On August 11, 2022, $20 million in new federal grant funding was awarded to support creation of the Englewood Nature Trail.
This community renewal / green infrastructure project will purpose and renew a 1.75-mile abandoned railway corridor into a grade-separated multiuse path for walking and biking in Englewood, reconnecting the neighborhood to revitalize it.
In this way, it’s harnessing the most reliable, well-proven revitalization strategy on the planet: the 3Re Strategy (repurpose, renew, reconnect), which was first documented in the 2020 book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity.
“This equity-focused investment in the Englewood community will serve as a major catalyst for revitalization,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
“The Englewood Nature Trail is both a physical connector and pathway to community connectivity and opportunity. The trail, which was importantly developed as part of a community-led process, will benefit Englewood residents for years to come,” she added.
The trail will not only revitalize a railway corridor that has been unused since the 1960s, but also serve as the spine of an urban agriculture district that occupies adjacent land, along with other productive uses. The long-term goals for the trail include connecting the surrounding area with safe and inviting park space and multiuse paths.
“Investments in rebuilding and modernizing Illinois’ infrastructure are critical to improve resident’s quality of life,” said Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL).
“This RAISE grant will help provide important community benefits to Englewood and Chicago’s south side. Senator Duckworth and I will continue working to ensure our state has the federal resources needed to succeed,” he continued.
This investment was awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) discretionary grant program to help communities carry out infrastructure and transportation projects with significant local or regional impact.
“This grant will provide an infusion of federal support to the Englewood community, helping create a new nature trail that will be a welcoming and enjoyable space for neighbors,” said Rep. Danny K. Davis. “I strongly supported this federal infrastructure funding and will continue to advocate for robust federal investments in Englewood and the south and west sides of Chicago.”
Funding from the RAISE grant will support the detailed design and construction of the trail, which is slated to run east-west along an elevated berm, crossing 26 viaducts and ending on the east near Wallace Street and on the west near Hoyne Avenue.
“I’m proud that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is at work benefitting Illinoisans by repairing and enhancing our infrastructure,” Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) said.
“This infusion of federal funding will help support this important project for Chicago and the Englewood community. I look forward to continuing to support Illinois’s communities receiving much-needed federal resources,” she explained.
The project includes nine entrances for community members to safely access the trail. The City is leveraging both federal and local funding sources to support the completion of the project and is committed to realizing this vision hand in hand with the community partners that drove its creation and progress.
“Englewood and West Englewood need bold catalytic development. As the network of community stakeholders and residents, we’ve been working to ensure that Englewood’s culture and identity are baked into this project and that it is a source of pride for the community,” said Anton Seals Jr., Executive Director of Grow Greater Englewood.
“We’re grateful for this federal investment and look forward to building a space where neighbors can find economic opportunities, safe and environmentally sustainable places, and access to more healthy foods,” he continued.
The citywide vision map is intended to add 48 miles of new assets to an existing 79-mile network. The individual projects will be spearheaded locally with planning and visioning support from the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD), and the Chicago Park District.
“CDOT is excited to work with community stakeholders, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, and our federal partners to make the Englewood Nature Trail a reality,” said Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi.
“This project closely aligns with CDOT’s goals to leverage our infrastructure to improve the health, prosperity, and connectivity of communities that has experienced years of disinvestment,” she concluded.
The City is working closely with the community stakeholders to plan each project and identify funding for engineering and construction, including applications for competitive federal grants, like today’s RAISE grant funding.
“Englewood has a rich history as a hub of residential and commercial vibrancy,” said Maurice Cox, Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development.
“By integrating the active urban agriculture in the area and other economic development initiatives and remediating environmental degradation, the Englewood Nature Trail will provide a key investment for accelerating the neighborhood’s future as a model of sustainability for people, place, and planet,” he added.
The Englewood Nature Trail is part of a citywide vision of trails and open spaces that will contribute to a network of community-led green infrastructure projects that promote the health and well-being of Chicago residents and visitors.
All images courtesy of the City of Chicago.