Freshwater has always been essential to Chicago’s health and wealth. UrbanLab’s Growing Water project envisions Chicago evolving into a model city for recycling, or “growing” 100% its rainwater by creating a series of “eco-boulevards” spread equally throughout the city. Eco-boulevards are envisioned as long strips of publicly owned lands that are transformed from grey-infrastructure (roadways, sidewalks and alleys) to green-infrastructure that returns storm water back into the Lake. Eco-Boulevards capture and biologically clean storm water before it has a chance to enter the sewer system. Typical Eco-Boulevards consists of vegetated native landscape swales, swells, and channels that hold water for a specific period of time in order to naturally remove contaminants. Eco-Boulevards are part of a comprehensive plan to reduce reliance on conventional grey infrastructure systems to reduce cumulative urban heat island effects, and increase bio-diversity and filtration of ground/air pollutants. Eco-boulevards ultimately connect and expand Chicago’s existing natural and recreational landscapes. Spaced every half-mile, eco-boulevards are within a fifteen-minute walk for most residents. The design of each eco-boulevard adapts to the needs of adjoining neighborhoods. Within commercial zones, eco-boulevards function as permeable hardscapes such as bike lanes and parking spaces. Inside residential neighborhoods, eco-boulevards function as permeable streetscapes and micro-parks.
Model photos by Michelle Litvin