Sunday, March 14, 2010

Edgewater Environmental Plan

Imagine coming to your home in Edgewater after taking a rapid transit bus (a 15 minute ride) or arriving at the train station and getting into a rented bike or car that would take you to your final destination without needing a private car. Or simply getting off the train and walking through beautiful rain gardens and bio swales along Broadaway with pedestrian lighting powered by the sun at your level not 30 feet above. As you walk down the street, instead of seeing big box retail establishments you see small store fronts with a variety of services and window displays instead of walking along blank walls and parking lots. You pass by your favorite restaurants and grab something to eat at an affordable price, being able to choose between several kinds of different cuisines. Let's say you do like to drive and get to the neighborhood by car, instead of parking in your garage you park at a community parking lot integrated with the Dominick's or other big box retail in the neighborhood that agrees to develop parking lots including community parking and store front retail. To afford the community parking you have been allowed to transform your garage into a "granny unit" which provides you with extra income and will bring "eyes on the alley" for more safety. You park your car on Broadway and walk just a couple of blocks to your home with your daily groceries without having to store so much food at home for the week. You get home after a nice walk appreciating trees, store front, green walls and green roofs, rain gardens and preserved old facades and say hello to your neighbors. Isn't that a wonderful image?

In 2009 EcoVidalDesign President Carmen Vidal-Hallett worked hand in hand with the Edgewater Environmental Project team to create a Vision for a Sustainable Comprehensive Neighborhood Master Plan CNMP which was presented to the community on March 12, 2010. As a co-chair of the Planning and Development and Transportation Committee, Carmen worked with the team to create a vision that uses new zones as appropriate, such as the local shopping and commercial zones. The CNMP will support historic preservation, a variety of housing demands and services, the preservation of open space, the creation of parkland (the last four miles), transit-oriented development, and adaptive re-use, all in a pedestrian-friendly community.

Carmen Vidal-Hallett, Thom Greene and John Aquilina, the three co-chairs of Planning and Development recommend commencing the vision not only with the CNMP but also with the redesign of Broadway from Devon to Foster. The urban design transformation of this corridor will substantially decrease the heat island effect in the neighborhood; provide a more pleasant pedestrian environment attracting development and services, higher demand for mass transit and subsequently more reliable and better CTA bus and train services.

In addition, a stormwater management plan focused on landscaping, green roofs, rain gardens, bio swales and permeable pavers would decrease substantially the heat island effect and alleviate the capacity of the neighborhood sewer system and provide a very pleasant walking environment.

The transportation plan envisions traffic-calming devices, a new Metra Station and better east west connections to enhance circulation including a trolley system. The idea of transit-oriented community centers with mixed-use services will bring more alternatives to the community and avoid car generated trips. Bicycle rentals and bike station could integrate with other modes of transit such as CTA and rental car services making attractive life without a personal car in the community.