Why the Delay for Chicago's 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge?

Ten years ago, Chicago held a design competition for pedestrian bridges at five locations on the lakefront. As the projects have languished, so has improved access between neighborhoods like North Kenwood and Oakland to nearby Burnham Park.
May 9, 2014, 10am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Chicago Tribune Architecture Critic Blair Kamin checks in on the progress of the 35th Street Bridge, which crosses South Lake Shore Drive on the Southside of Chicago. The current derelict state of the bridge some big questions, according to Kamin: "Who gets what and when do they get it? Who's first in line for infrastructure that improves the quality of life and who has to wait? Are public works equitably distributed or, as D. Bradford Hunt and Jon B. DeVries concluded last year in their insightful book, 'Planning Chicago,' does politics distort planning?"

The slow pace of the $18.3-million project to rebuild the 35th Street Bridge is a conspicuous reminder of how best laid plans at equitable distribution of public works progress can end up proving that last point. "Ten years ago, there was optimism that these problems would be solved when Chicago held a design competition for pedestrian bridges at five lakefront sites, including North Avenue and 35th, 41st and 43rd Streets on the south shoreline. Residents of the mostly African-American North Kenwood and Oakland neighborhoods anticipated better access to nearby Burnham Park. So did developers building townhomes and apartment blocks in the reviving neighborhoods."

The 35th Street Bridge has, at various moments in time, been slated to begin construction in 2006, 2007…and 2009 and 2010….and again in 2013. Now the target date for completion is 2015.

"Meanwhile, it's unclear if the competition-winning designs for the curving pedestrian bridges at 41st and 43rd Street, by Chicago firm Cordogan Clark & Associates, will ever make the leap from renderings to reality. Designs for those spans are still being refined, and Scales said construction will start in the summer of 2015 'if all goes well.' Don't bet the farm on it."

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Published on Thursday, May 8, 2014 in Chicago Tribune
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