The Bloomingdale Trail has a shiny new name, and not everyone’s happy about it.
At a public meeting on Monday, June 18 at the McCormick Tribune YMCA, nearly 300 community members gathered to hear about the project’s latest updates. We’ve known for months now that a bike trail and multiple parks were in the works for the abandoned 2.7-mile viaduct, but a handful of new developments came out of this meeting, including detailed renderings, an aerial map with park entrance plans and a branding campaign that caught many neighbors off guard.
A Long Road to Groundbreaking
The meeting began on a bit of a koombayah note. Beth White, Chicago Area Director for the Trust for Public Land, approached the mic, asking for a show of hands of those who had attended a meeting or volunteered their time on behalf of the Bloomingdale Trail project in years past. Looking around the room, I’d venture to guess at least a third of the attendees proudly threw their hands in the air.
“We all shared the same dream of transforming this overgrown thing that divided the neighborhoods,” said one member of the Friends of Bloomingdale Trail. “And now we’re finally connecting Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Wicker Park and Bucktown.”
One Trail, Five Parks
Next up the speakers briefly touched on plans for the parks that will include a skate park at Walsh Park (Ashland and Bloomingdale), an observatory designed by Adler Planetarium, an overlook “with city views” at Humboldt and right here in Logan Square, a poet’s garden and stage at Julia de Burgos Park (Bloomingdale and Albany).
Johnny Morcos, Project Manager for the Chicago Department of Transportation, briefly took to the podium to discus the logistics of the project. He noted that Bloomingdale Avenue will close during construction, but will be accessible to those with driveways in affected areas. “A detailed construction schedule will be shared in August, and there will be a hotline for the community to contact contractors during construction,” said Morcos.
The 606: Clever Branding or Forgotten History?
Last but not least, the speakers got to the bit we were all curious about: the unexpected name change. White returned to the podium to introduce the new moniker: The 606. “We wanted a name for the larger scope of the project,” said White. “Bloomingdale isn’t one of the most commonly recognized streets in the city, not to mention the possible legal repercussions and issues with corporate sponsors.”
“The Bloomingdale Trail is still the Bloomingdale Trail,” White reassured the crowd. “That is not changing and that was an important part of this project.”
At this point she turned the mic over to Matt Gordon, who led the naming portion of the project on behalf of creative agency Landor Associates (where he is, appropriately enough, Director of Writing and Naming). Gordon walked through his creative process, noting that the group wanted a pseudonym that is catchy in the way New York’s High Line is, but also representative of Chicago as a city. The team settled on “606” as that uniting factor—a reference to the first three digits of all Chicago ZIP codes.
“It’s about the part versus the whole,” said Gordon. “Just as there are various parts of Millennium Park with different names, there will be different parts of this project that come together as a whole: The 606.”
Again, White returned to the podium, this time with audible “boos” echoing throughout the room. “I appreciate your honest reactions,” White responded with a chuckle.
So what’s with the community contention? Neighbors shared their views on the name change both online and offline.
“Does money have to be such a big part of everything that we can’t even have a classic and meaningful name?” asked Adam Conolly on The 606 Facebook page. Others were quick to retort that Bloomingdale Trail itself does still exist; now it is simply part of a larger overall project.
If money and forgotten tradition weren’t enough to tarnish the new name, there’s also a bit of good old-fashioned nudity to fuel the fire. A quick Google search pulls in this post from Vintage Sleaze, which paints the historic 606 Club on Wabash as a speakeasy turned strip club that had plenty of brushes with the law.
What do you think, neighbors? Is this ambitious rebranding campaign a step in the right direction, or would you rather the project preserve the historic Bloomingdale Trail name?