The final plans for a long anticipated park project that would run nearly three miles on Chicago’s north and northwest sides were unveiled Tuesday evening.
No freight trains have run on the Bloomingdale Line since 2001, and even then, trains only ran once a week. Since then, the line has sat empty and overgrown.
When Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail Co-founder Ben Helphand got together with friends to begin looking into the empty old railroad tracks near his home more than a decade ago, it was only a dream.
Starting today it is known as the 606, the newly named, multi-million dollar project, turning 2.7 miles of old railroad tracks along Bloomingdale Avenue on the northwest side into a premier recreational trail and park for the city of Chicago.
The trail stretches from Ashland to the east to Ridgeway to the west, unifying Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park. It has been dubbed a Millennium Park for the neighborhoods and is named after the zip code prefix all city neighborhoods share.
Many haven’t been able to wait for the park’s official opening to use it. Countless numbers of people find their way up onto the line everyday looking for a little fresh air and exercise coupled with the gorgeous views of the city.
On the ground, it’s known to many in these Chicago neighborhoods as an eyesore of graffitied walls and crumbling overpasses, but its history and possibilities have many excited to see what will come next.
There are some concerns about the new project from residents like David Spieske, who lives near the trail. Spieske wants to know what the construction of the area will mean to people like him who overlook the line.
The park has been a big project of Mayor Emanuel’s. Many are comparing it to Mayor Daley’s transformation of Millennium Park. To date, the project has received 39 million dollars in federal funds, two million dollars from the Park District, and 13 million in private funds. A massive effort is underway to raise the remaining 38 million dollars needed to complete the park.
An exact date for the groundbreaking has yet to be set, though it will likely be at the end of this summer. People can expect to use the park in the fall of 2014.