Land Swap Approved for Unused Rail Line

October 8, 2014


An abandoned railroad line in Englewood will be acquired by the City for eventual redevelopment as public open space under a land swap approved today by City Council.

The 1.7-mile rail line along the north side of 59th Street will be acquired from Norfolk Southern Railroad in exchange for City-owned land adjacent to the railroad’s 63rd Street Intermodal Yard. The swap could lead to the line’s future redevelopment as a linear park and trail in Englewood while enabling Norfolk Southern to expand its rail yard in Washington Park.

“Leveraging existing assets for community improvements is a key development strategy for greater Englewood,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “This rail line has tremendous potential as a public amenity and its acquisition by the City is step one. We’ll work with the community on a viable redevelopment plan that, over time, will create a spine of opportunity through the neighborhood, for recreation, for beautification, or for other purposes.”

The rail line runs east-west along an elevated berm, crossing 26 viaducts and terminating on the east near Wallace Street and on the west near Hoyne Avenue. Previously used for freight operations and today largely comprised of grass and trees, the line ranges from 50-to 100-feet wide and encompasses more than 17 acres.

Approximately 40 acres of City-owned land adjacent to the line could help support its integration into the community, possibly as a nature trail through a burgeoning agricultural district, according to the City’s “Green Healthy Neighborhoods” plan, recently adopted by the Chicago Plan Commission. Cost estimates, construction timelines, and management details are undetermined.

Approximately five acres of City-owned property proposed to be exchanged for the rail line consist of nine parcels of vacant land on the 6000 block of South Lafayette Avenue and additional land near 63rd Street and Michigan Avenue that was at one time occupied by a Chicago Skyway exit ramp. Norfolk Southern will incorporate the parcels into a planned 6.5-acre rail yard expansion project.

The land exchange will be considered of equal value with no cost to the City or the railroad.


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