Monday, May 2, 2016

Our input on the Cortland/Chicago River redevelopment

by Michelle Stenzel

Bike Walk Lincoln Park hosted a "Ride and Envision" event last weekend in order to assess the area around Cortland Street and the Chicago River, which is slated to be redeveloped over the next few years. The site lies within the boundaries of the city's 2nd ward, and Alderman Brian Hopkins has begun seeking input from the community.

Citizens in action! (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Michael Reynolds and I led a group of citizens on a slow bike ride around the area, stopping to discuss its current state and what needs to be done to make it better for people walking, on bikes, and using public transportation. In general, we noted that the area had been a barrier in the past to people using active transportation, with lack of sufficient pathways through the site and poorly maintained sidewalks and bike lanes. It was a "dead zone" with little human activity at most times, making it uncomfortable to walk or bike through. 

At the same time, the area already has many beneficial transportation assets nearby, and the new development should take full advantage of those. The assets include the #73 Armitage bus line, proximity to the Brown Line L station at Armitage, the Clybourn Metra station, the easternmost access point of the 606/Bloomingdale Trail, buffered bike lanes on Elston and Clybourn, and the northernmost station for future Bus Rapid Transit on Ashland Avenue.

In order to transform the area into a vibrant new Chicago neighborhood, we recommend that it be developed with a diverse mix of uses, to include residences, offices, digital manufacturing, retail, food and drink, and entertainment, which will ensure the continuous presence of people. The development needs to be done in a way that is sufficiently dense to support and sustain new local retail shops and restaurants, and create demand for improved public transportation. There should be new public space, transportation paths and recreational opportunities along the riverfront.

In order to attract all these new uses and the people without causing a detrimental spike in motor vehicle traffic, every aspect of the buildings, land, streets and public infrastructure should be designed to strongly encourage people who live, work, or visit the area to choose methods of transportation other than driving whenever possible. This can be done by making walking, biking and public transit truly safe, convenient and pleasant, through good connectivity, frequent service, safe bike lanes, wide sideways, comfortably designed streets and intersections, and so forth.

The former Finkl Steel site near Cortland Street is currently a blank slate. What will be drawn on it?
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
You can read our letter to Alderman Hopkins here. 

In our letter, we make reference to Chicago's Pedestrian Plan, and you can view that document here.  

We also refer to Chicago's Streets for Cycling 2020 plan, which is the master plan for bikeway standards and bikeway plans from 2012 to 2020.

You can express your support for our ideas or provide your own opinions to him via e-mail to:

Alderman Hopkins is hosting a community meeting open to the public on Tuesday, May 3rd at 6:00 PM. If you wish to speak at the meeting or participate in the charrette (a charrette is a hands-on brainstorming activity where participants draw and write on maps to communicate their ideas and opinions), you must register ahead of time; details on the link provided.

We plan to continue to provide input during the process on this project, to make sure that people walking, biking and taking transit are kept in the forefront, including providing more detail on specific problems and specific solutions. 

We welcome you to drop us a line at to be added to the mailing list for our future events, or follow us on Twitter @BikeWalkLP


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