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.”
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.’”