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City Wants Land Trade for South Side Rails-to-Trails Project

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[drawings via the New ERA Trail Community Vision Plan]

A stretch of abandoned rail line that runs through Englewood may actually be transformed into a trail and park space, which the city hopes will help foster recreation and new development for the South Side neighborhood. Mayor Emanuel has formally introduced an ordinance that would trade a parcel of land at 63rd Street to Norfolk Southern in exchange for a 1.7 mile stretch of elevated rail line on 59th Street, between Hoyne Avenue and Wallace Street, DNAinfo is reporting. Last year the city approved Norfolk Southern's expansion plan for its Englewood operation, which is expected to contribute $146 million to the neighborhood's economy. If the Chicago City Council approves the measure, the project will become the city's second major rails-to-trails effort, following the Bloomingdale Trail transformation which is slated to open next year.

Although the city is making a move that indicates action is being taken to make this plan a reality, in the end, it would likely be years before the rail line is transformed into a public green space. Similar to the Bloomingdale Trail (now dubbed the 606), a lengthy environmental study and community engagement process would have to first take place before any work begins. However, a previous plan from 2009 called the New ERA Trail Community Vision Plan has laid most of the initial groundwork for a possible rails-to-trails project in Englewood. The plan, which was prepared by the conservation organization and land trust Openlands, identified vacant properties within the direct vicinity of the stretch of rail line and found that there are approximately 18 acres of vacant property between 58th and 59th Streets. If there's one thing that the 606 has proven, it's that rails-to-trails projects do indeed help spur development activity and home sales in the areas they run through.

The Chicago City Council will vote on the measure this fall, and if the plan moves forward, Englewood could be in for some big changes.

·A Bloomingdale Trail for Englewood? City Moves To Get Train Tracks for Park [DNAinfo]
·New ERA Trail Community Vision Plan [Openlands]
·Previous Bloomingdale Trail coverage [Curbed Chicago]
·Previous Englewood coverage [Curbed Chicago]