Chicago's 606 Bike Path Made Gentrification Inevitable, Expert Claims

Because the rails to trails project left housing up to the market, rising rents were inevitable, claims a new report.

2 minute read

December 22, 2018, 7:00 AM PST

By Casey Brazeal @northandclark

Chicago Bike Trail

Maj.l / Shutterstock

Logan Square rents and property values have been on the rise, particularly in the part of the neighborhood around the 606. Whether or not the trail and its planners deserved any of the blame for that has been a subject of debate in the area for some time. A new report argues that it was a cause of rising costs and its were to blame. “Lower-cost housing was bound to be pushed out of neighborhoods along the 606 trail by more expensive replacements because of the way the rails-to-trails project was planned, a pair of academics claim in a scholarly journal,” Dennis Rodkin reports in Crain’s Chicago Business.

University of Illinois Professor Alessandro Rigolon contends that the project’s builders were content to see it as a purely parks and infrastructure venture and to leave housing prices to ride the market. Rigolon and his co-author, Professor Jeremy Nemeth of the University of Colorado, even titled the piece after a quote from a representative for the Trust for Public Land that did much of the work on the project who said, “We're not in the business of housing.”

Critics of the report (from the Trust for Public Land and elsewhere) point out that the neighborhood was already gentrifying and that some of the rising land value came from the neighborhood recovering from the great recession. Useful context to be sure, but not enough to convince observers that the trail didn’t force out residents.

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