As many installations on the Milwaukee Avenue Green Development Corridor reach successful completion, Metropolitan Planning Council’s (MPC) work is drawing to a close. An advocate of tackling stormwater with green infrastructure when possible, MPC was keen to take a lead role in this project and see it succeed. After nearly two years, all the $200,000 Ill. Green Infrastructure Grant funding has been allocated and MPC is now looking at what can be learned from the project. Followers of this blog will be familiar with many of the plans and perhaps also interested in the outcomes. So far, five projects have been completed, ranging in size and scope and demonstrating a number of best management practices:
||State Funding (%)
|2907 N. Central Park
|2630 N. Washtenaw
|2473 N. Albany Avenue
|3548 W. Diversey
2907 N. Central Park Avenue was a relatively straightforward project involving the installation of two rain barrels to capture runoff from the garage roof, alongside porous paving for the gangway. It was the first project to be completed, highlighting the benefit of simple designs being “quick and easy to implement.” Green infrastructure doesn’t have to be complex; simple designs on a small scale can be very effective.
A simple but effective way to capture stormwater
Permeable paving allows parking while capturing stormwater
2630 N. Washtenaw Avenue implemented rain gardens, permeable paving and rain barrels. The rain gardens were installed on land in front of the building, while permeable paving wraps around the building with rain barrels placed in the side alley. A drip watering system was installed on one rain barrel and hoses on the others. This medium-sized project also managed to return a good ratio of dollar per gallon captured, primarily due to the extensive use of rain barrels.
Once developed the rain garden will be a better sponge than the Barron land before
Using multiple rain barrels allows scalability needed for this large building
2473 N. Albany Avenue involved a large amount of native plant landscaping on the land surrounding a house blocked out into apartments, as well as permeable paving on driveways and walkways. An important focus in this project was enhancing the garden for residents. The central space was redesigned for relaxation and socializing, with permeable pavers creating a patio in the middle of a large lawn area.
A social space that encourages use
The native grasses (being protected by straw) cope better in the local climate
2915 Allen also incorporates a range of best management practices, including permeable paving, rain gardens and rain barrels. Costing around $16,000, funded 75 percent through the Ill. Green Infrastructure Grant, this led to an expected 702-gallon runoff capture during a 1” storm. The garden’s improved stormwater capture mechanisms also served as landscaping techniques, with attractive pavers, grasses and native plants bolstering the aesthetics of the space. In other words, stormwater management and landscaping can often work together to reduce impermeable areas, a major selling point for property owners.
Permeable pavers and native plants help filter rainwater into the ground.
3548 W. Diversey Avenue aimed to improve the landscaping and stormwater capture of select areas of the garden. Tying in well with the previous garden, the design shows how small areas can be landscaped to act as a feature while capturing greater volumes of stormwater. After a number of relatively large storms the installation seemed to be performing as designed and coping with the heavy rainfall. While a successful rain capture area should drain within 24 hours, this plot only took 40 minutes.
Aesthetic appeal is a key part of this garden
With the completion of all the projects, 12,217 gallons of water will now be captured in a 1” storm. A further $66,000 has been leveraged from the initial funding, suggesting projects such as these could be a good way for agencies to encourage private investment toward green infrastructure.
However, this may not be a cost effective way of tackling stormwater. With property owners given free rein to design what they like, landscaping was often a priority, which greatly increased the cost of projects. And while making a contribution to tackling stormwater is undoubtedly helpful, problems remain; even if an entire street had rain gardens, those houses’ basements would still flood. This makes green infrastructure difficult to market to landowners without the costly landscaping benefit.
Lessons have been learned regarding the implementation of this project and the overall strategy of encouraging private landowners to install green infrastructure to tackle stormwater. For future implementation of a project like this, having a menu of green infrastructure options from which landowners choose would reduce cost and simplify administration. At a strategic level, it is evident that there are more cost effective ways of tackling stormwater than with individual landowner projects.
Overall, the Milwaukee Avenue Green Development Corridor project has produced benefits in terms of the physical infrastructure installed, but also a wider contribution to the green infrastructure movement through outreach and lessons learned.