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New Development, Investment Anticipates Future Bloomingdale Trail

New housing near the Bloomingdale Trail
A new residential and retail building replaced a vacant lot next to the Bloomingdale Trail this year, adjacent to an access ramp to the future path.

The Bloomingdale Trail is attracting new investment along its length, including the construction of new multi-family and single-family housing. The blocks bracketing the multi-use path and adjacent parks (collectively known as the 606) saw less construction than their wider neighborhoods during the 2008-2009 recession -- but now construction is picking up. Investors and developers are confidently saying that the 606 will not just be a great amenity for their customers, but a crucial transportation link as well.

It's no surprise that people would want to live around the 606. It brings a major new park to Humboldt Park and to open space-starved Logan Square, and will provide a safe and convenient car-free transportation link between those neighborhoods, the citywide boulevard network, Milwaukee Avenue, and the busy Wicker Park-Bucktown retail district.

Just this year, developers have built 21 condominiums and a single family home on what was previously vacant land where the Bloomingdale crosses over California Avenue in Humboldt Park, next to Moos Elementary School. The 40 or so new residents at this corner will live a stone's throw from a ramp up to the trail. These 21 units comprise all of the multi-family housing permitted this year within a half mile of the trail, but dozens of new single-family homes are being built near the trail in Bucktown and Wicker Park.

There are plans for more new housing further west, where there are more vacant lots than on the more expensive east end of the trail. The Latin United Community Housing Association (LUCHA) is planning to build 42 affordable apartments in ten buildings on several vacant lots on Drake, Sawyer, and Kedzie avenues. All of the apartments will be within two blocks of the trail, and residents will be able to walk up to the trail from Drake, Spaulding Avenue (one block west of Sawyer), or at Julie de Burgos Park at Albany Avenue (two blocks east of Kedzie).

For an apartment that makes it truly easy to access the Bloomingdale Trail, though, Centrum Partners has proposed a seven-story apartment building with an entrance directly linking the second floor to the trail. The 128-apartment building will replace the Aldi grocery store at Leavitt Street and Milwaukee Avenue in Bucktown. The proposed development would keep Aldi on the ground floor, have residential parking on the second floor, and fill five floors above with studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom apartments. 

centrum partners bloomingdale trail
A proposed development at Leavitt/Milwaukee features direct access to the Bloomingdale Trail.

The new building will bring pedestrian-friendly, streetfront retail to a long-quiet corner of Milwaukee Avenue, across the street from Park 567, which offers public access to the trail. It's also along the 56-Milwaukee bus route, but since it's not within 600 feet of a rail station, it won't be able to claim a reduced parking requirement -- unlike Centrum's new building adjacent to the Paulina Brown Line station.

The 606 isn't just spurring residential development. Proximity to the trail's Churchill Park entrance in Bucktown was cited by broker Greg Dietz as one key reason a Northbrook-based developer bought a retail building at 1747 N. Damen Avenue, located on a prime retail stretch between the trail and the Damen 'L' stop. Dietz sees the trail as a source of retail customers: "It will help keep people coming down Damen -- it's a foot traffic driver," Dietz told DNAinfo. The building currently houses Mindy's HotChocolate restaurant and, soon, the Presidio lounge. While the building isn't new to the neighborhood, its purchase price reflects its location's improved accessibility: in 2002 it was sold for $1.2 million, and sold for $3.5 million in this transaction.

Trails are a popular amenity among homebuyers, and have been shown to increase property values and sale prices. Urban trails are not as well-studied as suburban greenways or rural rail-trails, but experience in Minneapolis, Indianapolis, and Austin shows identical patterns of increased property tax revenue in each.

After Minneapolis's Midtown Greenway opened within a former rail trench in 2000, the city and neighbors developed a "trail-oriented" development re-zoning plan, then changed the zoning around the trail in 2010 to allow more housing. A similar plan for the Bloomingdale could be useful in encouraging land uses that are more productive, and more welcoming of active transportation, than the strip mall-style doctor's office that Northwestern Memorial Hospital is building on Milwaukee across the corner from Aldi. Since that building won't have direct trail access, there won't be a way for the doctors inside to prescribe a healthful, traffic-free bike ride along the trail.

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