St. Charles Airline Bridge and Ping Tom Park is an area that carries the legacy of a working waterfront and embodies the spirit of community-led reinvestment. Here, the intervention builds on a site where change has been a constant—a stretch of riverfront that is on the cusp of yet another transformation. As development moves south, this site can prioritize recreation, restoration, and education, while serving as a connector for communities that historically have not benefited from the river as an amenity.
The Airline Trail site brings people, plants, and animals back to the river’s edge. In an emergent zone where the river meets land, a constructed grid allows for a patchwork of different programs such as a fish hatchery and wetland habitat. Further upland, the grid is populated with prairie grasslands and denser woodlands. A new nature center anchors the site and provides opportunities for learning about native ecologies, training in environmental stewardship, and the cultivation of a community seed bank. A former rail viaduct is re-purposed into a linear wildlife and cultural corridor connecting Pilsen and the river to the South Loop and the lake.
Above: A new soft, constructed edge creates underwater habitats for fish and emergent plants that filters rainwater as it returns to the river. These natural and constructed systems are made visible to the public by increasing access and educational opportunities at the river’s edge.
Drag the slider left and right to see how this site looks now compared to if this idea were built.