By Shia Kapos
January 17, 2013
Source: Crain’s Chicago Business
Cold as it was Wednesday night, guests at a private cocktail party focused on warm breezes, green grass and wispy trees, bike paths, playgrounds, dog parks and skate boarders.
They’re all elements in the three-mile-long Bloomingdale Trail park system planned for the dormant railroad at approximately 1800 North, between Ashland and Ridgeway (3700 West) and discussed at an information meeting with canapes at the Casino Club.
“This will transform the city. We have jewels we’ve nurtured across the city, but nothing that transcends distance,” Steve Koch, the deputy mayor of Chicago and former investment banker, told the 75 guests gathered at the private club popular with the society set.
The soiree was organized by the Chicago office of the Trust for Public Land and hosted by Winona Capital Management Managing Director Laird Koldyke and his wife, Dede.
“I’m an investor by trade, so I like to see things grow and get better. That’s what this is about,” said Mr. Koldyke, a Park District board member who compared the Bloomingdale Trail to Millennium Park and Navy Pier in scope.
The Koldykes’ connection to the parks goes beyond civic duty, though. Their four children played baseball and basketball at Hamlin, Wells, Horner and Pulaski parks.
While some of the high-profile guests have already donated to the $90 million project, others were there to learn more.
The project has been in the works for seven years, but it wasn’t until two years ago, during the mayoral election, that it really took off. That’s when Beth White, head of the Chicago office of the Trust for Public Land, made her pitch to candidates about the project.
Only one promised to get it done before his first term of office was up in 2015.
That candidate was, of course, Rahm Emanuel, who has made the Bloomingdale Trail a top priority.
The project has raised some $12 million and has received $37 million in federal funding because it meets air-quality mitigation standards. Organizers are optimistic the remaining $40 million can be easily raised.
They expect to see a deal finalized within days that passes ownership of the right of way from Canadian Pacific Railway to Chicago.
For the well-traveled guests at the Casino, the magnitude of the Bloomingdale project hit home when Mr. Koch called it “High Line on steroids,” a reference to the Manhattan park similarly converted from elevated railroad right of way into a major park.
Other guests at the party Wednesday included Baird & Warner President and CEO Stephen Baird, Madison Dearborn Partners’ Paul Finnegan, Chicago Park District CEO Michael Kelly, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum President and CEO Deborah Lahey, real estate developer Jerry Lasky and Whitney Lasky, traderEli Tullis Jr. and actress Taylor Miller, and Nielsen Co. Vice Chairman Susan Whiting.
Note that the line that brought the biggest smiles came from Mr. Koch, who said, with apologies to suburban dwellers (he used to be one), “When your friends from Naperville call to visit, this (the Bloomingdale Trail) is where they will want to go.”