New York has the High Line and San Francisco is going to get the Bay Line – both abandoned rail lines turned into public parks. Now Chicago is looking to do the same with the Bloomingdale Rail Line, a 3 mile section of elevated train track running east and west into the heart of downtown. Overseen by Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, one of the design proposals out suggests turning the line into a 3 mile greenhouse and hydrogen generation facility, providing organic and local food for the community and creating a fuel source for Chicago schools.
The Bloomingdale Rail Line was abandoned in the 1980s and is now overtaken by vegetation, garbage, and debris. Co-designed by Gensler and 4240 Architecture, the proposal for revamping the Bloomingdale Rail Line centers around making the disused section into something more useful for the entire city and nearby Chicago schools. They’re proposing the HYDROGENerator, which would use the old aqueduct below to generate hydrogen. This hydrogen would then be used to power nearby schools, and the extra hydrogen would be sold to alternative fuel vehicles at depots throughout the line. A supply of cheaper fuel for the public schools, plus revenue from the sale of hydrogen to the public would help the school system offset rising utility bills and reverse its budget shortfall.
On top of the rail line, a greenhouse would be built to grow organic produce for local sale. This 10 acre urban farm could produce food year round, which could then be sold in markets located adjacent to the rail line. Other benefits of the project would be a fresh supply of oxygen generated while producing hydrogen, which could then pumped back into the air improving local air quality.
Gensler design director Brian Vitale says there is more potential for the rail line than just a public park. “Our city’s challenges are too significant and the Bloomingdale Line’s potential too great for it to be just another park. The Bloomingdale Line is worthy of a greater purpose, one that will directly affect people in most need within the city.”