Solving Cities

Chicago plans massive new urban park project

Chicago plans massive new urban park project

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In 2004, Chicago opened Millennium Park which has lead to $1.4 billion of economic activity in the area. Now they've unveiled plans for a much larger open space project. Check out the impressive stats.

Chicago knows firsthand that parks lead to economic development. Since opening Millennium Park in 2004, Chicago has seen $1.4 billion in economic activity in the surrounding area.

With that recent success in mind, the city has even bigger open space plans for Chicagoland. Plans are in place to build the largest urban park in the contiguous United States. Atlantic Cities reports:

A new project, backed by at least $17 million from the state, aims to turn 140,000 acres of under-used and post-industrial land along the Second City's southern rim into a public recreation hub called the Millennium Reserve.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn hopes to add private funding to the project, figuring the reserve will boost the economy and create hundreds of jobs. Environmental groups have been calling for a makeover for the Calumet region for years. "The Millennium Reserve Plan represents the first viable, large-scale attempt to protect and enhance the Lake Calumet area through an integrated, cooperative approach to land and resource management," the Sierra Club of Illinois said in a statement.

To put it into perspective, Millennium Reserve will be nearly 10 times larger than Manhattan.

The open space will help to revitalize vacant industrial land in the Chicago region -- there are 2,000 acres of brownfields in the project area.

Some more fun facts:

  • 53 miles of trails will connect to Millennium Park
  • 40 miles of coastline along Lake Michigan will be restored
  • 15,000 acres of open space are included in Phase 1 of the project

It's an important area for the city and region to redevelop into open space from it's previous industrial life because, as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, "[L]ake [Michigan] is our Grand Canyon, is our Yellowstone Park."

"A Plan for America's Largest Urban Park" [Atlantic Cities]

Photo: Millennium Reserve

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure