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CNU CITY SPOTLIGHT: Berwyn, IL Rising? | Congress for the New Urbanism

CNU CITY SPOTLIGHT: Berwyn, IL Rising?

Ryan Forst's picture

This post is part of a new series on the CNU Salons, CITY SPOTLIGHT. City Spotlight shines a light on the latest news, developments and initiatives occurring in cities and towns where CNU members live and work.

The below post is a City Spotlight on the suburban Chicago town of Berwyn, IL and comes courtesy of CNU Program Intern Ryan Forst.

“Berwyn is Rising” proclaims a downtown Chicago billboard advertisement. The blue-collar city of 56,657 located about eight miles from Chicago’s loop, has often been overlooked by Chicagoans and thought of by many as a declining area. But, Berwyn is quickly rebranding itself as a New Urbanist paradise. I recently had a chance to explore this rebounding city, and I was left awestruck. This blog post will tell you why!

Developed mostly in the late 1800, Berwyn is its western neighbor Riverside’s antagonist. Unlike Omstead’s faux utopia, short tangent blocks with rear alleys make up Berwyn’s core. These blocks are filled with stately Victorians, robust four squares, utilitarian bungalows and even courtyard apartment buildings. Many a Chicago suburb would promote that these previously mentioned residential units are within walking distance to a train station, but Berwyn can brag that its dwellings are within walking distance to three train stations and bus routes galore! This unique housing collection supports its diversifying residential base.

After years of statues quo policies, Berwyn’s leaders have started to build upon these aforementioned assets and are working diligently to create a hip yet sustainable near west suburban enclave. Walking around the historic Depot District, it is impossible to miss the two new multi-story condo towers with space for ground floor retail. Equally noticeable are the electric car charging stations sprinkled around town. For those who do not want a car 24/7, but cannot give it up all together, Zip Car has set-up shop next to the main train station. A quick stroll away from the Depot District uncovers an urban oasis: a vibrant park with meandering streams, romantic gardens, and ponds filled with fish! Meanwhile on Berwyn’s north end, the progress made is just as dramatic. The former Cermak Plaza area, best know for its car spiked Spindle’s cameo in the movie Wayne’s World , has undergone a massive renovation through TIF funds. Happily, or sadly depending on your point of view, Spindle is down and part of it awaits restoration by Berwyn’s art council and Route 66 Museum. While the Plaza still resembles a strip mall, the construction of sidewalk abutting peripheral retail space and a new grocery store increases its walk-ability. I must say that after touring Berwyn, I have concluded Berwyn truly is rising!

For more information on Berwyn visit these links

City of Berwyn

Berwyn Economic Development Corporation

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