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Goose Island developers want to repurpose old Division Street bridge

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Tapped for replacement, the current bridge may be reused as new bike and pedestrian link at Blackhawk Street

The Division Street bridge crosses the North Branch of the Chicago River, connecting Goose Island to the Wicker Park and Noble Square neighborhoods.
Google Street View

As Chicago prepares to replace its aging Division Street automobile bridge, a coalition of local developers, businesses, and landowners, are pitching a plan to repurpose the 114-year-old structure into a new bike and pedestrian river crossing a quarter-mile north at Blackhawk Street.

The private group, known as Friends of Goose Island, are engaged in ongoing talks with city officials regarding the reuse plan, reported the Chicago Tribune. As with the soon-to-be-replaced Chicago Avenue bridge, the city is required by law to offer the historic double-leaf bascule structure to anyone willing to take custody and pay for its removal and maintenance.

Friends of Goose Island had previously considered the Chicago Avenue bridge for its proposed Blackhawk Street connection, pictured in a rendering below. That plan was abandoned due to the poor condition of the bridge and the high cost of refurbishment, said the Tribune. With no reported takers, the Chicago Avenue bridge is expected to begin demolition next month.

An older rendering showing the Chicago Avenue bridge as the basis for a new foot and bike connection at Blackhawk.
PORT Urbanism

The developers and business owners are hoping to have better luck with the Division Street bridge, provided the price tag to remove and adapt the aging piece of infrastructure is lower than that of building a new bridge from scratch. Friends of Goose Island estimates the cost somewhere between $4 million and $5 million and plans to privately finance the project.

Work on the new Division Street automobile bridge is expected to begin in 2019 or 2020, Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Michael Claffey told the Tribune. The existing Division Street bridge will be officially offered up as a donation to interested parties some time next year.

A Blackhawk Street bridge isn’t exactly a new idea. At one time Chicago had a bridge at this location—coincidentally repurposed from the Division Street bridge’s 1869 predecessor—until about 1910. Adding a new bike and pedestrian way was also outlined in R2’s ambitious Goose Island Vision 2025 conceptual masterplan, published in 2015.

The proposed Blackhawk Street bike way (blue) can be seen near the northwest corner of Goose Island in PORT Urbanism’s 2015 conceptual plan.
PORT Urbanism

Along with its role with Friends of Goose Island, R2 has been very active in the area’s transformation from industrial site to burgeoning office and technology hub. The new footbridge would serve the company’s existing holdings on Goose Island as well as its upcoming mixed-use redevelopment of the Morton Salt shed at the corner of Blackhawk and Elston.

Chicago’s north branch corridor, which includes Goose Island, is poised for an unprecedented level of new development in the coming years. A major re-zoning in 2017 opened the 760-acre waterfront stretch to new, non-industrial uses.

Taking advantage of the new rules is Lincoln Yards, the largest north branch proposal to date. Here, developer Sterling Bay plans to build 5,000 residential units, 23,000 on-site jobs, 800-foot-tall towers, and a new north-south bridge at Dominick Street. Lincoln Yards could also add a new east-west bridge at Armitage Avenue, should the land become available.