Boulevard Enhancement Program
Chicago’s Historic Boulevard system is a 26-mile ring of streets with wide medians and parkways featuring leafy trees and expansive greenspace. The Boulevards and connecting parks and squares were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018. Drexel Boulevard improvement project was completed in 2022 and consisted of constructing new concrete pathways and ADA crosswalk ramps and installing irrigation systems, flower beds, and trees. The Boulevard Enhancement project expands on the Drexel upgrade by assessing the entire Historic Boulevard System and focusing on specific segments for improvement. Independence Boulevard was selected as the inaugural segment. Subsequent segments will be selected for improvement based on the ranked value and associated need in the Boulevard assessment report.
Investing in the boulevards will provide the adjacent communities with a unique and valued resource for meet ups, recreational activities, studying or contemplation. The main goal of the Boulevard Enhancement project is to provide infrastructure improvements and enhancements that will draw people outside to an environment that is safe and inviting and to provide a system of trails connecting people to the neighborhood and the city beyond.
Boulevard System History
It’s hard to imagine what Chicago would be like without its Boulevards and Parks. The streets of Chicago would consist of a monotonous grid of housing and roads that would be void of any nature. Yet that is what Chicago looked like over 150 years ago. It took many forward-thinking individuals several decades to not only plan a Park and Boulevard system, but to ensure it was implemented. After a government bill forming the South, West, and North Park commissions were passed, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the landscape architects of New York’s Central Park, were hired to provide a plan for the South Parks. The Midway Plaisance was the first designed boulevard and was constructed for the Columbian Exposition of 1893. However, the first purchase of any privately held land was made on January 3, 1869, for Drexel Boulevard. Most of the South boulevards were designed by Olmsted and Vaux and acted as formal promenades that led to the Parks. The West Side Boulevards were designed by one of their proteges, William Le Baron Jenney, who introduced the use of Squares as prominent terminating points. The Boulevard system was intended to extend to Lincoln Park to complete the circuit to the lakefront; however, Diversey Parkway became commercialized before funding was available and the circuit was never completed. The final links in the Boulevard system occurred around the year 1900 and were comprised of connections between the separate park commissions.
Independence Boulevard Project Description
Independence Boulevard is part of Chicago’s Historic Boulevard System, a 26-mile long system of connected roadways with wide greenspaces located in the north, west and south sides of the City. Independence Boulevard runs from Independence Square in the south to Jackson Boulevard in the north. Independence Boulevard consists of northbound and southbound roadways separated by a 120’ wide median planted with grass and trees.
This project has several goals:
Project Documentation and Updates
Stay tuned for more information on future projects and community engagement.