An Evanston version of New York city’s High Line Park is one of the redevelopment concepts included in plans for a tax new increment financing district aldermen are scheduled to approve tonight.

There’s no assurance that funding for the proposed park — which is envisioned to provide pedestrian and bicycle access to the elevated rail corridor just west of Chicago Avenue — will materialize.

Update 9 a.m. 1/15/13: Aldermen Monday postponed a vote on the Chicago-Main TIF until their Jan 28 meeting after city staff requested additional time to prepare a formal resolution to accompany the implementation plan.

But the proposed elevated park, running from Oakton to Dempster streets between the CTA and Metra tracks, is estimated to cost $19.5 million — nearly 90 percent of the total envisioned funding for open space improvements under the plan.

The other $2 million would go for improvements to the existing St. Paul’s Park adjacent to the Main Street CTA station and the Jennifer Morris Park at Washington Street and Custer Avenue.

The draft Redevelopment Implementation Plan for the Chicago-Main TIF also calls for $2.8 million in water and sewer system improvements, $4.3 million in streetscape and roadway improvements and up to $12.5 million in possible taxpayer assistance to a proposed office building project.

The proposed office building, on the southeast corner of the Chicago-Main intersection, is estimated to have a total development cost of between $20 million and $30 million, with the remainder coming from private sources.

The redevelopment plan estimates that it could lead to the location of as many as 300 jobs for office workers at the intersection.

The TIF district proposal calls for spending a total of $25 million on various projects in the district and calls for that spending to be funded by anticipated increases in the taxable value of property within the district.

The implementation plan assumes additional funding from other sources would materialize to carry out the remainder of the projects.

Top: An image of New York City’s High Line Park, which was created from an abandoned elevated rail line. (Wikimedia photo by Beyond My Ken.)

Related stories

Chicago-Main tax district up for vote (Dec. 10, 2012)

TIF dreams revised for Chicago-Main (Aug. 15, 2012)

Chicago-Main TIF pulled for likely expansion (June 12, 2012)

Another Evanston TIF, another $20 million budget (June 11, 2012)

Evanston’s Chicago-Main tax district plan advances (May 24, 2012)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Elevated park?

    "But the proposed elevated park, running from Oakton to Dempster streets between the CTA and Metra tracks, is estimated to cost $19.5 million — nearly 90 percent of the total envisioned funding for open space improvements under the plan."

    The High Line was built on  an existing, but unused, elevated rail line.  I don't see any existing track between the CTA and Metra tracks right now.  Are they proposing building a new, elevated  platform to use as a park?

    And there is nothing that NIMBYs love more than parking spaces.. I see that currently the space between Oakton and Dempster, and the two tracks, is used for parking by the truck rental company and commuters.  Imagine the outcry if all of these parking spaces were taken!   

    And what happens at the Main Metra station?

    I don't think that this is going to happen.

  2. Elevated bike path

    An elevated bike path is an excellent idea and a safeway to drop a bike path through the center of Evanston while avoiding traffic.  Hopefully the city has a long term bike strategy with the focus being a network of dedicated bike trails – safe for children – convenient for bicycle commuters.  Evanston can be the bicycling hub of the Northshore drawing tourists and increasing the safety and convenience of everyday biking.  This can be done by connecting established bike trails – the bike highways in the area – including Chicago's Lakeshore trail, the Green Bay trail, the Sculpture park trail and the Evanston's lakefront trail.   Currently it is challenging to access Chicago's Lakefront trail and the Green Bay trail, and both these major routes dead end with no safe, clear connection to Evanston. 

    This proposed elevated park would go part way in making that connection but it needs to be further developed southward in cooperation with Chicago to connect to the lakefront trail, and northward to the Green Bay trail.  The few blocks between Oakton and Dempster are key but why stop there?  We don't need more dead ends for cyclists.

  3. Another taxpayer loser investment

    And how do you expect to get cops up to a fight or other trouble? How do you expect firemen & paramedics to assist people who need medical attention? The homeless will converge on this area. This park is a great concept on paper but unless our fine city planners have already taken the emergency response factor into consideration, then this becomes another taxpayer loser investment.

  4. We’ve got crumbling bridges to repair first!

    I love the idea of a highline and just recently visited the one in NYC, but come on! We've got crumbling bridges to repair first!


  5. Another hair-brained idea

    Again the Council must be staying awake nights thinking of what hair-brained ideas they can come up with to take taxpayer dollars.

    As far as the Main/Chicago lot, don't they get it that there is some reason no one wants to build there.  Fear of taxes, knowledge that no matter what is proposed, the Council and Boards will fight it for years, and then there is the continuous regulations the Council will come up with to nickel and dime them and frustrate them.

  6. Can We At Least Listen?

    It certainly has been well received in NYC and gotten a ton of publicity.  As someone who takes the Main Street train so has a real vantage point on the abandoned rail beds, it certainly has a lot of potential upside.  I do hope like Mr. Fervoy this is integrated into the overall master plan for pedestrians/cycling.  Chicago is very dangerous to bike on – especially with kids – so I avoid biking downtown from South Evanston – this could potentially be an awesome pathway.

    Evanstonian NIMBY Who Doesn't Apologize for Loving Parks 

  7. Trail on stilts

    This doesn't seem like an especially complex bit of engineering–a bike trail on stilts. Why so expensive?

  8. A similar walk in Berlin is spectacular

    It is also built on an abandoned train line.  The big difference, though, is that the Berlin walk goes through a very nice area with plenty of vegetation, including gardens along the way.  The proposed Evanston trail has El tracks on one side and Metra on the other.  Hardly seems like it could be spiffed up to the same degree.  Train buffs might enjoy it, but beyond that…

  9. This is an interesting idea,

    This is an interesting idea, but why not convert the empty lot at Chicago and Main into a park (or mixed-use buiness/park)?  That's what people use it for now and the folks who own the property sure don't seem interested in building anything.  I think I read someplace it was worth $3 million or something.  So for the extra $16 million we'd sure get an awesome complex.

    Stop being screwbrained with your ideas and use what's already there.  We don't need yet more unfilled office space.  We do, however, need a cultural landmark in South Evanston, along Chicago Avenue.  This could be that statement.

    The argument is that the Main stop is one of very few places where both the Metra and CTA converge and so it's prime office space real estate.  I argue that makes it a very vistable place and if you make it a more pleasant place to spend time, the surrounding shops will make more money.  We don't need more people to come into town everyday via train to attempt to boost local economy.  We need attractive shopping districts which keep in line with the desires of it's residents.

    Just try offering the idea to local folks and see what the response is.  I can almost guarantee people would favor a mixed use space combining business and a walkable "parklike" area over a multistory office building that completely removes the green space people currently take advantage of.

  10. Go for the High Line, skip the developer subsidy

    NYC's High Line is a huge success and part of its beauty actually comes from the contrast of the beautiful green swath cutting through a gritty, dense, urban neighborhood. The High Line has become a tourist attraction, a place for office workers to have lunch, and a safe place for exercisers to walk without worrying about traffic.

    I say go for the High Line (and incorporate a bike path) and skip the subsidy to the developer. In New York City, it was the High Line itself that increased property values. As the New York Times reported: "The New York City Economic Development Corporation published a study last year stating that before the High Line was redeveloped, 'surrounding residential properties were valued 8 percent below the overall median for Manhattan.' Between 2003 and 2011, property values near the park increased 103 percent."

    If a TIF is found to be necessary, it should be used to improve public infrastructure and catalize development–not subsidize it.–and a gorgeous park could do that.  NYC developers are eager to build along the High Line and they don't expect subsidies to do it. 

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