City of Chicago Finally Takes Possession of the Bloomingdale

MVVA_Milwaukee

Rendering of the Bloomingdale Trail at Milwaukee Avenue.

After a few months of relative quiet since the last community meeting in September, there’s some news about the highly anticipated project to build a multi-use trail and “linear park” along the Bloomingdale Line. On Tuesday of last week, years after announcing its intention to open the trail, the city of Chicago finally purchased the right-of-way from Canadian Pacific Railway for one dollar, plus $105,000 in administrative fees associated with the railroad vacating the land. The city will eventually give the property to the Chicago Park District, which will administer the trail. “That’s pretty typical of what happens when the park district acquires land,” says Beth White, director of the Trust for Public Land, which is spearheading fundraising efforts.

The 2.65-mile greenway will cost $91 million, with $76.5 million going towards construction and the remainder budgeted for design and stewardship, White says. $39 million is coming from a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) grant. The required 20 percent local match of $9 million includes $2 million from the Park District plus donations of $5 million from Exelon and $1 million each from Boeing and CNA. This funding is enough to build the basic trail.

Meanwhile, TPL is working to raise $40 – $50 million more in private donations to pay for building parks at the access points, plus enhancements like public art, maintenance and programming, with $12.5 million raised so far, White says. Last week over 75 potential donors attended a fundraiser at the Casino Club hosted by Winona Capital Management’s Laird Koldyke, also a Park District board member, and his wife Deirdre, head of the Earthheart Foundation, a philanthropic organization. White declined to tell me who some of the major donors are so far but says there will be an announcement this spring.

After unveiling “90 percent complete” plans for the trail and taking final comments from the public at the September meeting, the Bloomingdale team is finishing the design and engineering for the trail based on that input, White says. The project should be put out to bid this spring with construction starting in June or July, and the basic trail should be ready to ride by fall of 2014. “By then we’ll have the path, some landscaping and benches,” White says. “We wanted to be sure to provide access by next year because Mayor Emanuel heard loud and clear that the public wants to get up there sooner than later.” The project, including access parks and enhancements, should be completed by 2015.

White says there will be another community meeting in February or March to unveil the final design to the public. “I’m happy to report that the project is on track and we’re moving forward and hitting our milestones,” she says. “It’s going to be America’s next great park.”