Chicago is taking its status as one of the Top 10 Greenest Cities in the U.S. very seriously. While other parts of the country are recovering from the havoc wreaked on their poor infrastructures due to floods, hurricanes and collapsing bridges, The Windy City is looking toward the future with plans to develop one of the premier Eco-landmarks of the new millennium.
The proposed project, still in the planning phase, is a two-mile expanse of bridge that will extend in an arch from Adler Planetarium on the south to East Wacker Drive on the north. The bridge will create a breakwater in the Monroe harbor and provide a civic space for recreational activities, including running and biking, as well as additional protected area for boating and water sports.
Interestingly, the plan is a modern, updated version of the original breakwater proposed in the 1909 city plan of Chicago. The current plan features the construction of wind turbines to line the bridge and create and alternate source of power for the city. The actual breakwater itself will be built on a foundation of slag—a permeable byproduct of steel which will provide a habitat for aquatic wildlife in the lake.
Some critics insist that the project is way over the top.With the $1 billion price tag, and the futuristic high-end design, they feel that it is less about the environment, and more about the city’s 2016 bid to host the Olympics.
There’s no doubt that the project would draw attention to Chicago as a highly desirable tourist destination, which doesn’t necessarily work against eco-initiatives. The bridge’s design is a product of the Chicago based, and world-renowned design firm AS+GG. Adrian Smith, the project’s lead designer was also the lead designer of Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, and the Burj Dubai which holds the record as the world’s tallest building. The eco-bridge isn’t just a “home improvement” project for Chicago—it’s a world class structure designed to capture the attention of the world.
The bridge project is not an arbitrary concept that is meant to green wash the city. Chicago has already taken the eco-revolution upon itself in the past decade, with such initiatives as the Green Roof Project, the Green Alley Project, and other steps toward eco-friendly municipal practices that are revolutionary to say the least.For example, since 1989, over 500,000 trees have been planted in Chicago; and the building which houses the Center for Green Technology is one of the only municipal buildings in the world to have received a platinum rating for its green design and operation.
Mayor Richard Daly and his staff make no secret about their plans to define Chicago as the premier city for eco-conscious living in the U.S. Despite its industrial past, the city’s administration and green organizations are on a massive educational campaign that seems to be having just the desired effect. More and more Chicagoans are jumping in the bandwagon, and the city has seen itself transform in leaps and bounds in just a few short years.
Regardless of how beneficial the bridge project advocates claim it is, there is still the tiny little problem of the necessary funding to get the thing underway. Raising $1 billion dollars for a shiny new bridge during a war and a recession may not be the easiest thing to do, and then there is the issue of meeting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who have a say in shoreline redevelopment. There are some obstacles to overcome, but in a social and political environment when many people in this country are still not convinced that there is a need for environmental initiatives of any kind, Chicago will go down in history as one of the leaders who led our country to change during this period of environmental revolution. That in and of itself should be enough to attract forward thinking investors and supporters. After all, who doesn’t want to go down as having supported the winning team from the very beginning?