Bridgette Meinhold

Chicago’s Bloomingdale Rail Line to Be a Park in the Sky

by , 10/30/09

Bloomingdale Railroad Line Currently, Chicago, High line, park, abandoned rail line, trail park, chicago park, bloomingdale rail line, bloomingdale trail

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.


Chicago, High line, park, abandoned rail line, trail park, chicago park, bloomingdale rail line, bloomingdale trail

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.”

+ Gensler

+ 4240 Architecture

Via Bustler

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4 Comments

  1. bolivar13 November 4, 2009 at 9:53 am

    It’s a little hard to see what’s going to go on in the ross barney proposal but I like the theme and mission statement. It seems much more grounded in reality. Also, to correct the original article – this train line in no way goes downtown let alone into the “heart” of downtown. It’s well north of downtown and goes east-west.

  2. LisaB October 30, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    The Bloomingdale is indeed to become a park in the sky, but the Gensler/4240 proposal won’t be going foward, Ross Barney’s proposal will, though. Check it out here http://www.rbjarchitects.com/

  3. dr mobius October 30, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    I didn’t mention I like the drawings and the space under the croquet hoops.

  4. dr mobius October 30, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Between this project and the vertical skyscraper farms, it’s increasingly clear that much of the green architecture movement has devolved into trendy fashion statements that are divorced from reality.

    An electrolysis-based hydrogenerator fueled by solar cells in Chicago? It’s solar exposure is quite weak. This idea takes half of the small amount of energy you can harness and immediately throws it away. As well-intentioned as it is-this is a stupid idea.

    While we’re at it, think about urban agriculture on a 3 mile long, 50 foot wide strip of land, floating 20 feet above the ground. Not the romantic idea of agriculture, but the actual practice of it (assume organic )including the soils, soil amendments, planting, netting, weeding, harvesting: all of these things. Hard enough with a central staging hub, with a circle of land around you. But this shape? With people biking and walking through it? Once again, quite stupid.

    I have an idea! How about using the solar power you get from the park for electricity, and using attractive native plants. Forget it . It’s actually been done before (because it is practical)

    This is a science fiction, frivolous proposal. If they’re going to go there, why not say that this park will triple as a anti-matter generator, the bottom of a space elevator, and the aquaculture center of the world.

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