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Top Ten Parks of the Future in Chicago

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Chicago has gotten some fabulous new neighborhood parks in recent years (Mary Bartelme in the West Loop and Palmisano in Bridgeport; the downtown riverwalk was recently expanded), and work is currently underway on others (Ping Tom is being expanded, and a fancy new marina is being built at 31st Street). Here's a look forward at some other new parks that have been proposed.

?1. The Park: Northerly Island
The Plan: Nobody really knew what Mayor Daley had in mind when he bulldozed big 'X's into the Miegs Field runway in 2003, but apparently it was this: By far the most ambitious of any parks proposed in Chicago since Millennium Park was completed in 2004. The city brought Jeanne Gang in to design the 91-acre park, which will include a big concert pavilion, lots of wetlands, a lagoon, and even a sunken ship for divers to explore. The plan sounds amazingly expensive, and it could take decades to take shape.

?2. The Park: Chicago Riverwalk extension
The Plan: Through much of the Chicago's history, the river has served as the city's toilet bowl – and it still does, more or less (although we're trying to change that). And now that the water is somewhat less putrid than it used to be, the city is looking to draw people to its banks. Bit by bit, the riverwalk has been expanding in recent years. In 2009, the walkway was extended to Wabash, and Skidmore Owings and Merrill recently produced a framework plan for a continuous riverwalk that extends from the Lake Michigan to Lake Street.

?3. The Park: Bloomingdale Trail
The Plan: For years, a dedicated group of West Siders have talked about taking the long-unused elevated rail line the runs along Bloomingdale in Bucktown, Logan Square and Humboldt Park and converting it into a High Line-style park. Finally, it's inching closer to becoming a reality; last week, the city announced that initial design work is currently underway. The next challenge: raising the estimated $50-$70 million needed to build it.

4. The Park: Celotex Site in Little Village
The Plan: For years, Little Village residents have rallied for a park on the 24-acre designated Superfund site that was once an asphalt factory. With the help of Perkins + Will, a local group cooked up a very ambitious plan for the site, with an amphitheater, playgrounds, a skate park, and an urban farm. It sounds idyllic, but with a $450-million price tag, it probably won't be built right away.

?5. The Park: Rogers Park lakefront (Last 4 Miles)
The Plan: Daniel Burnham sought to make the entire Chicago lakefront public property, but four miles (2 miles in Rogers Park, and 2 miles in South Shore) are still inaccessible to the public. In 2009, Friends of the Parks unveiled a plan to complete Burnham's plan. Using lakefill, the group proposes adding at least 70 acres of new parkland and beaches between Edgewater and Evanston, filling in the gaps between Loyola Park and other smaller beaches. Predictably, condo owners along the northern lakefront have been pretty vocal in their opposition to the plan.

6. The Park: South Lakefront – South Works
The Plan: Much has been made of McCaffrey Interests' plan to redevelop the 580-acre former South Works plant on the far Southeast Side, but perhaps the most exciting part of it is the addition of 95 acres of new lakefront parkland. In addition to the main lakefront park, the redevelopment plan calls for several 'finger parks,' which extend into the planned residential and commercial districts.

7. The Park: DuSable Park
The Plan: When the Chicago Spire development failed, most of us didn't lose much – after all, who was actually going to shell out $750K for a studio? But we did lose a small patch of green space that developer Garrett Kelleher promised to spend nearly $10 million on the construction of DuSable Park. That, of course, never happened. Some day DuSable Park will become a reality, but it's anyone's guess when.

8. The Park: Unity Green at Gill Park
The Plan: The details are still a bit unclear, but it sounds like Gill Park has the potential to be grand. Developer Alan Bell brought in Studio Gang to draw up some plans for the park, which call for a 'vertical green hub,' a soccer field, and 'activity hubs.' Bell has positioned the park as a venue to promote diversity and community on the northern edge of Lakeview. We should know a bit more about the plan in July, when Bell promises to release some new renderings.

?9. The Park: North Grant Park
The Plan: In 2008, the city announced plans to redesign and rebuild the northern end of Grant Park, creating a better link between Millennium Park and the lakefront, and, most importantly, adding a pedestrian bridge across Lake Shore Drive. Some plans were presented to New East Side residents in the fall that included a big sledding hill, but we haven't heard much about it since then.

10. The Park: Edgewater neighborhood park
The Plan: Edgewater residents want a new park. Bad. They've picked out a suitable site, and Skidmore Owings & Merrill have agreed to draw up some plans. But there's a small problem: The crumbling old Edgewater Medical Center currently occupies the site, and it'll cost a lot of money to demolish it. Further complicating matters is the fact that developer Waveland Partners wants to build a mid-rise apartment building on the site.