Chicago Pedway Enhancement Study

Chicago, USA

The Chicago Pedway is an underground network of pedestrian paths that connects 40 blocks and almost 50 buildings in the downtown area of the city. With almost every important civic building connected by a section of the network, The Pedway has the potential to be a significant civic asset, but is currently under-utilized.

Originally dating back to the 1950s, the pathways are in desperate need of an update in order to meet modern accessibility standards, improve wayfinding, safety and security, and create easily identifiable access points.


Buro Happold, with partners Davis Brody Bond, Billings Jackson Design and City ID, led a high-level, conceptual study focusing on the main stem of the Pedway, stretching from Millennium Park to the Clark/Lake CTA Station. The team examined three specific areas: better wayfinding and navigation, better coordination, and creating a stronger sense of place. The project sought to improve the network within a limited budget, to transform it from an underused to a valuable asset for the local community.

Chicago Pedway
Underutilised for years, the enhanced Chicago Pedway is a unique asset to the city of Chicago, paving the way for future investment in the system and city as a whole. Image: Davis Brody Bond


The team coded the different sections of the Pedway according to their function and location. They then devised techniques that would encourage more people to use the system by helping to orient them, make it easier to find their way through the pathways, guide them to shopping within the system, and establish themes for the spaces in between.

This process recommended enhancing entryways, creating places for spectacle through use of art or interesting transitional zones, integrating shops and storefronts, and envisioning iconic entryways to orient pedestrians both above ground and throughout the Pedway.

Chicago Pedway
Integrated shopfronts, striking entryways and art and performance areas all combine to create a pleasant, secure feel to these underground pedestrian paths. Image: Davis Brody Bond


The team estimated the potential economic impact that enhancements to the Pedway would bring. This value proposition established a return on investment for the city and property owners on the network’s route, increasing the likelihood of the recommended enhancements being funded. Once in place, the improvements to the Chicago Pedway will pave the way for it becoming a unique civic asset.

Chicago Pedway
Enhancing entryways, improving signage and creating a safer feel to the Pedway draws in more pedestrians. Image: Davis Brody Bond

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