The 606

Chicago’s 606 is one of the city’s latest urban innovation projects that involved the reinvention of an old freight line into a 2.7-mile recreational trail and park system. It runs through the neighborhoods of Humboldt Park, Bucktown, Logan Square and Wicker Park. The trail goes beyond just serving as a recreational area; it integrates art and science, pleasure and provocation. The 606 is one of 800 new parks, recreation areas and green spaces Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s strives to implant in the city.

  1. What role does this urban innovation project have for the city’s sustainable developmental goals?

The 606 revitalized an abandoned, gritty area into something sustainable. It “…repurpose[s] an unused elevated rail line and sustain[s] the land with as little waste as possible”. Also, numerous parks make up the project. Rahm Emanuel’s sustainability plan was to create 800 new parks and recreational areas and the addition of this magnificent trail is aiding the process of achieving that goal.  

2What are the project’s sustainability outcomes and what methods/plans are they implementing to make the project a success?

So far, the trail has been a huge hit for residents near who live near the area. They plan on putting directions up online to guide the users of the trail (nearby bathrooms and parking) since this seems to be one of the only flaws. Sustainability wise, it converted a useless, filthy, unhealthy (to humans and the Earth) environment into a useful, beautiful and healthy area.

3. How does the project address all 5 factors for sustainable development (Environment, economics, social equity, energy and health)?

It achieves environmental for incorporating green space (200 plant species, 1,400 trees, 37 bridges, etc). It achieves social equity because it attracts and brings together not just kids but adults and seniors alike. It gives them a place to interact with others around them and also nature. Health wise, it is a fantastic place to go for a run or walk and could serve as “Park Prescription” (see link below). The lead designer of The 606, Frances Whitehead, says the project incorporates “ four ‘pillars’ or criteria that constitute the emerging global sustainability model, adding ‘culture’ to the original ‘triple bottom line’ of ‘social, economic, environmental’ pillars”.



3 thoughts on “The 606

  1. As a resident of the Bucktown neighborhood, I was supper excited for the past couple years when the construction of this project started. I was very happy that something sustainable was being done with this lost space. However, it became very clear to me (one as a resident, and two as a former landscape architecture student) that the project was being rushed. I also have a close friend that works for one of the landscape design firms that was hired to design a portion of this project. They were one of many, and you can sense all of the disconnects between each design team. There is no real overall design theme, unlike with projects such as the Highline in New York, because typically you only hire one design team to design the entire space. Another aspect that was overlooked in the designing was the separation of wheeled traffic versus pedestrian traffic. If you have been on the 606 during the busy summer afternoons, then you know, bicyclists go flying by pedestrian with kids and dogs and really anything at very high speeds. Lastly, you see signs all over that this was a rush job to get it constructed, because there are areas of the blue rubber running path that are starting to tear up, and a lot of the plants that they planted when it first opened didn’t make it through the first winter.
    What I’m really getting to here is that Chicago took take a great step in making use of its wasted space, but there were so many existing examples they could have drawn from to make it leaps and bounds better than it is. I don’t think that the proper amount of time was taken to get this project to the level it could have been.


  2. I thoroughly enjoyed your blog post. I had not realized the extent of the 606 and the various plant species it’s brought to the area. Something I would like to see would be a similar version of this trail connecting other neighborhoods. Chicago is one of the most diverse yet segregated cities in America. By providing these trails, it broadens neighborhoods and perspectives. People in different communities would have the opportunity to get outside in a safe and protected way. As for the above comment, I appreciate hearing a voice from someone who has experienced the possible negatives. Going forward and creating new trails, these are things that can be focused on to provide a better trail.


  3. This is so cool!
    I really like renovation of 606. I also heard 606 is going to expand to Lake Michigan. I remembered the first time I went to 606. Just enjoying the neighborhoods in a different perspective. Seeing everything below. 606 provides a great transportation that one can argue is safe. I enjoyed your blog.


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