Chicago's nearly 150 year dominance of the United States' railroad networks is written on the city. Since the mid-1800s railroad infrastructure has played a role in constituting communities through commercial activities, resident transportation and physically defining neighborhood boundaries. Even the city's most celebrated contemporary park, Millennium Park, sits atop active railroad lines.
Yet what happens when the infrastructure is no longer economically viable?
One such stretch of track is the Bloomingdale, a former elevated freight line on the city's near northwest side. Jutting 2.7 miles through residential neighborhoods, it has been all but abandoned since 2001. While it remains the property of Canadian Pacific Railroad, the track has become a relatively unregulated home to the city's flora, fauna and human residents.
Among those who engage the site are the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, a community-based not-for-profit organization who have led a decade-long campaign for the creation of the park with the help of the Trust for Public Land, the city of Chicago and other organizations. Construction is scheduled to begin in January 2013.
Before the park was a certainty, I initiated this project with the Friends in 2009. The goal was to understand the place as it is, how it is used and how it affects the city below. To that end, this series emphasizes the physical attributes of place on scales ranging from the intimate to the neighborhood.