Loyola Proposes Building a “People Street” on Kenmore Avenue


View Larger Map

Looking north on the 6300 block of North Kenmore Avenue prior to the current construction.

Last year the Chicago Department of Transportation striped a contraflow bike lane on Albion Avenue in Rogers Park. The idea was to allow northbound cyclists to avoid busy Sheridan Road by riding from the Kenmore Avenue bike lane, northwest through the Loyola University campus, and west on Albion to Glenwood Avenue, a pleasant northbound route. But yesterday when I was scouting the route on a Google Maps aerial, I noticed that the 6300 block of north Kenmore is not only closed for construction, it no long appears on the map. It occurred to me that a new pedestrianized “People Street” might be in the works.

A call to the 48th Ward office confirmed my suspicions. Chief of Staff Dan Luna said that Loyola University, which is currently constructing new campus building on both sides of Kenmore, has made a proposal to close the block to through traffic in order to expand its campus. “We’ve seen some sketches but nothing has been finalized,” he said. “It hasn’t even gone before the community yet.”

Luna said Alderman Harry Osterman supports the proposal in theory because it would improve safety on a block with an “unbelievable amount of foot traffic.” But the alderman wants to see the Kenmore bike route continue through the pedestrianized block, and to make sure residents’ concerns about traffic flow and the loss of 55 curbside parking spaces on the block are addressed. “It’s going to take a lot of strategizing and some compromise,” Luna said. “That’s why it’s just in the discussion phase.”

Jennifer Clark, Loyola’s assistant vice president of campus and community planning, filled me in on the details of the proposal. The university is currently building a residence hall on the west side of the block, and the Center for Sustainable Urban Learning on the east side, which will house the Institute for Environmental Sustainability. The center will have another attached dormitory with green features like geothermal heating and air conditioning and a low-flow water system with gray water reuse. Residents will sign a sustainability agreement, which includes a pledge to not bring a car to campus.


View Bike route alternative to Sheridan Road in a larger map

Bike route alternative to Sheridan Road using the Albion Avenue contraflow lane.

Since Loyola owns all the property on the block, Clark said it makes sense to convert it to a pedestrian-priority area. “We would like to expand the feeling of a campus.” Motorized access would be limited to deliveries, emergency vehicles and four student moving days. She promised the Kenmore bike route would continue through the block as a striped lane or colored pavement, possibly protected by a row of trees. “We’re not trying to take away an existing bike route,” she said. “I was one of the people advocating for the contraflow bike lane on Albion.” The plaza would include water-permeable pavement, benches and indigenous flowers, plants and trees, identified with signs like an arboretum.

In addition to the alderman’s office, Clark has been discussing the proposal with various block clubs and community groups. She hopes that after the plaza is vetted at public input meetings this spring, City Council will approve the street closure in July. Construction of the new buildings will be completed in mid-August. “After that, hopefully we’ll be able to landscape the plaza at that point instead of reopening it to traffic,” she said. “But if the alderman doesn’t approve [the closure], it will revert to a street.”


View Larger Map

Looking south from West Sheridan Road towards the 6300 block of North Kenmore Avenue.

Clark doesn’t think the loss of parking spaces should be a dealbreaker. Loyola recently purchased and demolished five buildings on the 6300 blocks of North Kenmore and Winthrop avenues, as well as a parking lot between the two streets, to make room for more green space and possibly public tennis courts. The university has also converted several privately owned apartments into student dormitories. “Parking is a difficult issue, but by purchasing a lot of rental properties and converting them to dorms we’ve removed a lot of the parking seekers from the areas,” she said.

At a recent Association of Sheridan Road Condominium/Condo Owners board meeting Clark attended, an attendee maintained that Loyola should build a new parking garage to replace the 55 lost spaces. In a neighborhood that’s well served by buses and trains, she doesn’t think that makes sense. “No matter how much parking you build it’s never enough for everyone who lives on a street,” she told me. “Building and encouraging driving will just create more congestion.”

Clark said that Loyola hired transportation planning firm KLOA to do a study of the potential traffic impact of the Kenmore closing in 2011, before construction started, and now the company is doing a second study. “The current closure lets us see what the impacts really are.” At the condo association meeting, the same resident argued that Kenmore should remain open to through traffic because it’s a useful shortcut for drivers to bypass traffic jams on Sheridan. “I hear him on the congestion issue,” she told me. “But relieving congestion on Sheridan by letting cars speed down Kenmore is not a reason to keep the street open. That’s crazy.”

  • Erik Swedlund

    I’ve missed the bike lane; the current closure has had me detouring around the area. I’m very happy to hear of these plans to close the street yet retain the bike lane.

  • Is there any other company out there beside KLOA to do traffic studies? I’m not a fan of some of their work.

    If any organization is interested in hiring an alternative company to do traffic studies, check out Sam Schwartz Engineering.

  • Tawani Enterprises is using one of KLOA’s traffic studies to argue that their proposed 250-car garage in Rogers Park won’t negatively impact traffic: http://chi.streetsblog.org/2013/01/28/a-mistake-by-the-lake-developer-wants-a-250-car-garage-in-rogers-park/

  • Regarding your map, the contraflow lane on Albion only goes as far west as Lakewood. The section of Albion between Glenwood and Lakewood is very narrow and can’t accommodate bikes going against automobile traffic. So, to access Glenwood going west, one should head north at Lakewood and use North Shore to reach Glenwood.

  • Anonymous

    If Loyola wants to fix the parking issues, they should do something with all the empty parking in the 4+1’s they’ve turned into dorms on the 6200 blocks of Kenmore/Winthrop. I’m by there quite frequently and the parking under those buildings is nearly empty. They should lease out that existing parking in lieu of building a parking structure

  • Ryan Wallace

    Many other companies do traffic studies in the Chicagoland area. It depends on the size and scope of the intersection. The company I work for does some, but we typically partner with other firms.

  • Thanks for the clarification.

  • I’m not a fan of KLOA’s work either. BTW, it includes traffic studies on the 91st & Western mega strip mall that’s opening soon. Not looking forward to that clusterf&*#

  • Keeping that bike route on Kenmore is especially important to folks who live north of Devon and east of Sheridan. I know plenty of people who live there, and that issue is a biggie for them.

  • John

    There are dozens of firms that do traffic studies, but for some reason KLOA does a lot of development impact studies. They must do it for a low price?

  • Let me guess, their study says that “traffic won’t be that bad” and the developer should stripe a crosswalk and pay for a pedestrian countdown signal to improve pedestrian safety.

  • That’s a joke. High and central availability of car parking is one of the the largest causes of traffic!

  • urbaneddie

    that view is looking south from west sheridan road, not devon ave.

  • bdickus2001

    The “campus map” at the top of this post is inaccurate and misleading. There are several buildings indicated as being part of the Loyola campus which are neither part of the campus nor owned by the university.

  • That would be Google’s call, based on whichever data source they have. OpenStreetMap has a similar “campus area” designation, which is editable by users. See here: http://www.openstreetmap.org/?lat=41.99993&lon=-87.65994&zoom=17&layers=M

    I think the goal is to envelop everything in the area without having donut holes or a wildly meandering boundary.

  • You’re correct; even though that street is the same latitude as Devon, 6400 North, it’s called Sheridan at that stretch. Thanks, I’ll tweak that.

  • Pretty much, plus removing a parking lane on westbound 95th and replacing it with a traffic lane from Leavitt to Western, and adding a stoplight at 92nd Place, opposite Rainbow Cone.

    Needless to say, nobody in Beverly believes the “traffic won’t be that bad” part.

  • Boyee

    DePaul also tried to close a block of Kenmore Avenue on it’s Lincoln Park Campus.

  • Correct, here’s our last article about that: http://gridchicago.com/2012/an-update-on-the-kenmore-green-proposal/ I’ll try to provide an update soon.

  • jeff wegerson

    I would love to read an article here that lays out what goes into a “traffic study” of the sorts mentioned here. As I think about it now, it seems to me that the protocol for reporting on the results of a study should include the details on the methodology as well as the supplemental details of the study. Not sure what I am suggesting here. I know that one of the results of blogging on political polling has been the raising of the awareness of what goes into a political poll and where the assumptions locate.

  • jeff wegerson

    Slightly OT here but to me the whole notion of “contra flow” provisions for bikes is a joke. The root error of designing for bikes lies in the notion that bikes and cars should share the same regulations. It is well known that stop signs are really yield signs for bikes. Some places even codify that reality.

    An other crazy notion is that bikes should not go the “wrong” way on one way streets. I get that drivers only look in one direction for cross traffic on a one way street. But other than that I have always felt safer going contra on a one way. I can see the car coming at me. I am on the same side of the car as the driver so more visible to them. I am facing the passenger side of parked cars and can see a potential dooring easier as can the passenger see me better.

    As for the so-called Albion width problem mentioned somewhere here, give me a break. It’s ok for a biker to be squeezed between a car going the same way but not one going the opposite way? Or it’s ok for a car to have to slow down to go the same speed as a bike because of the lack of room but not ok to have the bike or the car stop for a pass in the opposite direction?

    Sorry for the rant.

  • jeff wegerson

    THE BIG PICTURE. As in make no small plans.

    Cars and bikes between Hollywood and Evanston share a common problem. Well actually the residents of Edgewater and Rogers Park have a problem with cars and bikes. The problem is that Lincoln Park needs to be extended to Evanston. Probably via Islands, but no matter, it’s all pie in the sky.

    But it’s important to keep in mind the ultimate solution as the
    next solution depends on people remembering what the real solution is.

    The next solution is taking a lane away from Sheridan Rd and putting in
    curb-protected bike lane extensions of the Lakefront bike trail. You
    then take another lane from Sheridan Road (at least to Devon) for left
    turners. See Greenbay Road in Wilmette and others. But, but … the
    buses.

    You can’t change Sheridan there (between Hollywood and Devon) without also changing Broadway. You get the buses off of Sheridan and send them down Broadway in their own exclusive curbside bus lane. This is not BRT, don’t get me wrong. Indeed the lane would be shared with bikes on Broadway like they do in Paris, France. Then in the middle of the street would be a car parking lane except where a left turn lane is needed. And then a car traffic lane.

    Viola the new Broadway and the new Sheridan. During rush hour between Broadway and Sheridan on Hollywood, you put in a reversible lane for those people headed for LSD but kicked off of Sheridan and onto Broadway. So rush hour Hollywood between Sheridan and Broadway would be three lanes one way and one lane the other. That satisfies the need to send four simultaneous lanes onto the LSD at Hollywood and Sheridan during rush hour.

    In reality we should only have to supply a single lane for the passing through commuters. Then we could close Sheridan from Broadway to the Lake for the Loyola campus. As long as Loyola guarantees and maintains a good north bound bike route through their campus.

    The congestion screamers from up north need to lobby Cook County to help pay for the Lincoln Park extension.

  • duppie

    One word why this will not work: ASCO.

    Ok, it’s an acronym, not a word…

  • Busses and bikes sharing lanes doesn’t work, because neither the busses nor the bikes like getting stuck behind each other.

  • jeff wegerson

    Actually this is ASCOs dream!

    Unless you are talking Islands in the Lake. In that case they don’t get a vote. No one on the lake gets to vote on those.

  • jeff wegerson

    So what. Actually there won’t be that many bikes. They will trend over to Sheridan.

  • Biking on Sheridan is a death trap, not just because of the speeding cars, but because of lots of slow-moving pedestrians and sooooo many driveway curb cuts where people bomb out without looking. Sheridan is de facto the northern extension of LSD, and drivers treat it accordingly … it’s going to take massive reengineering of the entire area to change that.

  • jeff wegerson

    Elliot, you must not have read my original comment. Did you not see the part where I eliminate an entire lane of Sheridan and split it into two protected bike lanes, on Sheridan?

  • That’s not happening either, unless you manage to convince all those aldermen (and all the screaming drivers who’ve gotten used to the status quo) to move the bulk of northbound-off-LSD traffic … somewhere else. And there is no better prospect. Broadway is a slower, more business-oriented street (like Milwaukee) and should stay people-focussed. There isn’t enough free asphalt anywhere within a mile or so of the lakeshore to take all the cars that want to bomb north off LSD (instead of taking the Kennedy from downtown in the first place) if you take Sheridan out of the equation.

    Besides, even narrower, I’m not convinced they wouldn’t speed anyway. I’ve driven and walked through that area for over a decade and the amount of entitlement the velocitized speedwayers feel about their ‘right’ to continue traveling 50+ mph up Sheridan is amazing.

    I think the idea of putting in an elevated Lakeshore Path extension IN the lake for some of the further northward expanse is a much more likely scenario, economically and politically.

  • This is superb and almost new for me. Thanks for making me aware of it.
    sb game hacker apk