Brainstorming Solutions to Chicago’s Open Space Shortage

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The Chicago Tribune just released a comprehensive article about the city’s struggling open spaces, including some of the work that Urban Initiatives has been doing through the Healthy Places project. The article, which can be read here looks at 10 different ways to support Chicago’s “park poor” neighborhoods, including a project to enhance walking and biking routes in targeted neighborhoods.

UI staffers have been out in rain and shine, walking the same streets that our soccer players take on their way to practice in the morning. We scrutinized the quality of sidewalks, roads, crosswalks and street signs. We also had the opportunity to talk with residents who approached us on the street while we were doing the assessment and hear about what improvements they thought would be most meaningful in their neighborhood.

As you can see from these photos, our efforts will include trying to improve sidewalks, and urging property owners to properly secure empty buildings that threaten the safety of neighborhood children. We are grateful for our partnership of the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Association, and will also need to work with local aldermen Joann Thompson and Willie Cochran to affect changes.

This article looks at other opportunities to utilize open space, such as converting the defunct Bloomingdale Metra Line (which comes from the west side through Logan Square, Bucktown and Wicker Park) into a paved path for running and biking. These efforts are part of a larger dialogue about addressing the alarming rates of childhood obesity in Chicago (which hovers around 40% in low-income neighborhoods, compared to 16% nation-wide), a reality which is at the forefront of Urban Initiatives’ vision for impacting our partner schools.

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