Friday, September 7, 2012

New development: State and Harrison

There is a new development in Chicago's South Loop on the corner of State and Harrison.  It is a high school.  Replacing the old Jones prep school.  I don't know the finer points of Chicago's education system or why a high school sits next to a subway stop, one of Chicago's 21 subway stations.  But here it is.  Possibly being centrally located is important for a magnate school that brings in students from across the city, but I don't really know.

On the map circled in red.

Across the street is an open lot parking facility and you can see the elevated green line tracks behind.

This too seems like a suboptimal use of space.  Chicago has plenty of vacant lots next to L stations in less densely developed neighborhoods further from downtown that could be made into parking lots for park and ride.  This lot is so close to downtown that one might not even ride.  Just park.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Urban Farming

There is a new urban farm on Perry Street and 57th in Chicago's Washington Park neighborhood.  The empty lot it occupies was previously a homeless shelter.  You can read more about the project HERE.  The lot is a city owned parcel near the historic John Raber estate being leased to a group with previous urban farming experience at the old Cabrini Green site.

I had the opportunity this weekend to make a quick pass though the neighborhood.  First, a few notes about this neighborhood.

The area is near the Dan Ryan expressway and is fairly well served by the L; close to the red line on 63rd or Garfield, and also not too far from the green line at Garfield.  The map shows the Metra running along the left side of the expressway.  This is not correct.  The Metra runs on the tracks that you can see right next to Perry Street.  These are grade separated tracks, as you will see.  The Metra does not stop in this neighborhood.


The Rock Island Line is elevated here, with no stops and no horns.


The tracks are opposite the farm.  This empty field is currently nothing more than an empty field.  Turning around you will see the farm, fenced in.


In what was once a dense residential neighborhood, now most lots are empty and most home vacant.  They were once lovely Victorian style houses typical of early 20th century Chicago construction.  Tall homes.  Narrow lots.


Boarded up and overgrown.


The piles of tillage are fairly new, I am surprised they are starting something so late in the growing season.

As far as urban farming as a public policy for big cities to pursue?  I am rather ambivalent.  Taking a vacant lot and making it economically productive is preferable to having it lie fallow and cost the city in upkeep.  Yet it seems like a suboptimal use of space, considering the transit options that exist in this area.  The proximity to the expressway, a park, and rapid transit are somewhat wasted on farmland.  It is similar to having an open lot parking site downtown.  The location would be better used with a building on it, but a parking lot is better than being vacant.  An urban farm is better than a vacant lot.