Chicago Unveils Greenest Street in the Country

Along a nondescript street in Chicago's gritty West Side, a 1.5-mile stretch of a "historic, industrial artery" has been given a futuristic makeover as the greenest street in the country, and perhaps the world, reports Lori Rotenberk.
October 15, 2012, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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In the shadow of the soon-to-be-closed Fisk coal-fired power plant, Chicago officials recently unveiled a reborn stretch of Cermak Road - which has already become a model for streetscape sustainability. "The unlikely marriage of sustainability and this gritty corridor isn't accidental," says Rotenberk. "The Chicago Department of Transportation has spent two years and $16 million on this stretch of Cermak, which serves as the southern gateway to the city's Pilsen neighborhood."

"David Leopold, project manager for the CDOT, says he took everything that would make a building LEED platinum and built it into the streetscape. Improvements range from solar-paneled bus stops to native plants and pavement that sucks up rainwater. Other cities are studying the project as a blueprint for change."

"CDOT engineers at first planned to give Cermak the usual not-so-eco-groovy upgrade," explains Rotenberk. "Leopold, however, saw the raw beauty - and how good it would look in green. Armed with TIF (Tax Increment Financing) funds and grant money, CDOT set to work, incorporating what Leopold believes is the greatest number of sustainable elements ever to go into a single stretch of road."

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Published on Monday, October 8, 2012 in Grist
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