The 606 is enhancing the value of nearby properties, like this home at 1744 West Cortland Street.
Epic adaptive use projects take time, even in the City that Works. Take The 606, which is about to transform the 140-year-old, 2.7-mile elevated Bloomingdale railway line that runs through Bucktown, Wicker Park, Humboldt Park, and Logan Square (formerly known as the Bloomingdale Trail) into a lushly landscaped trail à la New York City’s raved-about High Line. The 606 reportedly took 13 years to plan and could be another seven in the making, with the first phase of construction on track for completion by fall 2014.
Given its potential, it should be worth the wait. “It’s a fantastic amenity, and amenities like this make communities more desirable,” says Steve Baird, CEO and president of Baird & Warner, who is a national board member of the project’s partner Trust for Public Land (TPL).
A rendering of The 606 Bridge at Milwaukee and Leavitt.
But how big will those gains be? If Millennium Park is any indicator, the stakes are high. Once the project debuted in 2004, its surrounding residential market went from sleepy and middling to hot and decidedly haute. A 2005 economic impact study commissioned by the city showed that the park was responsible for at least $1.4 billion of nearby quality residential development and a whopping $100-per-square-foot increase in area values—not to mention the retail and tourism bucks from its 4 million visitors a year.
For The 606—so dubbed in deference to the zip code prefix shared by all Chicago neighborhoods—the benefits are far more geographically widespread and will impact local residents more directly. Realtors, retailers, city officials, and community activists have touted all four neighborhoods touched by The 606 for years thanks to their intriguing housing stock, diversity, and potential for further economic development. The project will do those communities a world of good, since all need more green space, according to a 2011 study by TPL showing that Chicago ranks 14th among 19 densely populated US cities in parkland per 1,000 residents. With walking, running, and biking trails punctuated by five parks, The 606 will provide superb recreational green space aplenty.
1730 North Hermitage Avenue is one of the choice homes close to The 606.
Not surprisingly, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has become instrumental in getting the project underway, noting its potential to “connect communities” and “improve quality of life for many of our residents.” It’s precisely these qualities that make the project a game-changer for so many, says Baird, “especially families. They’ll be able to run or bike for almost three miles without crossing a street.” The 606 also includes plans for community gardens and a performance space, notes Baird, who has worked on these types of projects all over the country with TPL.
As for those rising real estate values, “Wicker Park and Bucktown have already experienced a decades-long rise in luxury residential real estate as young families have moved here for spacious new construction or totally renovated single-family homes on larger lots,” says @properties broker Joe Zimmerman, who specializes in the area. “But they’re about to become even more desirable,” he adds, referencing a sleek, 2009 five-bedroom, 7,800-square-foot home on a double lot at 1744 West Cortland Street he listed for $3 million in August, right after work started on The 606. “That’s a Lincoln Park price, and it went under contract in six weeks,” points out Zimmerman. And Humboldt Park and Logan Square, which have yet to see luxury land in their confines, “will have the biggest gains in value,” predicts Baird.
This makes now the time to get in on the real estate action. As for Zimmerman, he’s looking west for future sales, noting that “smart buyers will be looking to build or renovate in Logan Square, so I assume Humboldt Park isn’t far behind.”