Dream To Extend The 606 Into Lincoln Park Now Has Developers Behind It

By Stephen Gossett in News on Sep 12, 2016 6:25PM

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Courtesy Ald. Brian Hopkins

We always suspected that The 606 might one day stretch further east. Now it looks like at least one developer with the necessary money and will has plans to do just that. Andy Gloor, Managing Director of mega-developers Sterling Bay—they of proposed Union Station-adjacent skyscraperstold Crain’s that the firm intends to extend the trail east to the former Finkl steel site, which runs along Cortland St. near the north Chicago River, in Lincoln Park.

Gloor told Crain’s that Sterling Bay plans to grow the former A. Finkl & Sons plot into a “moderately dense” mixed-use development of commercial, retail and residential space. It would then become, according to the plan, the easternmost extension of The 606, the popular elevated biking/jogging trail that opened last summer. Gloor told Crain’s he expects Sterling Bay to acquire the Finkl site within 60 days. No word yet on a timetable for The 606 proposal, although it would seem to be still quite a ways down the line, as the proposal appears to be very much preliminary.

As Curbed pointed out, an extension from The 606’s current endpoint, at Ashland Avenue, to Finkl would have to clear significant geographical obstacles, including the Kennedy Expressway, Metra railroad tracks and the Chicago River; but Ald. Brian Hopkins, whose (completely bonkers) 2nd ward map includes the proposed extension area, voiced support for such a concept.

Hopkins said he had not yet personally spoken with Sterling Bay but is "very encouraged" by the news. "Sterling Bay was very supportive of the original 606 development, financially and in terms of volunteering," Hopkins told Chicagoist. "I expect that to continue regardless of whether they acquire more property," he added, referencing the Finkl site.

"We're still in the preliminary, conceptual discussion," he said, adding that he looks forward to moving toward the engineering-studies phase. "But right now we appear to all be on the same page." Hopkins added that the closer The 606 reaches the lakefront trail, the better the elevated trail serves all communities within its path.

Jim Merrell, Advocacy Director of Active Transportation Alliance, said he was "very excited" about the proposal, in particular the potential to relieve biking stress points in the area. "Rivers, expressways and train lines create pinch points and bottlenecks—and that's not safe," he told Chicagoist.

He said that ATA routinely fields suggestions about biking connectivity requests between Bucktown and Lincoln Park. "This could create a great connection between two neighborhoods that are so close yet so far apart (due to the geographic obstructions)," he said.

The 606, also known as the Bloomingdale Trail, has proven enormously popular in terms of sheer foot and bike traffic since it opened in 2015, but it hasn’t been without controversies. The elevated trail brought along elevated property taxes—and significant protests against the trail’s displacement and gentrification effects further west. (One imagines this will be less of a concern in Lincoln Park.) But a bike-friendly path across the river in that area would certainly be welcome from a transit perspective, as the busy North Ave bridge does not have a bike lane, and the Division Street pathway is narrow and not bike-dedicated.

Sterling Bay did not immediately return a request for comment.