What for a decade had been referred to either as the “Bloomingdale Trail” or simply “the Bloomingdale” will be referred to going forward as “the 606,” it was announced in June by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit organization that conserves land for public open space. The number denotes the zip-code prefix shared by all Chicagoans and alludes to the trail’s origin as a rail line.
Similar to New York’s High Line, the 606 is an elevated railroad right-of-way converted to a pedestrian greenway. Chicago’s version is a multifunctional park system that also includes a bike path and five neighborhood parks on the ground level along its 2.7-mile (4.5 km) stretch.
Beth White, Chicago-area office director for TPL, said the new name is designed to be more inclusive and less confusing. “We had lots of questions [about the old name],” White explained in an interview on WTTV’s Chicago Tonight. Many people assume the project is in the town of Bloomingdale, 27 miles (44 km) to the west, she noted.
The trail also shared the name with the retailer Bloomingdale’s, she said, which might dissuade sponsorship by other retailers. “We are in a fundraising campaign. We wanted it to work for anyone that wanted to support the trail,” she said.
Created by Matt Gordon of the brand consulting firm Landor Associates, the new moniker provides an identity for the overall park project, but its components, including the Bloomingdale Trail and adjacent parks, will retain their own unique names, said White.
“I have to confess, I didn’t immediately get it,” Chicago Deputy Mayor Steve Koch told Chicago Tonight. “And then when it’s explained to you, it makes an enormous amount of sense. This thing connects various disparate neighborhoods, and it’s something we all share,” he said.
Even TPL staff members were taken aback by the name at first. “When it was first presented, we all sort of went, ‘huh?’ said White. But now, she added, “it’s what we think is going to be just the right name to express the excitement behind the project.”
“For me, it all made sense when I saw the new logo, which echoes the project’s multiple interlocking parts by literally forming a chain out of the ‘6-0-6,’” Ben Helphand, president of Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail and one of six founding members of the organization, told Urban Land. Noting that the vision for the Bloomingdale Trail has always been big, he explained, “The overgrown, elevated railroad embankment that enticed us with its de facto narrow forest trail is a chain that links a charm bracelet of existing and future parks. In practice, however, many considered the trail as the main project, with the access parks as mere add-ons.”
Gordon, a brand consultant, stood by the name in an interview with Chicago Tonight. “The 606 says this is something that belongs to everyone in Chicago. It’s something we all share – the first three digits of our zip code, if you live in Chicago. It’s a place we can all come – a place that should attract people from all over the state,” he said.
The project is hoped to break ground in mid- to late August.