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Where Will The 606 Spark Development Next?

The 606 is just a couple of months from opening on Chicago’s Northwest Side. But a lack of available land has pushed some developers to look further west and east of the 2.7-mile park for development opportunities.

The network of public parks and elevated walking and cycling trail, also called the Bloomingdale Trail (above), is already being heralded for sparking new retail and residential interest. But so far, the only major project on the drawing board is Centrum 606, the largest new construction planned for Bucktown in the wake of The 606’s creation. Right along the trail, developers of Centrum 606 have proposed a six-story, 100-unit apartment building designed by architect Howard Hirsch for a plot of land adjacent to the elevated trail, which would also connect to it via a ground-level public park. The project includes plans to redevelop an existing Aldi grocery store at the corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Leavitt Street, the addition of a 4.5k SF restaurant space, and an outdoor installation art sculpture. Centrum Partners plans to submit a planned development application with the City in the next two months.

Centrum 606, rendered, would rise to meet the elevated trail in Bucktown. And Centrum is hoping real estate values will soar once the park opens. “I think it will be bigger than anybody thinks it will be today,” says partner John McLinden, pointing to the success of New York City’s High Line, the most high-profile rails-to-trails public park project to date. But one hitch for developers interested in cashing in on the parks, John says, is the scarcity of undeveloped space in Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park and Logan Square—the four neighborhoods it cuts across. Because the area surrounding the trail is already close to fully developed, mostly with aging flats, John says that many future projects will require redevelopment.

Other developers making smaller moves in Bucktown include Northbrook-based Repak Real Estate Development, which purchased a building on Damen Avenue just steps from the trail for $3.4M last fall. The building houses the upscale restaurant Hot Chocolate at 1747 N Damen Ave (pictured). And the Wheeling-based Northfield Group has a handful of townhome projects underway steps from the trail. But with the absence of space in Bucktown’s already crowded market, some developers are looking west into Humboldt Park, while others eye the longer-term potential of the trail’s undeveloped eastern section, which runs toward the North Branch of the Chicago River. 

The North Side economic development group North Branch Works is among those hoping the trail will one day act as a connector to its community, which currently functions more as an industrial corridor between two popular residential neighborhoods—Lincoln Park and Bucktown—than as a destination itself. That could change after the A. Finkl & Sons Co steel plant's planned demolition later this year and the eventual redevelopment of its 40-acre site, pictured, which is zoned for commercial and industrial use. One barrier to the area’s success has been its lack of public transportation, says executive director Mike Holzer. Mike hopes the Bloomingdale Trail, which ends at Ashland Avenue to the east, could bring foot traffic closer to the banks of the Chicago River, and maybe even across the Chicago River as an elevated trail. 

Representatives of The 606 have said that they see an eastern extension of the trail as a viable “long-term” vision. Mike is hopeful that it will draw developers who see the area as an investment opportunity. Pictured, the North Branch of the Chicago River.