Lakeview Low-Line: FAQs
What is the Lakeview Low-Line?
The Lakeview Low-Line re-envisions the half-mile space beneath the CTA ‘L’ tracks between Southport and Lincoln avenues as an exciting Chicago art destination and a fun and dynamic path connecting Lakeview. Design features of the Lakeview Low-Line that have either been implemented or are part of future plans include:
- Mural walls that play host to rotating art exhibits, creating a larger-than-life outdoor gallery. Currently, you can find murals from artists Lauren Asta, Caroline Liu, JC Rivera, Chris Silva and Yollocalli Arts Reach students at the Southport and Paulina plazas.
- An interactive light installation that will playfully celebrate the ‘L’ structure, creating a quintessentially Chicago experience.
- Flexible public plazas located at Southport Ave., Ashland Ave. and Paulina St. that incorporate seating elements and opportunities for programming, enhancing the experience for CTA riders and reinforcing the identity of the CTA stations as the heart of our neighborhood.
- A new park at Marshfield Ave. that will surprise and delight visitors to the Low-Line with an urban forest and planted mounds, creating a playful yet relaxing environment away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Learn more about the Lakeview Low-Line and view photos and renderings of the project here.
Who is behind the Lakeview Low-Line?
The Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, Special Service Area (SSA) 27, and Friends of Lakeview, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, are partnering on different aspects of the project, with the assistance and support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). The Lakeview Low-Line was first envisioned by the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce in its 2011 Lakeview Area Master Plan, which gathered input from local residents, businesses and other stakeholders. The Lakeview Chamber is the sole service provider for SSA 27.
SSA 27 and Friends of Lakeview have partnered with PORT, a leading-edge design consultancy, to design one-third of the Low-Line between Lincoln and Ashland avenues. The SSA has already funded new plazas at Southport Ave., Ashland Ave. and Paulina St. as part of Phase 1 of the Low-Line project, and Friends of Lakeview recently announced plans to complete Phase 2, which will connect the plazas at Ashland and Lincoln avenues with a new pathway crossing Marshfield Ave. Friends of Lakeview is also exploring different approaches to accomplishing the ultimate long-term Low-Line vision—creating a continuous connection east of Ashland to Southport Ave.—although there is not yet a timeline or design for Phase 3.
To help ensure the project is properly and safely implemented with no major impacts to rail service, the CTA has agreed to assist with the construction of portions of the project, including site prep and installation, further emphasizing the important role the CTA plays as the focal point of communities throughout the city.
Where can I find the Low-Line?
The project site is located in Lakeview, a neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side. The site consists of a series of spaces—many of which are currently underutilized—beneath the CTA Brown Line ‘L’ tracks between Southport and Lincoln avenues. Some improvements have already been made at Southport Ave., Ashland Ave. and Paulina St., and there are plans to connect Ashland and Lincoln avenues with a new pathway in 2019.
The Lakeview Low-Line was first introduced in the 2011 Lakeview Area Master Plan as a means of connecting the neighborhood’s business districts on Southport and Lincoln avenues while beautifying our neighborhood. Lakeview residents and business owners expressed the need for more green space in the neighborhood and identified the area beneath the ‘L’ tracks as an opportunity for future enhancements and programming. As a unique attraction, the Lakeview Low-Line has the potential to become a landmark attracting attention to Lakeview and Chicago while encouraging both visitors and residents to explore Lakeview’s local business districts.
What Are the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce and its partners doing to gather community input?
The Low-Line idea emerged from the Lakeview Area Master Plan (LAMP) in 2011, which incorporated feedback from thousands of community members gathered in surveys, open houses, a youth summit and other creative activities. Those efforts led to LAMP receiving a Community Outreach Award from the American Planning Association - Illinois Chapter in 2011. In 2017, as part of Phase 1 of the Lakeview Low-Line, Special Service Area (SSA) 27 hosted two community meetings where participants shared their ideas for the project and reviewed design options for new plazas at Ashland Ave. and Paulina St. Friends of Lakeview is currently gathering feedback on plans for Phase 2 of the project, which will connect Ashland and Lincoln avenues, via an online survey.
If you want to get more involved or want to learn about future meetings, make sure you sign up for our email list.
I think the Low-Line plans should include ___________________.
We’d love to hear your ideas for the Low-Line project. Share your feedback on the proposed designs for Phase 2 of the project, which will connect Ashland and Lincoln avenues, and stay tuned for more information about the ultimate long-term Low-Line vision: a continuous connection spanning a half-mile through the neighborhood.
Why would anyone want to walk underneath the ‘L’ tracks? It’s really noisy and dirty.
We get it—the idea of spending time beneath a noisy CTA train seems a little unusual. But some of Chicago’s boldest ideas and most beloved public spaces were also met with some initial skepticism when they were first imagined. The Lakeview community originally envisioned the idea for the Low-Line in the 2011 Lakeview Area Master Plan, and we’ve heard from countless locals and visitors since who are excited about taking a stroll along the path once it’s complete. In the five years since the Low-Line Farmers Market launched at the Southport CTA station, more than 20,000 people have attended the market, proving the potential for further development of the Low-Line concept.
The first objective of any design is improving the area underneath the 'L' tracks so it is inviting. Considering that many of these spaces haven't been regularly cleaned or maintained in the past, we think there is a huge opportunity to improve upon the existing conditions, and we've already made significant strides in cleaning up and lighting up new plazas at Southport Ave. and Paulina St. As for noise abatement, there are some limits to what can be accomplished within the current scope of the project, but the design team from PORT has drawn inspiration from other cities and is incorporating materials into the design that could help soften the sound.
What about safety? Will security features be included in the Low-Line designs?
By activating underutilized portions of the future Low-Line path with activities and amenities that invite positive behavior, we think the Lakeview Low-Line will be safe and welcoming for everyone. New Low-Line plazas at Southport Ave. and Paulina St. offer enhanced and additional lighting that improves the overall safety of these spaces, and the design team from PORT has incorporated similar lighting improvements in its plans for Phase 2 of the project.
Will the under-L parking spaces be affected? How about traffic?
Friends of Lakeview will work with individual properties who rely on access to the area beneath the ‘L’ tracks to discuss potential parking impacts. We do not anticipate any increase in vehicular traffic to adjacent streets as a result of the Low-Line project.
Who owns the Low-Line spaces beneath the CTA 'L' tracks?
The spaces beneath the 'L' tracks are owned by the CTA. In some places along the Lakeview Low-Line, adjacent homes and businesses have adopted this land, planting gardens and making other improvements to beautify the CTA-owned property.
Who is paying for the project, and how much will it cost?
Special Service Area (SSA) 27 is funding targeted improvements for Phase 1 Low-Line plazas at Southport Ave., Ashland Ave. and Paulina St. SSAs are a funding mechanism to raise money for services to a designated mixed-use area through a property tax levy on properties within the SSA’s boundaries, in order to supplement City services. The SSA's costs for constructing Phase 1 of the Low-Line are projected to be approximately $300,000.
Friends of Lakeview, a 501(c)(3) non-profit partner organization, is planning for and raising funds to support Phase 2 of the Low-Line, which will create a pathway connecting Ashland and Lincoln avenues, completing one-third of the Low-Line project. Preliminary plans were just announced and are subject to change, but Friends of Lakeview's projected costs for Phase 2 are approximately $350,000. Community members may contribute any amount to support Phase 2 of the project by visiting our crowd-funding webpage at www.lakeviewlowline.com. Donations made to the 501(c)(3) Friends of Lakeview by individuals and corporations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
There is not yet a timeline or design for Phase 3 of the Low-Line, which would link Ashland and Southport avenues, so a project budget has not been defined and potential funding sources have not been identified.
Who will maintain the Low-Line spaces once they are open?
The Low-Line plazas at Southport, Ashland and Paulina are currently maintained by Special Service Area (SSA) 27’s Clean Team, which is also responsible for sweeping sidewalks and emptying litter receptacles throughout the service area. Since 2016, the Clean Team has maintained the plaza on the west side of Southport, including the seating arrangement next to the Gap. Friends of Lakeview will be responsible for maintaining the Low-Line pathway between the future Paulina and Ashland plazas on the west, and the Ashland and Southport plazas on the east.
What is the timeline for completing the Lakeview Low-Line?
Special Service Area (SSA) 27 and Friends of Lakeview have already made improvements along the Lakeview Low-Line, beginning with the launch of the Low-Line Farmers Market at the Southport CTA station in 2013. In 2016, SSA 27 began Phase 1 of Low-Line construction, installing a permanent public plaza at the Southport CTA station, complete with a brick and pea gravel hardscape, planter boxes, public seating and flexible space for future programming and micro-retail. In 2017, the finishing touches were put on the Southport Plaza with the installation of four mural walls that play host to rotating public art exhibits year-round. And in 2018, crews completed the Paulina Plaza, a dynamic new public space that incorporates enhanced lighting, seating elements, public art and pathway improvements.
With funding from SSA 27, work on Phase 1 will conclude in 2019 with the completion of two new plazas at Ashland Ave. The expectation is that these new plaza spaces at Ashland Ave. and Paulina St. will be connected in 2019 as part of Phase 2, funded by Friends of Lakeview, but this is contingent on fundraising efforts that are currently underway. There is not yet a timeline or design for Phase 3 of the Low-Line, which would link Ashland to Southport, completing the project.
I want to help out.
Great! We’re looking for supporters and volunteers to help make the Lakeview Low-Line a reality. Make a donation on our crowd-funding webpage to support Phase 2 of the Lakeview Low-Line, and sign up for our email list to learn about volunteer opportunities and other project news.
To learn more about the Low-Line, visit the project webpage.
The Lakeview Area Master Plan is unveiled, introducing the concept of the Low-Line
The Low-Line Market launches beneath the Southport CTA station
The Low-Line Market grows west of the auxiliary staircase beneath the Southport CTA station
A former under-'L' parking lot beneath the Southport CTA station is transformed into the Southport Plaza, complete with a hardscape, planters, public seating and space for future programming as part of Phase 1
The Low-Line Market celebrates its fifth season at the Southport Plaza
The Lakeview Chamber and SSA 27 partner with PORT, a leading-edge design consultancy, to envision future Low-Line improvements at Ashland Ave. and Paulina St. as a continuation of Phase 1
Community members gather to discuss the Low-Line project, including new Low-Line plazas at Ashland Ave. and Paulina St.
Low-Line Mural Walls installed at the Southport Plaza
Construction resumes on Phase 1
The Paulina Plaza opens, creating a dynamic new public space that incorporates enhanced lighting, seating elements, public art, and pathway improvements
Anticipated completion of Phases 1 and 2, including Low-Line plazas and a pathway between Ashland and Lincoln avenues
There is not yet a timeline or design for Phase 3 of the Low-Line, which would link Ashland and Southport avenues, completing the project
Lakeview Area Master Plan
- Executive Summary
- Workplan & Sub-District Recommendations
- Business Attraction Guide
- Sustainability Guide for Businesses
The Low-Line Market is a conveniently located and carefully curated farmers market taking place at the Southport Plaza.
Learn more about PORT, the team responsible for designing the improvements at Ashland and Paulina.