Sunday, March 16, 2014

Community Scale Sustainability: Oriole Park, Chicago, IL

Regional Accessibility

In the Oriole Park neighborhood located in Northwest Chicago, most people work in the near Northwest suburbs or closer to inner-city neighborhoods while some work in the downtown district. For those who travel to work in the inner-city and downtown areas, there is a CTA blue line stop located on the Northeast edge of Oriole Park. There is a limited degree of walkability to places of work and shopping centers. Unless you are employed by the various businesses and restaurants down the main street, Harlem Avenue, it is likely you have to travel by car to reach other areas of employment, either in or outside of the city limits. Oriole Park is not connected to any green infrastructure systems like regional parks or nature systems. Instead, the neighborhood is bounded on all sides by wide, busy streets.

Within Oriole Park

Under my discretion, I believe the identifiable center of the neighborhood is its park, which is next to the library and public school. The boundaries of the neighborhood are Harlem, Foster, Canfield Avenues, and the 1-90 Expressway. Within the neighborhood itself, there are not many reasons to walk around other than to utilize the large park for the various recreational activities offered, to visit the neighborhood school, or library located nearby. Because Oriole Park is a residential neighborhood, one other reason why one may walk within its borders is to travel from one home to another. Oriole Park can improve its walkability by building a CTA blue line stop entrance closer to the residential blocks where a greater number of local commuters reside. As a frequent rider of the CTA, I can speak from experience that the current path leading to the CTA entrance is not walker-friendly and takes significantly longer to reach than if it were built with residential commuters in mind. Considering "bike-ability," this neighborhood serves bikers well within the neighborhood limits. Wide streets allow considerable space for both two lane traffic and bikers and the paths within the park are wide enough that at times of low park visitation, biking is possible with ease.With regard to access to areas outside of Oriole Park, bikers are hindered by lack of corridors and nature paths to ride.

I would not consider any of the streets in my neighborhood to be "complete" because all of the inner streets are residential, containing no places of work or stores to shop in while the streets bounding the neighborhood are high traffic, wide-laned streets with nothing but shops or vacant storefronts. There is not a high degree of mixed land-use in Oriole Park, therefore, I would not consider any of the street blocks to be "complete". I believe due to the neighborhood's location in an isolated pocket in the farthest corner of the Northwest side of Chicago, there are very low instances of crime reported in the neighborhood. As a result of this separation from other surrounding neighborhoods, I feel very safe when roaming the streets, even far after dark.

In the next 50 years?

I predict that over the next 50 years, I believe this area will generally stay the same and maybe (hopefully) see an economic improvement in the local businesses. Maybe more chain restaurants will spring up along the edges of Oriole Park on the busy avenues. More home renovations will take place and many newer more modern houses will be built in place of the traditional styles still standing. Possibly more improvements will be made to the neighborhood's walkability and changes to the nearby Harlem CTA stop will give more consideration to walkers. With a more walkable neighborhood may come more smaller shops and employment opportunities located inside its borders. This would give way for a more sustainable neighborhood, one that is less reliant on automobiles to travel for daily necessities and more conscientious of on harnessing the benefits of its natural amenities. Improving elements of the neighborhood "center" (the park) and designing it to work in tandem with the natural environment is how Oriole Park can implement green infrastructure systems, having positive impacts for residents quality of life.

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