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First Look at Bloomingdale Trail Phase One Designs

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Curbed dropped in on last night's grand release of the Bloomingdale Trail and Park Framework Plan. We knew it'd be the first taste of detailed design work. The renderings, while still somewhat generalized, are, for the first time based on a thorough survey of the site, budgetary constraints, and extensive public engagement. We spoke briefly with Senior Project Manager Emily Vogler of landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and she reminded that we're just in the intermediate planning stage. Phase two of the design process will include four more community meetings which will produce further changes and greater legibility in the renderings. Here are some things we can discern at the close of phase one:

1) There are eight prioritized access points, and the possibility for more.
2) Three Four new access parks are proposed: one at Kimball Ave, one at Albany-Whipple, another at Milwaukee-Leavitt, and a fourth as a northward extension of Walsh Park.
3) Five percent of the budget will go toward public art.
3) The project has $46M in dedicated federal funding, and is in the midst of raising local matching funds. The planning, to an extent, presumes this money will arrive in a timely fashion.
4) Phase two will wrap in 2013 and construction will commence. Some elements of the Bloomingdale Trail and Park will open in 2014.

As has been the case throughout the design process, meeting the often conflicting needs of bicyclists and pedestrians will no doubt remain a challenge. The trail, after conceding space to greenery, is narrow enough to warrant concerns. There will, however, be a pedestrian-only path paralleling a sizable leg of the trail. We weren't able to stick around for last night's formal presentation and Q+A with the design team but this issue and the issues of safety and privacy form the backbone of contentiousness.

One of the most exciting elements of the new designs are the access parks. A three-mile linear park is a great thing for the Northwest Side, but it's best enjoyed moving in a line. The trio of pocket parks, shaped for multiple uses and more of the neighborhoods are attractive launching sites and a low-key counterpoint to the recreational tendencies of the trail. But they're not just about relaxation—one of the access parks may feature a skate park.

We also dig the trail's terraced lookouts, reminiscent of NYC's High Line. Thankfully, it's unlikely Bloomingdale will ever see the crowds of the High Line. Whatever happens in the end, Michael Van Valkenburgh, Ross Barney architects, and the rest of the design team have us salivating over the possibilities (see also North Grant Park designs).
·Official Site: The Bloomingdale Trail
·Bloomingdale Trail Framework Plan to Bring Details to Light [Curbed Chicago]