Paseo trail to connect Pilsen, Little Village neighborhoods

CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - Chicago’s next “rails to trails” project is slated to connect the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods with a 4-mile bicycle and walking path, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

The first stretch of Paseo is expected to open by the end of the summer on abandoned BNSF rail tracks along Sangamon between 16th and 21st streets, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Sunday morning at the adjacent El Paseo Community Garden.

Work could begin this fall on the other two main stretches, which will run along Cermak Road and Blue Island Avenue between Sangamon and Rockwell, and 26th Street and Rockwell to 32nd Street and Central Park Avenue, according to the city’s Department of Transportation.

The trail will include gathering spaces, gardens and public art celebrating Latino culture, officials said.

“This is a strategic opportunity to adapt outmoded infrastructure into an important amenity that will enhance the quality of life for residents,” Emanuel said.

After the announcement, Ald. Danny Solis (25th) jokingly called the path a “poor man’s 606,” but Ald. George Cardenas (12th) said there would be no mistaking the Paseo for the $95 million Bloomingdale Trail that opened last June on the Northwest Side.

“The trail is going to have its own local identity,” Cardenas said. “There’s no comparison beyond the previous owner being a railroad company.”

City agencies are going to “provide information about housing resources to preserve affordability and foster home improvements,” according to a statement from the mayor’s office. Solis said new residential developments within a mile of the trail would have to set aside units for affordable housing.

Antonio Acevedo, a volunteer at El Paseo Community Garden, said he’s excited about the trail but hopes it doesn’t price residents out of the neighborhood by shooting up property taxes.

“This neighborhood [Pilsen] has gentrified a lot already, so it’s important they make sure the people who live here and grew up here get to enjoy it,” Acevedo said.

George Rabiela, a retired Chicago Fire Department captain, brought his 5-year-old dalmatian Brady out for the announcement. The Wicker Park resident said he visits family in Pilsen regularly and is looking forward to hitting the trail.

“It’s a win-win for us. It’s going to bring a lot of people outside,” Rabiela said.

Local and federal funding for the next two stretches of the path are still pending final designs. Officials haven’t said how much it is expected to cost.

Emanuel said the Paseo was part of a revamped parks investment plan that he will detail in a speech Tuesday.

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