Linear urban parks utilising abandoned railway infrastructure are becoming increasingly popular, from Paris’ Promenade Plantée to New York’s High Line and proposed Lowline and QueensWay. Another exciting project proposes to transform a section of the former Bloomingdale Line, originally built in 1873 by the Chicago and Pacific Railroad Company, into a 2.7-mile elevated park called the Bloomingdale Trail.
The proposed greenway would run through the heart of Chicago, connecting various neighbourhoods with the river and the city’s existing park system. In addition to providing improved access to green space, the new park would enable residents to get to work and school faster while adopting a healthy lifestyle.
The Bloomingdale Line was elevated approximately 20 feet above street-level after 1910 to reduce the instance of pedestrian fatalities at railroad crossings. Thirty eight viaducts were built into the route to carry the tracks across urban streets. The line, which operated both freight and passenger services, closed in 2001.
The City of Chicago has since focused on the greenway concept as part of the Logan Square Open Space Plan. The proposals call for a linear park with public access ramps every six to nine blocks, running from the Chicago River to Logan Square.
The Center for Neighborhood Technology at 1741 N. Western Avenue is currently presenting an exhibition called ‘Reframing Ruin: A Prelude to the Bloomingdale’, created by the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail and the Trust for Public Land. The exhibition began on February 28 and is set to run until August 22, 2013.
Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail is a grassroots advocacy organisation formed in 2003 as a focal point for community involvement in the project, working closely with the Trust for Public Land, which has helped facilitate a number of other greenways and rails-to-trails projects across the United States.