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The Five Most Anticipated New Parks Chicagoans Can't Wait For

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In light of Outdoors Week here at Curbed, we wanted to take a moment to reflect upon the bounty of new parks and public spaces that are under construction right now. These ambitious new public spaces will soon be added to the long list of tourist and local outdoor destinations brought to you by the Windy City, and as Chicago looks to increase its presence on the global stage as a world-class city, it's no coincidence that five great public spaces are on the way simultaneously. These projects accentuate the best natural and cultural features of the city today, and should only make the city more attractive to tourists and new residents. Let's have a look, shall we?

↑ Maggie Daley Park When the massive parking garage that sits beneath the northeast corner of Grant Park needed to repair its roof, the Chicago Park District decided to take advantage of that opportunity to completely redesign that section of the park into a contained, concept park much like Millennium Park right across the street. However, unlike the flat levels of open space wrapped around an assortment of major art installations of Millennium Park, this new park will feature a flowing, grassy landscape of hills and valleys carefully designed to reduce road noise and improve views, scattered with play structures and climbing walls for guests to truly interact with, as well as a dreamy-sounding “ice skating ribbon,” a meandering river that winds around a big section of the park. After the death of Chicago’s former First Lady, the park project was renamed in honor of Maggie Daley.

Unlike your average Chicagoland project, construction for Maggie Daley Park has been moving exactly on schedule and under budget. Parts of the park will open to the public this November, with construction completely finished in spring of 2015.

↑ The 606 If you’ve heard of this project, you probably know it as “The Bloomingdale Trail” or possibly even “The Bloomingdale,” but late last year the project was renamed to The 606 in order to reflect the sprawling series of parks and trails that are also included in the plan to develop the abandoned section of the Bloomingdale Line elevated train tracks in the northwestern neighborhoods spanning Logan Square to West Town. Similar to the High Line park in New York City, the 606 repurposes the elevated train tracks into a 2.7-mile long elevated park running east-west between Ridgeway and Ashland Avenues. Every couple of blocks will have an access point connecting the elevated section with ground-level park features. The park itself will feature jogging, biking, and walking trails, gardens with native plants and trees, and special viewing areas designed to offer optimal viewing angles of the city’s skyline and neighborhoods.

Though they aren’t going to make their original 2014 completion date due to the crazy winter we had, you can check out the detailed construction updates while you wait. The repurposed rails-to-trails line is scheduled for a June 2015 opening.

↑ Northerly Island While it’s hard for many residents to wash the memories of Meigs Field from their minds, there’s a lot to look forward to as joint project between the US Army Corps of Engineers and Chicago Parks District to raze and rebuild Northerly Island as a man-made preserve of multiple native habitats. Officially billed as a scientific and civil engineering experiment in creating self-supporting ecosystems for plants and wildlife, the eco-makeover will also serve as a living museum and biology lab, allowing students and researchers to examine the habitats and behaviors of creatures that haven’t flourished in this area for hundreds of years. They’ll even have overnight camping programs for kids to sleep under the stars surrounded by nature, while still within the hazy orange glow of downtown Chicago.

While some areas of the reshaped island continue to be developed, the preserve is expected to have a soft opening this fall, with more areas opened to the public until the estimated 2017 completion date.

↑ The Chicago Riverwalk extension Mayor Rahm Emanuel calls it Chicago’s second coast, and since he first took office has been working to revitalize and draw attention to the scenic downtown riverfront. The long-planned Riverwalk project was quickly raised from limbo and the nearly $100 million needed was secured via a USDOT loan. Envisioned as a continuous, water-level walkway to allow Chicagoans and visitors alike to walk from State Street, around the northwest corner of The Loop, down to Lake Street without having to climb a single stairway or cross a street, the Riverwalk project has been under construction since the winter.

Each city block of the widened promenade will have a different theme or concept, from a garden of aquatic or marsh plant life, to a splashing water pool for kids. There might even be kayak rentals or boat docking available. There may even be some new lights.

Rahm’s goal is to turn the Riverwalk park area into a destination on the scale of Millennium Park, which would help pump foot traffic away from the busy Grant Park and Magnificent Mile area deeper into The Loop and help bring new life to some of the more sleepy areas of downtown. Considering the popularity of the river itself (we use it for water taxis, architecture tours, and we even dye it green occasionally), the disconnected and underutilized aspect of the riverfront in years past has been pretty disappointing. Creating an open, easy-to-navigate space for people to enjoy one of Chicago’s best features could be a huge improvement for the city.

↑ Grant Park Skate Park Possibly the least-known of the park projects currently underway, the other park being built in Grant Park is nonetheless pretty interesting. With a population of over 60,000 college students around the southern end of downtown, young adults being one of the fastest growing residential markets downtown, and Lollapalooza being held a few feet away, it’s not too hard to imagine the thought process behind building a new Grant Park Skate Park. Some might say a skate park will only attract hoodlums and vandals, but that mindset isn’t in sync with the times.

Being built right now in the southwest corner of Grant Park between “The Legs” and the South Shore Metra tracks, the skate park mixes tree-studded grass land with a tightly designed obstacle area where inline skaters, skateboarders, and stunt bikers can grind, jump, and scrape their knees while others can look on from raised pathways connecting to other areas of the park.

No other city has put a skate park of this size within a major “front lawn” park area like Grant Park. It’s encouraging to see Chicago willing to try something like this to create an open, active space for the public, and it will be interesting to see how this little experiment plays out.

·Previous Maggie Daley Park coverage [Curbed Chicago]
·Previous 606 coverage [Curbed Chicago]
·Previous Riverwalk coverage [Curbed Chicago]
·Previous Northerly Island coverage [Curbed Chicago]
·Previous Grant Park skate park coverage Curbed Chicago]