Sunday, May 19, 2013

What was old is new again in Chicago...

While in Chicago for the American Planning Association Conference, one of the mobile workshops I attended was coverage of TOD on the Brown Line. The Brown Line travels from the Loop to Kimball which is in the northwest part of Chicago.  This ‘L’ has been around since the early 1900s and here you can see signs of Transit Oriented Development before anyone even dreamt up the term TOD. 

Over the last few years the Chicago Transit Authority has revitalized stations along the route, including lengthening of platforms, after the line saw a 79% increase in traffic since 1979 and a 27% increase from 1998. Subsequently there has been a revival of interest from developers along the line, with many classic TOD buildings being remodeled and infill development taking place.

Our first stop on this mobile workshop was the Armitage Station, which first opened back in 1900. As part of the Brown Line project, the station saw major changes and expansion in the late 2000s. The area around this station was run down for a period of time, but has seen major improvements in the last 10 years, due in part to the Brown Line improvements.

Looking east from Armitage Station

This picture shows what New Urbanists look for when it comes to TOD. There is ground floor retail, including many local businesses, buildings that come up to the sidewalk and create “eyes” on the street, and architecture with character.

Our next stop was the Southport Station, which is another station that saw changes with the Brown Line upgrades and increased interest in these neighborhoods. The Noodles and Company’s neon sign uses classic Chinese architecture, in addition to its standard sign. This building is actually new infill development, although it does not have housing above it.

Noodles and Company in new development next to Southport Station

However, looking just a block from the station, you can see plenty of mixed-use development, including remodeled buildings and new construction. Once again, you see elements that New Urbanism considers essential, including excellent transit access, housing above retail, etc. You can also notice from the photos that there are a large number of people on the street, including a group of lively protesters. 

Just North of the Southport Station

Looking to the North from the South Port Station. 
Another project is a partnership between the Chicago Transit Authority and a local neighborhood, with a study on building a new TOD development at the end of the Brown Line over the Kimball Station Yards. This is one of several projects that CTA is looking at to jump start new TOD projects along the ‘L’ system.

Looking toward the yard area from the Kimball Station

It is interesting to see these sights that developed naturally instead of being induced, not only when talking about TOD today, but also most development in general. Most codes in many cities would not allow developments such as these in Chicago to even be built today.

What was old is new again; Chicago’s early suburbs are now today’s transit oriented development. They didn’t move; they just went through a transition, as suburbanization swept across the nation. These first generation suburban transit oriented developments were forgotten, but now they are once again seeing new life.

Thank you to Kelly Sellers for graciously editing this blog posting. 

I would also like to thank James Peters who is a adjunct instructor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, in addition to being a resident near a Brown Line Station, and former planner for the City of Chicago. 

Interviews are not supported in bibliographies by APA. Please cite it as an in-text citation.
Askins, J. (2011, February 11). Chicago neighborhoods: A transit-oriented development roundup from LISC/Chicago. YoChicago — Real estate news,  video, guides, blog | homes, apartments, neighborhoods | Chicago & suburbs. Retrieved May 19, 2013, from
Kunstler, J. H. (1993). The geography of nowhere: the rise and decline of America's man-made landscape. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Kunstler, J. H. (1996). Home from nowhere: remaking our everyday world for the twenty-first Century. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Transit Oriented Development in the Chicago Region. (n.d.). Center for Neighborhood Technology. Retrieved May 18, 2013, from

APA formatting by

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.