NORTH LAWNDALE — A railroad that runs through the West Side could be turned into a landscaped greenway similar to the Bloomingdale Trail that connects Logan Square and Humboldt Park with West Town and Wicker Park.
The city’s planning department is conducting a study to determine the feasibility of the elevated trail, tentatively called the Altenheim Line. It would be along a two-mile section of the railway one block north of Roosevelt Road between Kostner and California avenues.
The Altenheim railroad corridor is currently owned by CSX Transportation, and the trail would be built in unused sections where the tracks have been removed.
Residents living in the surrounding area can participate in the study to help city planners determine whether the Lawndale community wants the greenway and what amenities it should have, where the access points could be and how the project could be designed.
Neighbors can offer input and share ideas at a planning meeting Thursday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Douglass Park Fieldhouse, 1401 S. Sacramento Dr.
The trail will add to the beauty of North Lawndale and connect the area to other parts of the city by giving residents a convenient path to walk and bike across the neighborhood, said Ald. Michael Scott (24th).
“In urban areas, especially communities of color and communities that have been disinvested, there isn’t enough park space. There isn’t enough safe modes of transportation where people can walk comfortably from one end of the ward to another,” Scott said.
The Altenheim Line would also benefit the parks, businesses and other city investments along the path, Scott said. The west part of the track ends at the old Silver Shovel site that will soon be redeveloped as part of the city’s INVEST South/West program. That site could eventually be an anchor with community amenities that would benefit from the landscaped trail, Scott said.
“There will be things to do in and around the line. Step off and there may be something from the park district, like a new playground. … then they could travel along the line and do things like arts and culture, parks and recreation,” Scott said.
It will likely be years before the project breaks ground, planning officials said. The 606 park system and Bloomingdale Trail took at least 10 years between conception and completion, said Peter Strazzabosco, a spokesperson for the planning department.
At least three planning meetings will “create a framework plan that establishes community goals… for a linear greenway that supports neighborhood needs,” Strazzabosco said.
The study will also evaluate how the greenway may positively impact the 200 vacant lots in the immediate area surrounding the railroad, Strazzabosco said.
The plan will also give residents an opportunity to weigh in on how the trail could be created in a way that doesn’t displace longtime residents, Scott said. Gentrification is a major issue that longtime Logan Square residents have had with the Bloomingdale Trail, so the Altenheim Line project would seek to elevate work already being done in Lawndale to prevent displacement, the alderman said.
“This will be an opportunity for folks to talk about what they would like to see, what they wouldn’t like to see. It may be a place to talk about gentrification and making sure there is a plan in place, unlike what there was at the 606, to make sure that prices don’t skyrocket,” Scott said.
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