Chicago's highly anticipated elevated trail and park system known as The 606, otherwise referred to as the Bloomingdale Trail or the "Chicago High Line", finally celebrated its grand opening this past Saturday on the appropriate date of June 6 (6/06). The centerpiece of the $95 million project — which had its first phase designed by ARUP, Carol Ross Barney, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Burns & McDonnell, and the Chicago Public Art Group — is a 2.7 mile elevated trail that replaces the defunct Bloomingdale rail line. The trail will connect the Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, and Logan Square neighborhoods and six parks. And unlike similar linear-park projects, The 606 is open to pedestrians and cyclists to use as a new "transit corridor".
Prior to The 606, those communities were historically divided by the Bloomingdale railway and were in need of open green space. The newly opened trail is still looking fairly sparse at the moment, but later phases of the project include enhanced landscaping, arts integration, and additional parks.
Named after Chicago's 606 zip code prefix, the City of Chicago is said to have begun officially planning to convert the Bloomingdale railway during the 1990s. It became part of the 2004 Logan Square Open Space Plan, which led to the establishment of the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail residential group. The group worked for a decade to help realize The 606 along with the City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District, The Trust for Public Land, and dozens of organizations, all under the leadership of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The project broke ground in August 2013.
Another standout element of The 606 is its explicit public/private funding. Budgeted at $95 million, the 606's project managers raised $76 million from local and federal governments toward its construction, including $56 million in public funds and $20 million in private donations -- with additional funds to garner, most likely. The 606 is also a milestone in Mayor Emanuel's ambition to add 800 parks, green spaces, and recreation spots throughout the city over the next five years.
So far, locals have expressed a generally positive outlook on the trail as a new way to get around town and a welcoming place for their families (despite recent incidents that sparked some concern over security around the trail). However, longtime residents remain anxious over gentrification and other changes it will eventually reveal to their communities as time passes on.
From that, there's more to be said about The 606 as it grows and more visitors both from and outside of Chicago flock to it. In the meantime, here's a glimpse at some local perspectives on the developing trail:
For starters, Curbed Chicago shared a festive set of Instagram photos from the trail's opening celebration.
Blair Kamin, architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune, penned a review on the pros, the cons, and the could-haves on The 606's design:
In a similar fashion, Edward Keegan also wrote a review on the trail's design for Crain's Chicago Business, including missed opportunities for the design to have more oomph — and more seating.
Greg Viti [a Bucktown resident and real estate agent at Jameson Sotheby's International Realty] can see the trail from his house and looks forward to using it year-round. The project has definitely driven up prices within a few blocks of the trail, Viti said, and accelerated the gentrification already occurring in Logan Square. But the community will also be safer and healthier as a result, Viti said. 'If you live near the trail and don't like it, then … sell, because you're going to make a lot of money,' Viti said. 'Then move to Schaumburg or some place.'"
Julia Thiel from the Chicago Reader focuses on how longtime residents of Humboldt Park, Logan Square, and other local areas around The 606 are organizing to ensure they're not priced out of their neighborhoods.
In a more poetic approach, Whet Moser of Chicago Magazine composed a reflective piece on how The 606, through its design and urban context, can grow into a 21st-century embodiment of the city's desires and anxieties for its future.