LIKELY LOSS & POSSIBLE WIN: Iconic Chicago Avenue Bridge Demolition Imminent, while Historic Division Street Bridge Could be Moved and Reused as Pedestrian Bridge.

Chicago Avenue Bridge, Photo Credit: ChEyeBall/Twitter

Dvision Street Bridge Move Aerial, Photo Credit: Google Earth Pro and Chicago Tribune Graphics

Dvision Street Bridge, Photo Credit: Google Street View

Dvision Street Bridge, Photo Credit: Google Street View

The Chicago Avenue Bridge is in immediate danger of demolition. The demolition of the Chicago Avenue Bridge is scheduled for September, 2018. Preservation Chicago has advocated to restore or move this iconic bridge for use as a pedestrian bridge elsewhere on the river. However, the historic Division Street Bridge may be a more likely candidate for reuse.

A group called “Friends of Goose Island”, comprised of large Goose Island based companies and property owners, approached the City of Chicago’s Department of Transportation to explore saving the Chicago Avenue Bridge and relocating it to Blackhawk Street. This would create a pedestrian and bike pathway across the Chicago River to the west of Goose Island and to connect it with the 606, the elevated 2.7 mile linear pedestrian and bike trail. Unfortunately, the initial costs estimates and timing were prohibitive.

According to Zack Cupkovic, a Friends of Goose Island board member and director of special projects for R2 Company, based on a conversation with Luis Benitez, chief bridge engineer for the Chicago Department of Transportation, the Chicago Avenue Bridge is in “very, very bad shape” and that relocating and reassembling that bridge could cost $6.5 million, including $4.5 million to fix it up enough to be able to move it.

Cupkovic told the Chicago Tribune’s Mary Wisniewski that the conversation with CDOT’s Luis Benitez was product as “he understood why we wanted to save an historic element of the area”. Friends of Goose Island believes that the pedestrian and bike bridge would integrate Goose Island with pedestrian and bike traffic near Elston Avenue and would encourage economic development in the area.

The 114-year-old Division Street Bridge appears to be a better candidate for relocation. The Division Street Bridge is a riveted steel, double-leaf bascule bridge. Division Street Bridge is scheduled for demolition and replacement in 2020 and CDOT will offer the historic bridge for donation in 2019.

“Remarkably, the original first Division Street bridge at that location, built in 1869, was removed in 1902 and reused at Blackhawk Street, according to the book “Chicago River Bridges” by Patrick McBriarty. That bridge was removed in 1910, after being declared an obstruction to navigation in an order from the U.S. secretary of war, and the location has since been without a bridge.” (Wisniewski, Chicago Tribune, 8/13/18)

Costs for the relocation would be significant, however the Friends of Goose Island plans to fund the bridge relocation project through a public campaign sponsored and supported by local businesses and landlords. R2 published an ambitious conceptual masterplan in 2015 called Goose Island Vision 2025 which envisioned a Blackhawk Street bike way across the river. R2 Company is an active developer and property owner on Goose Island. They are also the developer of the historic Morton Salt warehouse at 1329 N. Elston Avenue, which they are converting into an office, retail and entertainment venue complex called “The Salt District”, and which is just west of the Chicago River and south of Blackhawk Street.

Preservation Chicago applauds R2 Company and Friends of Goose Island for their interest, initiative, vision and demonstrated leadership in making big ideas happen. A pedestrian bridge at Blackhawk Street would be a benefit and economic stimulant. Additionally, the reuse of a historic Chicago bascule bridge would be visually and historically interesting and a tourist draw.

Additional Reading
Free (almost) to a good home: Chicago’s Division Street bridge may be donated to Goose Island, Mary Wisniewski , Chicago Tribune, 8/13/18

Goose Island developers want to repurpose old Division Street bridge;Tapped for replacement, the current bridge may be reused as new bike and pedestrian link at Blackhawk Street, Jay Koziarz, Curbed Chicago, 8/15/18

Goose Island 2025 Vision Plan for Chicago’s Transforming Industrial Island, A joint venture project between PORT Urbanism and R2 Companies, 2015

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