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Posts from the Neighborhoods Category

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Eyes on the Street: Tactical Urbanism Blooms on Broadway

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Looking east from Halsted at Broadway. Who can we thank for these cute planters that prevent illegal right turns? Photo: Justin Haugens

Last month when the city put up signs banning right turns from northbound Halsted onto southbound Broadway at Grace, eliminating a slip lane, the intersection became little safer. Thanks to what appears to be a guerrilla intervention by an unknown party, the site also became a little prettier.

Streetsblog reader Justin Haugens recently spotted some attractive planter boxes places next to the crosswalk. I have witnessed drivers disobeying the “Do Not Enter” and “No Right Turn” signs the Chicago Department of Transportation installed, so the planters serve to discourage such lawbreaking, as well as beautify the corner.

CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey did not immediately know who was responsible for placing the flowering plants.

The Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce has launched a petition asking CDOT to reverse the turn ban, arguing that it disrupts traffic in the area. When I called chamber director Maureen Martino to ask about the planters, she laughed out loud and said she had know idea where they came from. She said she would look check in with CDOT about the matter.

Martino said the chamber is still fighting to reinstate right turns from Halsted onto Broadway. “The whole area was a hot mess during last week’s Cubs games,” she said. “Normally that right turn serves as a relief valve for traffic when Halsted gets jammed up.” Frankly, it’s hard to imagine that this location three blocks northeast of the stadium is ever not a hot mess during ballgames.

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Chicago’s First Metra-Oriented Development Proposed in Edgebrook

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The development, at 5306 West Devon, would be only a five-minute walk from Metra, and a short pedal to the North Branch Trail. Image: Google Maps

So far, almost all of the 30-or-so transit-oriented developments planned, under construction, or completed in Chicago have been near CTA stations and within a few miles of the Loop. However, it appears a four-story condominium building planned for the Edgebrook neighborhood on the Far Northwest Side would be the city’s Metra-friendly TOD, more than 11 miles from Daley Plaza.

To top it off, the new structure, located a short pedal from the North Branch Trail, is being marketed as a bicycle-centric development with the clever name “Bicycle Flats of Edgebrook.” The developer is Ambrosia Homes Inc.

Nadig Newspapers reported that that the condo project has been proposed for a 3,000-square-foot vacant lot at 5306 West Devon, about a quarter-mile east of the Edgebrook station on Metra’s Union Pacific-North Line, 5438 West Devon. Despite the long distance from the Loop, the train commute between Edgebrook and the Loop is only about a half hour, with some runs taking as little as 25 minutes.

The building would feature seven two-bedroom condos and one ground-floor live/work space, but only three car-parking spots. Thanks to the September 2015 update to the city’s TOD ordinance, new residential buildings within a quarter-mile of a station are no longer required to provide car spaces.

Meanwhile, the bicycle-themed project would provide 16 indoor bike parking spaces, plus outdoor racks for short-term parking. The developer is also looking into the possibility of paying the city to install a Divvy station in front of the building, as a South Loop developer did last August at a cost of $56,000.

Having a bike-share station available for condo residents, guests, and other Edgebrook residents who might like to check out bikes to take a spin on the North Branch Trail, located a few blocks west, would be an appealing amenity. The trail extends north from Devon about 18 miles to the Chicago Botanic Gardens, and the Cook County Forest Preserve District is currently building an extension that will take the trail three miles further southeast into the city, to around Foster and Pulaski.

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Cast Your Vote for the Milwaukee Avenue Bike Counter Design

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Wicker Park/Bucktown

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Comic Book

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1st Ward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a chance to have your say on what Chicago’s newest piece of bike infrastructure will look like.

The real estate company LG Development, in conjunction with the Chicago Department of Transportation, is planning to install a bike counter in front of a transit-oriented development they’re building at 1241 North Milwaukee in Wicker Park. They received three different proposals for the image panels of the counter, a vertical, rectangular device called an Eco-TOTEM, manufactured by the Montreal-based company Eco Counter, and they’ve asked Streetsblog to host the poll to pick the winner

The proposed designs include “Wicker Park/Bucktown” by Transit Tees, “Comic Book” by J. Byrnes from Fourth is King, and “1st Ward” by Clemente High School. You can cast your vote by clicking on one of the buttons below. The poll will be open until Saturday, April 30.

A display at the top of the bike counter will show the number of cyclists who have passed each day. A vertical display will show the total number of bike trips on the stretch for the year. As in other cities, the nearly real-time data will be posted on a website, and CDOT will also have direct access to the info.

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Dozens of Residents Showed Up for This Week’s South Side Bikeways Meetings

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Tuesday’s meeting. Photo: Anne Alt

After poor turnout from locals at last month’s two West Side bikeways hearing, with a total of only five area residents attending, there was a much better turnout at the two South Side meetings this week. The input sessions are part of a strategy by the Chicago Department of Transportation to improve bike equity for these parts of the city, which have historically gotten sparser bike lane coverage than the North and Northwest Sides, where more residents have advocated for them.

Monday night about 20 people attended a hearing at the Vodak-East Side Library in the East Side neighborhood, according to CDOT officials. I went to Tuesday’s meeting in Pullman where about 40 people showed up, including a staffer for 9th Ward alderman Anthony Beale. Many Pullman residents were there, along with people from the Riverdale community area, Beverly, and South Shore. Both meetings focused on the area roughly bounded by Vincennes, 91st, the lake, Indiana, and the Calumet River.

CDOT’s Mike Amsden of CDOT did a presentation explaining the planning process for the city’s Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, which was released in 2012. “What happened to the Bike 2015 Plan?” asked one attendee. Amsden explained that Bike 2015 was all about policy, while Streets for Cycling focuses on building a citywide bike network.

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The South Side study area

Prior to these meetings, CDOT reps met with Beale, 10th Ward alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza, and staff for aldermen Carrie Austin (34th) and Greg Mitchell (7th). Aldermen Howard Brookins (21st) and Michelle Harris (8th) were notified but did not schedule meetings.

Additional meetings were held with community organizations and institutions, including Southeast Environmental Task Force, Southeast Chicago Commission Pullman Civic Organization, Chicago State University, LISC Chicago, and Beverly Area Planning Association.

CDOT is taking public input on a draft of the proposed route map and weighing it along with technical criteria (route and feasibility analysis, as described in the presentation) in order to prioritize which routes should be built next.

Funding for route design is available now, although construction funding is not available for all mapped routes. Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds can be used, but planning and approval for CMAQ-funded bikeways takes a few years. Locally funded projects can be built faster, but city and state budget issues limit that option.

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People Will Win if Wrigley Field Streets are Closed to Vehicle Traffic

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On game days, pedestrians fill the Addison/Clark intersection. Why bother keeping it open to vehicle traffic during these times? Photo: Peter Tauch

Two local politicians have proposed changing the streets around Wrigley Field to help defend it from terrorist attacks. Instead we should be looking at ways to protect the area from an excess of car traffic.

U.S. representative Mike Quigley (5th district) recently floated the idea of pedestrianizing Clark and Addison Streets during game days to prevent attacks. A spokesperson for Quigley clarified that while he hasn’t proposed anything specific yet, he’s interested in restricting private vehicle traffic during games but allowing buses and pedestrians to use Addison and Clark.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has previously rejected the idea of pedestrianizing these streets. But on Wednesday he announced he’d seek federal funding to widen the sidewalk on the south side (Addison) of the ballpark by four feet and add concrete bollards or planters to improve security.

“There [are] ways to achieve the security without shutting down Clark and Addison,” he told the Tribune. “We can do it in another way without all the other kind of ramifications that shutting down a major intersection [would entail].”

Quigley’s office released a statement yesterday endorsing Emanuel’s plan and offering help secure the federal funding.

While widening the sidewalk is a step in the right direction, more should be done to improve pedestrian and transit access to Wrigley. As it stands, motor vehicles can already barely get through Addison and Clark before and after games, when some 42,000 fans flood the intersection, and pedestrians in the street are at risk of being struck.

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After Driver Injures Senior at Devon/Greenview, City May Fix Intersection

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Devon and Greenview, looking east. Image: Google Street View

On Wednesday at around 4 p.m. a motorist struck and injured an elderly woman at the intersection of Devon and Greenview, on the border between Edgewater and Rogers Park.

The woman who was struck is 70 years old and she was taken to St. Francis Hospital in critical condition, according to Officer Kevin Quaid from Police News Affairs. As of Saturday afternoon, the woman was in intensive care. The driver, a 43-year-old man, was cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in the roadway and driving without a license.

Local resident Alana Hanson saw the crash occur as she was walking to pick up her young son from a daycare center near the intersection. “It was horrifying to witness, but I can’t say it was surprising given how much harassment I face crossing that street with my son twice a day,” she said.

Hanson added that drivers on Devon, the main street, routinely ignore the intersection’s four-way stop signs and fail to yield to pedestrians crossing north-south. “I’ve had drivers lay on their horn, rev their engines at me, and zoom around me as I’m in the crosswalk with a stroller,” she said. She added that the Chicago Department of Transportation previously installed “Stop for Pedestrians” signs at the intersection, but they were both flattened within two weeks.

Devon is the border of the 48th and 49th Ward, and Hanson says she has contacted both offices to ask if other pedestrian safety improvements could be made at the intersection, such as restriping of the crosswalks, or the construction of curb bump-outs, a pedestrian island or raised crosswalks – which have proved effective in reducing speeding by Palmer Square park.

Hanson hopes the city will make robust changes to the dangerous intersection. “I feel like the only way to get anyone to drive considerately is to force the behavior with physical barriers,” she said. “Making drivers worry about damaging their cars is the only thing I’ve ever seen have a real effect on dangerous driving.”

Greenview jogs west north of Devon, which makes for poor sightlines. There are also curb cuts for a gas station at the northwest corner, and the parking lot of the Devon Market grocery store on the northeast corner, which present a hazard for pedestrians.

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This Year’s 49th Ward PB Ballot Includes a Few Transit Projects

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A 49th Ward participatory budgeting expo. Photo: 49th Ward

Each of Chicago’s 50 wards gets an annual $1.3 million in discretionary “menu” funding to spend on infrastructure projects each year. Usually the alderman decides how the money is spent and typically most of the money is used for traditional projects like street resurfacing, sidewalk repair, and streetlamp installation.

However, the growing participatory budget movement, which lets constituents vote on how menu money is spent, has paved the way for more innovative uses, including many sustainable transportation projects. Seven years ago 49th Ward alderman Joe Moore pioneered participatory budgeting in the United States, and this year six other wards are holding PB elections:

Ward 10 – Susan Sadlowski Garza
Ward 17 – David H. Moore
Ward 31 – Milly Santiago
Ward 35 – Carlos Ramirez-Rosa
Ward 36 – Gilbert Villegas
Ward 45 – John Arena

In recent years, some activists in Moore’s diverse Rogers Park ward have argued that the PB process, intended to make the decision-making process for spending ward money more democratic, actually favors wealthier residents. They noted that there was relatively low participation from low-income residents, people of color, and Spanish speakers.

Moore’s assistant Wayne Frazier, who handles infrastructure issues, told me that the ward did additional outreach this year, and new residents were involved. The work of a Spanish outreach committee resulted in good turnout at the ward’s Spanish-language PB meetings, and there were generally 35 to 60 residents at all of this year’s PB meetings, Frazier said.

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Why Does Ramirez-Rosa Want to Rezone a Parking Lot by the Logan Stop?

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The Emmett Street parking lot is connected to the Logan Square CTA station via a small sidewalk.

A parking lot next to the Logan Square Blue Line station that’s ripe for redevelopment is under review for a zoning change. 35th Ward alder Carlos Ramirez-Rosa intends to change the zoning district from a very low-density, mixed-use B1-1 designation to RT-4, a residential district designation. That type of zoning allows only single-family homes and two-flats.

Rodrigo Anzures-Oyorzabal, the 35th Ward’s legislative and policy director, said that the proposed zoning change is in response to input from community groups who feel that zoning districts in the ward should be changed to be consistent. The prevailing zoning district on Emmett Street, on the north side of the parking lot, is RT-4, although many of the buildings don’t conform to this because they have more units than the current designation allows. The RT-4 zone makes it ineligible for parking minimum reductions that the TOD ordinance allows.

The zoning change doesn’t move the parking lot any further along to being developed, and conflicts with recommendations from a series of charrettes that gathered input from nearby residents on what they would like to see on the land, currently used for car storage.

Anzures-Oyorzabal said that while no community group contacted the office specifically about the parking lot, “we know this lot is going to be important to many people,” adding that the zoning consistency change isn’t unique to this lot.

Rosa ended up deferring the zoning change discussion at this week’s meeting because the Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) said they needed more time to review the zoning change’s potential effect on the city’s contract with LAZ Parking to manage and maintain the parking lot. LAZ also manages the city’s pay-and-display parking meters.

DPD has multiple options for pursuing private development on city-owned land. They can issue a request for proposals from developers, stating specific guidelines for the type of land use they would like to see. Ideally the development prerequisites in the RFP would be shaped by the alder and residents.

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Outgoing 606 Project Manager Discusses The Trail’s Impact on Neighborhoods

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Beth White on the half-finished Bloomingdale Trail in December 2014. Photo: John Greenfield

The Trust for Public Land’s Chicago director Beth White announced last week that she will be leaving Chicago to take a new job as president and CEO of the nonprofit Houston Parks Board, beginning in June.

White is best known here as the woman who led the development of the $95 million, 2.7-mile Bloomingdale Trail elevated greenway and its access parks, a collectively known as The 606. Jamie Simone, currently the director of TPL’s Chicago urban parks program, will take over as the organization’s interim director after White steps down.

In her new position, White will oversee the implementation of the $220 million Bayou Greenways 2020 initiative to create 160-mile system of interconnected trails and parks along the Texas city’s waterways. The project was made possible by a $100 million city bond measure, which TPL helped get passed.

I checked in yesterday with White to discuss the challenges of managing The 606, which recently won an award from the American Planning Association, and what she believes its legacy will be.

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White, Mayor Emanuel, CDOT’s Rebekah Scheinfeld, and the park district’s Michael Kelly tour the trail prior to opening day. Photo: John Greenfield

White told me that one of most difficult aspects of getting the trail built was coordinating with all the different entities involved. These included multiple city departments, Canadian National Railway (which previously owned the right-of-way the trail is built on), the design team, community organizations and residents, and private donors.

“There were so many moving parts, and sustaining the project over time was challenging, what with all the ups and downs in the economy and the changes in leadership,” she said. “But it’s a testament to the project that so many people were committed to it that we were able to get it done.”

The greenway has been nearly universally cited as a wonderful amenity for Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, and Logan Square. However, many have argued that the trail has accelerated the pace of gentrification in Humboldt and Logan.

For example, in January dozens of residents held an anti-displacement rally after a developer announced plans for luxury town houses a block south of the trail, priced at $929,000 each. Community leaders in Pilsen and Little Village recently told me they feel the city should be more proactive about preserving affordability when it builds the recently announced Paseo trail through these neighborhoods.

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Raised Crosswalks Have Dramatically Reduced Speeding by Palmer Square

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The easternmost raised crosswalk on Palmer Boulevard. Photo: John Greenfield

Yesterday evening Steven Vance and I conducted speed counts that quantify what we already suspected to be true. The new raised crosswalks on the north side of Palmer Square park are calming traffic and making it safer for residents to access the green space. While, prior to installation, about 75 percent of motorists on the street were observed exceeding the 25 mph speed limit, yesterday less than 38 percent of them were.

Last December the Chicago Department of Transportation converted the two marked, mid-block crosswalks on the north side of the park to raised crosswalks, also known as speed tables. 32nd Ward alderman Scott Waguespack funded the $115,000 project, which also included additional curb-and-gutter work, with ward menu money.

The change came about after years of advocacy by neighbors who said the quarter-mile stretch of Palmer Boulevard north of the green space was plagued by speeding. The street has three westbound travel lanes, with light traffic volumes and no stoplights or stop signs, which encourages high speeds.

In July 2014, Steven and Streetsblog contributor Justin Haugens used a speed gun to measure motor vehicle speeds on the north side of the park during the evening rush. During three 15-minute observations between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., they clocked 168 drivers — 75 percent of all observed motorists — exceeding the posted 25 mph speed limit. About a third of all observed drivers were going faster than 30 mph, the default citywide speed limit. Five drivers exceeded 40 mph.

Soon after the safety infrastructure went in, I observed that drivers were hitting their brakes as they approached the crosswalks. Last night Steven and I conducted two 15-minute counts between 5:45 and 6:30 p.m. on the westbound roadway. We did one count about a quarter of a block west of the easternmost speed table, and the other at about the same distance west of the westernmost one.

Out of the 93 motorists we clocked, only 35 – less than 38 percent – were exceeding the 25 mph posted speed limit. Only five drivers were going faster than 30 mph – that’s less than 6 percent. And no one was driving faster than 36 mph.

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