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The 606 Wins A National Prize For Urban Design

By Mae Rice in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 30, 2016 8:42PM

The 606 (photo via Ben Campney on Flickr)

The 606 has won the American Planning Association's 2016 National Planning Excellence Award for Urban Design, the association announced Wednesday.

The 606 deserves this national honor, the association reasons, because it's the largest successful rails-to-trail conversion in the country. The 2.7-mile Bloomingdale Trail (a.k.a. the heart of the 606) is just short of twice as long as New York's High Line. The trail is convenient, too. Eighty thousand people live within a ten-minute walk of it, and it connects four West Side neighborhoods: Humboldt Park, Bucktown, Wicker Park and Logan Square. Critics argue that the trail is jacking up rents and housing prices in those same neighborhoods, but the association makes no mention of that.

Instead, they focus on what the trail adds to the city. Green space, for instance—and it will bring even more when plans for the trail's six satellite, ground-level parks come to fruition. The 606 also creates "a safe place for neighborhood children to learn to ride their bicycles without worrying about traffic," according to the association. (Since they praise the trail's safety, they apparently haven't heard about the recent rash of cyclist robberies on the 606.)

This award really honors a lot of different parties that came together to work on the 606. Plans for the trail were put together by two design companies and one solo artist, according to the Tribune: the Chicago office of Collins Engineers, Brooklyn-based Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Chicago artist Frances Whitehead. The 606 was then developed by the City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District and The Trust for Public Land.