photographer that gets us more than him. It was important that the photos capture the essence of our neighborhood, and Roberto absolutely nailed it.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your role?

I’ve been in the design industry for 27 years, and our design community means a great deal to me. I’m extremely grateful that I can be a leader in our community and create meaningful programming and events to help our area businesses grow and prosper.

What can we expect from RNDD in the next year?

We’re continuing our podcast (Design District) with four new episodes featuring some hot topics. And our event lineup this year is terrific. We have a workshop on branding, a panel discussion Feb. 28 on Designing With Color, our anniversary celebration and, of course, the highly anticipated fall Gallery Walk on Sept. 8. We have many new designers, artists and galleries participating this year and lots of great surprises in store.