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- The opportunity for Englewood – and Chicago’s South Side
- Assets along the trail
- Activity areas
- Past plans
- Examples of other urban trails
The Opportunity for Englewood – and Chicago’s South Side
The Englewood Line Nature Trail will provide recreational opportunities, transportation, and a connection to nature for residents of Englewood and surrounding communities. It will link growing spaces in the Englewood Urban Agricultural District and help fulfill the community’s aspirations for a safe, inviting, and peaceful space for all to enjoy.
Design of the trail can further community interests:
- Creating a safe trail for community use.
- Connecting a variety of uses now being planned.
- Providing jobs via construction of the trail and through small-business development.
- Enhancing safety and transportation access by improving the pedestrian and bicycle environment.
- Providing a natural trail that is a unique experience in the City of Chicago.
Please click on Share an Idea to post your comments on the preliminary ideas listed below.
1. Use the trail to improve the community
a. Convert a physical barrier into a vital east-west connection through Englewood.
b. Create jobs and economic development.
c. Celebrate the diversity and rich history of Greater Englewood.
2. Create new transportation options
a. Provide access to the trail near existing nodes of activity.
b. Create multiple experiences in accessing and using the trail.
c. Make connections for residents on foot, bike, bus, and train.
3. Support recreation and healthy lifestyles
a. Provide a variety of recreational and fitness opportunities.
b. Expand urban farming, food-related uses, and restaurants along the Trail.
c. Explore unique vegetation, gardening, and natural design.
4. Foster the arts and microbusinesses
a. Engage local artists in trail design and development.
b. Support growth of microbusinesses along the trail.
5. Enhance safety
a. Create a safer environment by using principles of “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.”
b. Develop active spaces along the trail through collaboration with schools,
community organizations, churches, and economic development groups.
Assets Along the Trail
The 1.7-mile corridor includes significant social, economic, and natural assets, including the following (click here to view larger asset map):
- Public spaces – Major gathering places include Lindblom Park, Hermitage Park, Moran Playground Park, and the West Englewood Branch of the Chicago Public Library.
- Schools – Students of all ages are served by nearby Henderson, Langford, and Nicholson elementary schools, Lindblom Math and Science Academy High School, and Kennedy King College.
- Jobs and economic development – Nearby business development includes the shopping center at 59th and Ashland (CVS, Dunkin Donuts, Subway), industrial companies, auto-related businesses, organic produce wholesaler Goodness Greeness, and two organic farms operated as job training centers by Growing Home, Inc.
- Faith communities – More than 15 churches are in the corridor, several immediately adjacent to the rail viaduct. These communities represent potential users of the trail as well as possible partners in trail development and maintenance.
- Natural areas – Nearly 100 mature trees (with trunks of eight inches or more) have grown along the viaduct, including box elder, maple, and elm trees. Native and non-native species have propagated on the sloping embankments and nearby lots, creating a starting point for habitat restoration.
- Transportation – The corridor is well served by CTA bus routes on 59th Street, Halsted, Racine, Ashland, and Damen. The CTA Green Line has stations just south of 63rd Street at Halsted and Ashland. Bike routes and lanes cross the trail on Halsted, Racine, Loomis, and Damen.
- Underutilized assets – There are also underutilized assets in the corridor, including the vacant Bontemps school building, several vacant commercial buildings, and many vacant lots. In the 122-acre corridor, there are more than 54 acres of vacant land.
- Nearby development – Englewood Square, on the northwest corner of 63rd and Halsted, is a five-acre shopping center that will be anchored by a Whole Foods grocery store and include a Starbucks and Chipotle restaurant. It will open in August 2016.
Englewood Square Retail, Source: DL3 Realty
The area has seen significant development over the past 10 years including construction of the 40-acre, six-building Kennedy King College campus; the 73-unit Hope Manor II housing for veterans, at 63rd and Halsted; the 99 supportive housing units at Mercy Englewood Apartments, 901 W. 63rd St.; and the 24-unit Sangamon Terrace Apartments at 62nd and Sangamon.
The shopping district along 63rd Street near Kennedy King College includes a Walgreen store, Aldi, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Shark’s Fish and Chicken, and other stores.
The Englewood Line crosses through several distinct sections, each with its own character and mix of uses, including:
Damen Avenue – Bus routes and bike lanes, the nearby Lindblom Park and high school and economic development opportunities along Damen Avenue provide a commercial focus to this area.
Wood Street agriculture district / Hermitage Park – Key locations here include Hermitage Park and the adjacent Growing Home farms at Wood Street and Honore Street. With recent expansion by Growing Home, this is a likely area for fuller development of the Englewood Urban Agriculture District.
Ashland Avenue – With an average daily traffic count of 18,600, Ashland Avenue is the corridor’s busiest cross street, and close to a small shopping center and other businesses.
Racine Avenue / Bontemps school site – Neighborhood leaders are assessing reuseoptions for the closed Bontemps building, which is immediately adjacent to the trail and includes a playground that remains open and well used. Moran Park is one block north, and a large concrete structure one block west could provide interesting opportunities.
Halsted Street– Commercial activity nearby and strong transit links make Halsted a likely location for the eastern trailhead with connections along Halsted to Kennedy King College and the newly developing Englewood Square.
Development of the rail viaduct and adjacent areas has been recommended in three recent planning documents.
The Englewood: Making a Difference Quality-of-Life Plan, December 2005 first set out the idea for an urban agriculture district along the rail corridor. The planning effort was led by Teamwork Englewood and a broad coalition of residents and organizations.
Green Healthy Neighborhoods is a 10- to 20-year planning strategy to maximize the use of vacant land and other resources within Chicago’s Englewood, West Englewood, Washington Park, and Woodlawn communities. Published in 2014, the plan recommended that the Englewood Trail should anchor an adjacent urban agriculture district. The plan also recommended expansion of the Adjacent Neighbors Land Acquisition Program, which has since been implemented as the City of Chicago Large Lot program, transferring 276 lots to Englewood property owners for $1 each. Green Healthy Neighborhoods was supported by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the City of Chicago and had a broad community outreach strategy.
The New ERA Trail Community Vision Plan, completed in 2009 for Openlands Project, provides a broad vision and conceptual ideas for conversion of the corridor into a “community landmark and signature destination.” The plan envisioned active recreation spaces, agriculture, arts, and a marketplace for small businesses.
Examples of Other Urban Trails
Many cities are pursuing conversion of former railroads into recreational amenities.
The Dequindre Cut Greenway in Detroit is a 1.15-mile urban recreational path built on a below-street-level railbed. Opened in May of 2009 via a public, nonprofit, and private partnership, the Dequindre Cut offers a 20-foot-wide paved path that connects the riverfront, Eastern Market, and residential neighborhoods in between. It is known for its urban artwork and graffiti, which are commissioned by the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy.
Four trail segments and six parks have already opened on the Atlanta BeltLine, whose 20-year development plan calls for 33 miles of trails, 1,300 acres of parks, and 5,600 units of affordable housing, all served by a 22-mile rail loop. It is the most comprehensive transportation and economic development effort ever undertaken in the City of Atlanta.
The first phase of the three-mile Rail Park in Philadelphia is expected to break ground in 2016, on a quarter-mile segment of former track leading to Reading Terminal. Friends of the Rail Park is partnering with Center City District to manage the construction, which will incorporate natural vegetation that has grown along the line.
New York City Parks opened The High Bridge in 2015 after 40 years of closure, providing stunning views and a pedestrian and biking connection across the Harlem River, between Manhattan and the Bronx. The bridge was built in the mid-1800s as part of the Croton Aqueduct system, which brought drinking water to the city.
Chicago’s 60-acre Sherman Park, about four blocks north of the Englewood Line, was designed by John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted to provide open space to the immigrant, working-class residents of the neighborhood. The interior path system has been used for bike races for decades.
A 2.7-mile elevated recreational trail, The 606 on Chicago’s North Side opened in 2015 after more than 10 years of planning and development. It incorporates small adjacent parks that provide access to the trail via ramps and stairs.