People Spots Return to Andersonville; A People Street May Be Coming

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The Olive People Spot. Photo: Andersonville Development Corporation

It’s a sure sign of spring when Chicago’s People Spot mini-parks start reappearing. Workers recently reinstalled the parklet at Addison and Southport in Lakeview, featuring undulating, vertebrae-like benches, assembled from some 375 wooden cross-sections. Yesterday the Andersonville Development Corporation, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable community and economic development, reinstalled the People Spot at the southwest corner of Clark and Olive, by the Coffee Studio café and Piatto Pronto deli.

The Clark/Olive parklet debuted in September and was only up for a couple of months before it was mothballed for the winter, so it’s probably less familiar to Streetsblog readers than Andersonville’s other People Spot at Clark and Farragut, which opened in 2012. That space, which features boxy benches, planters, a colorful mural, and a sloping, sod-covered perch, will be reopening in the near future, according to ADC sustainability programs manager Brian Bonanno.

The newer parklet, which includes benches, a stand-up coffee bar, and planter boxes, is made from repurposed wood from the Rebuilding Exchange, a local construction materials recycler. Bonnano hopes to add plants next week. While the Farragut People Spot cost roughly $30,000, funded by money from the local special service area, donations from local businesses, and $8,000 from a Kickstarter campaign, the Olive parklet cost less than $15,000 in ADC and SSA funds. “The idea was to make it more affordable, and showcase what you can do with recycled materials and still have a very functional space,” Bonanno said.

The two Andersonville People Spots see different use patterns. The Olive location was an instant hit customers at the café and deli who tend to linger. The Farragut parklet, which isn’t located in front of an eatery, attracts shorter-term use by people relaxing, talking on the phone, or enjoying a cone from nearby George’s Ice Cream. “The People Spots have been really popular,” said Bonanno. “There have been some people who are not happy about losing parking spaces, but the positive feedback outweighs that.”

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Brian Bonanno with an on-street bike corral. Photo: Andersonville Development Corporation

In addition to the two parklets, Andersonville is home to six of the city’s 25 on-street bike parking corrals. All stayed in place this winter, except for the one in front of the Hopleaf tavern, 5148 North Clark, which was reinstalled a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, one of the on-street racks on Clark near Farragut was damaged when a delivery truck backed into it.

Right now, city guidelines only permit low plastic curbs and flexible posts as protection for the racks, which aren’t sufficient for preventing that kind of crash, Bonanno said. “Hopefully, we can talk with the city in the future about using planters or other more substantial barriers, as other cities do,” Bonanno said.

In other public space news, the ADC is looking into pedestrianizing Olive, or another side street on the less-busy northerly section of the business strip, once a month between Clark and Ashland for a public market. Currently, Berwyn between Clark and Ashland is opened to pedestrians for a farmers market on Wednesdays from May to October. The new market would food and craft vendors, and possibly live music and outdoor movies.

“The idea [of pedestrianizing Olive] is to quietly introduce the idea of a People Street,” Bonanno said. “It would be nice at some point to have a year-round, or at least seasonal, pedestrian street, like Kempf Plaza in Lincoln Square. We want people to say, ‘Hey, when this block is closed to cars and there’s stuff going on, it’s pretty cool.’”

  • They should pedestrianize the section of Berwyn between Clark and Ashland. It’s already a farmers market in summer, and I’m sure drivers could make the two block diversion to another street that goes over to Ashland in favor of a great pedestrian space similar to Kempf plaza in Lincoln Square.

    Also, those bike corrals are awesome and usually full at the evening when I see them. All Andersonville is lacking is protected bicycle lanes.

  • Vitaliy Vladimirov

    Agreed on the Berwyn block needing to be pedestrianized. The other thing Aville needs is a couple more Divvy stations, especially in “west Andersonville.” :)

  • duppie

    In other good news, The “stop for pedestrian signs” were replaced this week in Andersonville.The previous ones lasted a year and a half. Not bad for a $400 traffic calming device.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Wow over $50,000 to build two parklets. Do they have plumbing and electrical? Probably could have gone to Home Depot for a lot less. How much in addition do they pay to the parking meter company for taking out the spots for the summer?

  • The spots are replaced with new ones created elsewhere in the ward, and, since the parklets are in place for only part of the year, the city gets to bank credit with the parking concessionaire.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    So if the $50000+, doesn’t include the payment for the spots, the costs for construction of these “temporary” areas is rather pricey.

  • BlueFairlane

    I have to agree. I don’t see $50,000 for what appear to be a couple of four-foot-wide decks.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    My deck cost about $5,000, and that included landscaping.

  • duppie

    Not sure what your concern is. The $50k came from the ADC and a Kickstarter campaign. No government funding was required.

  • If I can shed a little light on the costs, the parklet is about 300 sq ft (7’x44′) and the pricing stated in the article includes all soft and hard costs. CDOT requires that the base (or ‘foundation’) of the parklet meet certain parameters typical for construction in the public right-of-way. I can assure you that the construction standards are more rigorous than a typical residential deck or what you can source from Home Depot. In fact, the only accepted base, up until last year, was produced by only one supplier. The base represented about a third of the construction costs. Consider also that the parklet essentially has to ‘float’ above the street so stormwater drainage is not impacted.

    We were able to acquire some donated materials for the Farragut parklet, however, it still needs to be assembled in such a way that it can be broken down each fall, adding to the complexity and cost.

    Although some funds were received from the Kickstarter campaign, the local SSA (which is funded by property taxes) did cover the rest.

  • tooter turtle

    In less good news, I have noticed that most drivers still ignore them. It does seem, though, that driver compliance is slightly better than last year, so I’d agree they are a good investment. It’s just frustrating that drivers as a whole are so dim.

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