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'New West Loop': Firm Proposes Building Suspended Park Above Kennedy Expy.

By Chloe Riley | June 27, 2013 6:28am
 Chicago design firm smdp has created a proposal for a "New West Loop" district, which includes building a public park over part of the Kennedy Expressway.
New West Loop Proposal
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WEST LOOP — A Downtown architectural firm has an ambitious plan to build a “New West Loop,” which would feature a three-block platform with a public park over the Kennedy expressway, but admits the plan is a long way from reality.

In addition to the park, the concept, designed by smdp Studio, also envisions a new bus and bike route which would better connect residential West Loop to downtown.

“This is an opportunity to engage all of Chicago’s transportation systems,” Scott Sarver, smdp principal said at a community meeting to discuss the proposal Wednesday.

The park would span eight to 12 acres from Washington Boulevard to Adams Street.

So far, Sarver said reaction from city administrators has been positive, with many comparing it to a new Millennium Park.

The idea isn't totally unprecedented. Seattle's five-acre "Freeway Park" was built in 1976 and a freeway overpass was converted into Dallas' Klyde Warren Park in 2009 to the tune of $106 million.

Though the proposal is in its early stages, the issue of funding still looms. At Wednesday's meeting, Sarver estimated the cost to fall somewhere under $200 million and smdp’s current proposal recommends a mix of Tax Increment Finance (TIF) dollars combined with state EDGE funds to pay for it.

Fitting the New West Loop project into the scheduled reconstruction of the Circle Interchange — the nearby junction where the Kennedy, Eisenhower and Dan Ryan expressways all meet — would be ideal according to Alan Schachtman, principal of Fifield Companies, a collaborator on the New West Loop project. 

However, Schachtman said neither Fifield nor smdp had yet spoken with Illinois Department of Transportation officials regarding coordinating the park proposal with the state's reconstruction of the Circle Interchange, which is scheduled to take place over the next few years. A public hearing on that plan will take place from 5-8 p.m. Thursday at the Crowne Plaza hotel, 733 W. Madison St.

Sarver pointed to the nearby University of Illinois at Chicago campus and the Fulton district as evidence of younger, more urban areas which would benefit from the new district’s creation.

“We can have opportunity to embody a next generation for the West Loop,” Sarver said. “Who doesn’t like a park? But getting it done is the hard part.”