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Path to Success
Chicago neighborhood plans a sustainable future.
The 'low-line' is the centerpiece of the new Lake View sustainable masterplan.
Courtesy Moss Design


Residents and shoppers in Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood may some day be able to walk under the Brown Line L tracks along a planted path connecting the area’s two commercial corridors. This proposed “Low-line” is one of the highlights of the Lake View master plan by Moss Design and Place Consulting, commissioned by the neighborhood’s chamber of commerce.

The Low-line would connect Paulina and Southport and create a new green space for the area. The designers envision a heavily planted and well-lit path that will draw walkers to the area and offer an unusually pleasant vantage point to view the underside of the elevated tracks. Connecting the two commercial corridors will encourage pedestrian activity and benefit area businesses. And just south of the Paulina L stop, the plan calls for a community garden on a vacant lot.

Left to right: The plan calls for sustainable agriculture on Vacant lots.; Additional Street furniture; Living walls on Blank Facades.
[+ Click to enlarge.]

Sidewalk extensions, bike lanes and racks, a permanent farmers market, a community-based composting center, and a renewable energy facility are also in the plan that calls as well for murals and planted walls to enliven blank facades.

The plan also calls for the creation of a separate non-profit entity to solicit grants and additional public funding for sustainability and economic development measures in the area.

The plan grew out of a lengthy and varied public process, which included everything from community meetings and business surveys to house-party charrettes and scavenger hunts. The chamber’s emphasis on public space and sustainability might not at first seem related to the work of a Business Improvement District, but, according to the designers, it is part of a place-making strategy that will benefit residents and businesses and will help make the neighborhood more of a destination and a place to linger.

“We live and work in the neighborhood, so it’s great to be able to work here,” said Matt Nardella, a principal at Moss Design. Nardella said that the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce approached them following a "Park-ing Day" event. The firm had created a temporary park for bicyclists and pedestrians in a public parking space. “Some might see that as a nuisance, but the Lakeview Chamber is pretty progressive.”

Clockwise from top: A vacant lot repurposed for local food; More pedestrian friendly intersections; new bike lanes and plantings; a new garden passageway under the l tracks.
[+ Click to enlarge.]

The masterplan was unanimously approved on March 16. Nardella said the firm has since been in touch with the CTA about implementing the Low-line plan. "They seem open to it," Nardella wrote in an email. "It's all happening very fast." Phasing and implementation for strategies for other portions of the plan are also in the works.

The Lake View chamber is one of the dozens of special service districts throughout the city, so their green masterplan could serve as a model for generating place-specific, sustainable infrastructure citywide.

Alan G. Brake