Metropolitan Planning Council honors The 606 with prestigious Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Metropolitan Planning Council honors The 606 with prestigious Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning

Payton Chung

Th 606 is 2.7 miles long and connects six parks and four neighborhoods on Chicago's Northwest Side.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on hand to accept award on behalf of numerous partners in The 606

(Chicago) … Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is pleased to announce that the City of Chicago, Chicago Park District, Trust for Public Land and Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail were honored this evening with MPC’s Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning for The 606, a truly collaborative effort to reimagine and redevelop underused city space as a new regional asset that connects people, parks and communities. 

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Beth White, director of the Trust for Public Land’s Chicago Area Office, accepted the award at a celebratory event Sept. 29, at MPC's office in the Loop

“The 606 is a major investment in green space and transportation infrastructure that will benefit neighborhood residents and people throughout Chicago,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Through The 606 and other large and small investments across the city, we are on track to ensure every child in Chicago lives within a 10-minute walk to a park or playground—a modern-day manifestation of Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago.”

“The 606 is truly elevating Chicago, not only by creating new ways for Chicagoans to travel, meet up, enjoy nature and get fit, but also by setting a high bar for community engagement and collaboration in open space planning,” said Beth White, director of the Trust for Public Land’s Chicago Area Office. “By engaging countless Chicagoans throughout the planning and development of The 606, we succeeded in our goal of creating a public space that inspires people and accommodates a very wide range of needs and interests.”

“The 606 is an incredible example of Chicago’s constant reinvention—a reminder that this city and region thrives by continually remaking itself for the better. It’s also exemplary of what’s possible when communities, governments, civic groups, philanthropists and businesses all join forces to turn an idea into reality,” said MPC President MarySue Barrett. “Metropolitan Planning Council is so pleased to recognize the City of Chicago, Chicago Park District, Trust for Public Land and Friends of Bloomingdale Trail with our Burnham Award, for their collaborative approach to plan, develop and manage The 606.”

The 606 runs along Bloomingdale Avenue on Chicago’s northwest side, connecting the nearby neighborhoods of Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Wicker Park and Bucktown, as well as the Chicago River and several city Boulevards. Its centerpiece is the elevated 2.7-mile Bloomingdale Trail, built on the unused Bloomingdale railroad. The 606 ultimately will comprise the trail, six neighborhood parks, a public plaza, an observatory, art installations, educational programming and other amenities.

“The 606 not only serves nearby neighborhoods, but also provides a way for people from across the city and region to explore these diverse and culturally rich neighborhoods,” said Chicago Park District Superintendent Mike Kelly. “It advances the green vision of Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago, and we’re proud to receive an award that honors his legacy.”

The story of how The 606 came to be is a powerful illustration of how the city and region benefit when neighborhood, government and civic leaders collaborate: In 2003, neighborhood residents and activists established Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail to introduce and advance the concept of the Trail. They approached The Trust for Public Land about building a park along the western end of the trail; Julia de Burgos Park, the first of five new parks that are part of The 606, was developed on that site by The Trust for Public Land and Chicago Park District in 2008. Upon taking office, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel kicked The 606 into high gear by making it the signature project of his push to create 800 new parks, recreation areas and green spaces throughout Chicago. The entire project was named The 606 to encompass its expanded features and role as a community connector, referencing the zip code digits all Chicagoans share. It opened to the public in June 2015.

"The roots of the project go back two decades, when curious neighbors, looking for a place to get away from the bustle of the streets, ventured up onto the Bloomingdale embankment," said Friends of Bloomingdale Trail co-Founder Ben Helphand. "Friends championed this community idea and worked to make it so that this narrow stretch of paradise that was enjoyed by only a few could be shared with the whole city."

The Sept. 29 event also raised funds to support MPC’s Allard and Wayfinding fellowships, which provide paid work experience to talented young people interested in pursuing careers in planning. MPC also raised a toast The Chicago Community Trust on its 100th anniversary.

MPC thanks Diller Scofidio + Renfro for sponsoring this event, NORR for their generous sponsorship of the 2015 Burnham Award, Revolution Brewing for providing libations!

For more information, contact Mandy Burrell Booth, MPC communications director, at 312-863-6018 or

Background on the Burnham Award

Since 1988, MPC’s Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning—named in honor of Daniel H. Burnham, creator of the 1909 Plan of Chicago—has encouraged sensible growth by honoring innovative and visionary planning efforts in the Chicago metropolitan region. Every year, a committee of planning and community development experts from around the region evaluates nominees and determines the winner of the Burnham Award by selecting the plan that demonstrates results in one or all of the following categories:

  • Creating more livable communities through better integration of land use and housing; management of water and energy resources; improvement of parks and open space; and promotion of local food.
  • Addressing human capital with improvements to education and workforce development; and supporting economic innovation.
  • Improving regional mobility by investing strategically in transportation; increasing commitment to public transit; and creating a more efficient freight network.
  • Making government more efficient by reforming state and local tax policy; improving access to information; and pursuing coordinated investments.

Submissions are judged on whether they followed an open process and encouraged public participation. Winning plans must demonstrate measurable results. Recent winners include the Forest Preserves of Cook County for the “Next Century Conservation Plan” in 2014; City of Chicago Dept. of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for the “Chicago Cultural Plan” in 2013; Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning for the GO TO 2040 comprehensive regional plan in 2012; and Magellan Development Group for the “Lakeshore East Master Plan” in 2011.

For more than 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area's toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow.


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