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Posts from the "Neighborhoods" Category


Six Corners Businesses Welcome More Bikes, Fewer Drive-Throughs

City Newsstand and their sidewalk café will be getting an on-street bike parking corral if $10,000 is raised.

City Newsstand is slated to gain an on-street bike parking corral — if local businesses can raise $10,000.

Six Corners businesses are hosting a bike ride this evening to raise money for three bike parking corrals, which will provide 36 bike parking spaces in place of three car parking spaces. The Six Corners Bike Committee formed this summer to improve conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians around the business district surrounding the three-way intersection of Cicero Avenue, Irving Park Road, and Milwaukee Avenue. Wisconsin bike rack manufacturer Saris has said that, if the group can raise $10,000 before November 1, they’ll donate a fourth corral, increasing the number of bike parking spaces to 48.

Six Corners Association program manager Kelli Wefenstette said that more than 20 businesses have opened or will open this year around the corners. “As shopping increases,” she said in an email, “we want to increase safety for those of all ages and abilities traveling to our pedestrian shopping destination.” Six Corners may be taking a cue from its Milwaukee Avenue neighbors in Logan Square and Wicker Park, where bike parking corrals have proven popular.

The corrals would be installed at City Newsstand (4018 N. Cicero Avenue), the mixed-use Klee Plaza building (4015 N. Milwaukee Avenue), and the Slingshots teen center (4839 W. Irving Park Road). The fourth bike corral’s location hasn’t been determined.

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Experts Critique 28 Community Proposals for Logan Square ‘L’ Site

Table 16′s proposal, as illustrated by Canopy Architecture.

On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Planning Council concluded the Corridor Development Initiative, a series of three public meetings that brought area residents together to envision a new development atop the entrance to the Logan Square ‘L’ station. 35th Ward Alderman Rey Colón enthusiastically noted that this was by far the best-attended of the three meetings. The meeting, he also said, clearly demonstrated the difficult (and expensive) trade-offs necessary in the development process, and especially if this development will accommodate the many different goals that emerged during the meetings.

The two earlier meetings started with a broad discussion about community needs and then used wooden blocks to shape those ideas into three-dimensional proposals. While MPC is preparing a final report, they’ve set up an online survey to gather feedback from the public, including those who couldn’t attend any of the meetings.

The 16 small groups at the second meeting created 28 different development proposals. The average across all the proposals included four-story buildings (about the same height as surrounding structures), with 54 housing units, 9,000 square feet of retail, 40 parking spaces, and open space covering one-third of the site (i.e., about half an acre). Many of the proposals suggested housing (89 percent), retail (79 percent), affordable housing (63 percent), community space (62 percent), and fewer suggested an indoor market (41 percent) or offices (31 percent).

After that meeting, a panel of development industry professionals vetted each of the proposals for financial feasibility. They considered the different uses in each proposal, construction costs, operating costs, rental revenues, the cost of the land (estimated at $6 million), and advantageous financing sources like federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits and the city’s Tax Increment Financing. This analysis turned up a “funding gap” for every proposal, indicating that several million more dollars would have to be found in order to build the suggested structure.

Four of the 28 proposals, including the two pictured here, were studied in greater detail by the professionals and illustrated by architects. (All of the proposals were described and illustrated in materials handed out at the meeting and available at MPC’s website.) MPC presented these four scenarios, along the constructive suggestions that would make the scenario financially feasible. In the scenario illustrated above, for example, the financial analysis found that the proposal would need an additional $5.6 million to be buildable. Those funds, the panel suggested that one-fourth of the proposal’s open space be replaced with retail or residential buildings — but, when asked, the meeting attendees rejected that idea.

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New People Spots Are Part of Strategy to Energize Ho-Hum Stretch of Clark


“Color Guard” People Spot by Osteria De Pizza Metro. Photo: John Greenfield

In July, two new “People Spot” mini parks debuted on an Lackluster segment of Clark near Wellington, as part of a larger campaign to revitalize the business strip.

The new parklets are located in front of El Nuevo Mexicano restaurant, 2914 North Clark, and Osteria De Pizza Metro, 2863 North Clark. They cost a total of about $35,000, which was bankrolled by the local special service area, and they’re manged by the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, according to executive director Maureen Martino. “Sometimes it’s a challenge to activate a street,” she said. “We’re hoping this will bring more customers for local businesses.”

Judging from a recent report by the Metropolitan Planning Council, the People Spots should help make this somewhat sleepy stretch of Clark livelier and more profitable. About 80 percent of the merchants surveyed said that the parklets, which occupy space in a parking lane, increased foot traffic on their block and helped bring shoppers to their establishments. Some credited the People Spots with contributing to a 10 to 20 percent increase in sales since they were installed.


Parklet by El Nuevo Mexicano restaurant. Photo: John Greenfield

The parklet by the Mexican restaurant replaced a loading zone and one metered car space, while the one by the Italian eatery used two parking spots. In compliance with the city’s parking contract, the three spaces were replaced with new metered spots on nearby streets. The People Spots will revert to parking on November 1, and they’ll be reinstalled in the spring.

Both spaces feature café-style tables and chairs, plus free Wi-Fi. Duane Sohl, from Sohl.Architect, designed the one by El Nuevo Mexicano. It’s surrounded by metal planter boxes featuring framed panels designed by local artists.

The other parklet, created by Katherine Darnstadt of Latent Design, is enclosed by a fence made of large PVC plastic tubes, which double as planters. The red, purple and green colors of the tubes playfully spill over onto the sidewalk as a rainbow-like paint puddle that leads to the restaurant’s storefront. The People Spot is titled “Color Guard,” and Martino said the name reflects the diversity of the neighborhood.

Signs on the People Spots make it clear that the seating is open to the public. However, since the spaces resemble sidewalk cafes, and are located by sit-down restaurants, some passers-by may assume that they’re reserved for paying customers. Martino said the chamber may change some of the seating next year to make the spaces more inviting for different uses, as is the case at more free-form parklets at Southport and Addison, and in Andersonville.

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Eyes on the Street: Construction Pushes Walkers Into Fullerton Ave.

Dangerous construction site conditions

One person walks in the construction site at Washtenaw and Fullerton, while another walks in the roadway.

Pedestrians walking along Fullerton Avenue in Logan Square have been forced off the sidewalks, and into the street, by Bigane Paving’s curb ramp construction. Bigane has failed to provide the required detour for pedestrians, so pedestrians have to walk in the street amidst busy traffic.

Worse yet, people who use wheelchairs aren’t able to use the now non-existent sidewalk at all. Local parent Gin Kilgore wrote us to say “a mother at Goethe School rolls with her child to school in a wheelchair, and said it’s very difficult for her to travel on Fullerton sidewalks now.”

Dangerous construction site conditions

A woman walks through the curb ramp construction site at California and Fullerton.

I notified the Chicago Department of Transportation on Thursday morning, after Kilgore informed me about the problem up and down Fullerton. The situation has persisted on both sides of Fullerton for more than a week. According to the city’s open data portal, Bigane is doing the sidewalk repairs before a larger contract to resurface Fullerton.

A CDOT official responded soon after my email yesterday, telling me that the contractor would have the sites changed by the end of Thursday. Yet this morning, the detours still weren’t in place. One resident had this to say in response to the conditions this morning:

CDOT’s rules and regulations specify that a contractor must develop a detour plan before disrupting a pedestrian or transit facility, and provide a protected walkway on the same side of the street when such disruptions happen. It also says, “Pedestrians should not be led into conflict with vehicles, equipment, and operations around the work site.”

Construction now blocks off the entire bus stop area

The construction area around the curb ramp on the southwest corner of Fullerton at California blocks people from boarding at the bus stop here.

Tell us where else you see contractors failing to provide detours around sidewalk construction.

Updated to add transit. 


MPC Study Provides Data on the Economic Benefits of People Spots


The Southport People Spot. Photo: John Greenfield

From a quick glance at a People Spot mini park filled with people enjoying the weather on a gorgeous afternoon, it may seem obvious that the extra foot traffic is providing a boost to nearby businesses. A recent study by the Metropolitan Planning Council attempted to quantify this economic benefit, and found that these parklets do, in fact, provide a significant shot in the arm for local retail.

Chicago’s People Spots repurpose asphalt in a street’s curb lane to use it as public space for residents, rather than parking space for private cars. These are facilitated by the Chicago Department of Transportation and paid for by local businesses. They consist of a seating area on a platform in the street, surrounded by planters, which shelter users from car traffic.

The design can range from a typical sidewalk café-style layout, with tables and chairs, to the imaginative free-form fixtures at the People Spot at Southport and Addison in Lakeview, which vaguely resemble a whale’s skeleton. Any displaced metered parking is relocated to another part of the ward. The parklets are removed each year by November 1, when the space reverts to car parking until the spring.


An MPC infographic on the benefits of People Spots.

In July and August of this year, MPC and Sam Schwartz Engineering observed activity from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays at Chicago’s eight People Spots in Bronzeville, Lakeview, and Andersonville, as well as the People Plaza seating area in the median of State and Lake in the Loop. Unfortunately, a People Spot that was proposed this year for the corner of Dearborn and Adams, outside the MPC offices, was kyboshed due to insurance issues. The researchers observed about 450 parklet users, and interviewed more than 100 of them, as well as some 40 business owners.

About 80 percent of the merchants surveyed said that the People Spots increased foot traffic on their block, and helped bring customers to their establishments. Some credited the parklets with contributing to a 10 to 20 percent increase in sales since they were installed. For example, owner Michael Salvatore of Heritage Bicycles, 2959 North Lincoln, said the café-style parklet in front of his store is “Instagram Heaven,” which encourages customers to spread the word about his cycles and coffee via social media.

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Letting Drivers Dictate Speed Cam Placement — What Could Go Wrong?

CT race_3.jpg

George Cardenas.

12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas wants to use a dubious method to decide where Chicago’s speed cameras should go: crowdsourcing.

On September 4, the Chicago Department of Transportation installed a speed cam in the ward at Archer Avenue and Paulina Street, near Mulberry Playlot Park, which features a playground and a water play area. Since then, the camera has been issuing warnings to drivers who speed in the posted 25 mph safety zone on Archer. After October 19, the cam will begin issuing tickets to motorists who go 35 mph or faster in the zone, a speed at which studies show pedestrian crashes are usually fatal.

After resident Lupe Castillo posted a video that claimed that the playlot isn’t visible from Archer (actually, it is), and griped that the camera is a case of the city “stealing our money,” drivers in the ward demanded that it be removed. Cardenas, who voted in favor of Chicago’s speed camera ordinance, told earlier this month that the Mulberry cam is “nothing more than a money maker,” and said he wanted to get it relocated to nearby Ashland Avenue.

CDOT spokesman Pete Scales told DNA the department does not plan to move the camera. He noted that Mulberry Park’s safety zone, the one-eighth-mile buffer within which speed cams can legally be installed, was in the top ten percent of Chicago safety zones for crashes. Between 2009 and 2012, there were 214 crashes near the park, including six causing serious injury or death. In 68 of these collisions, speeding was a factor, and 47 of the crashes involved children.

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Logan Square Residents Refine Vision For Development Atop ‘L’ Station

Residents use blocks to visualize desirable development near the Logan Square Blue Line station.

Residents use wood blocks to visualize desirable development near the Logan Square Blue Line station. Photo: MPC

The second of three Corridor Development Initiative meetings last week collected more detailed feedback about what Logan Square residents hope to see replace a municipal parking lot and under-used bus transfer plaza atop the neighborhood’s ‘L’ station.

The meeting began with a brief audience survey whose results mirrored the findings from the previous meeting. During a short question-and-answer session, one attendee mentioned a recently confirmed proposal to develop the nearby Megamall property, which could include the grocery store that had arisen as a priority in the earlier meeting.

The bulk of the meeting focused on an exercise where small groups of participants stacked blocks of wood together, Lego-like, to visualize how different uses could fit into buildings and open space on the site. The resulting configurations evolved as individuals voiced different opinions, but all of the groups came to broadly similar conclusions: Housing should take the lion’s share of the space, especially on the tucked-away northern end, some retail should face the station, and a park should separate the two. Respondents either ignored parking, shoved it off to the side, or tucked it under the housing.

There was significant support for higher densities than the three stories typical of the surrounding neighborhood, with many groups presenting five-story buildings that could maximize the number of affordable housing units.  One group even suggested a hotel, given the lot’s location between the Loop and O’Hare Airport and its great skyline views.

Some attendees questioned the need to have a large bus depot, since many of the bus routes that once served what had been a major transfer terminal have been cut in the years since. Reducing the size of the turnaround would free up more space for buildings or park space, while removing the turnaround entirely could simplify the awkward route that the #76 Diversey takes and thus improve bus reliability.

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Pullman Pouter: Konkol Gripes That His Neighborhood Is a Transit Desert


Mark Konkol

It’s always a chuckle to read columnist Mark Konkol’s misguided musings on transportation issues.

When the city installed protected bike lanes on Kinzie, in front of the Sun-Times office where Konkol worked at the time, he wrote a series of articles blasting the PBLs as “bunk” that caused gridlock for drivers. “They’re a giant waste of money that probably don’t protect anybody,” he fumed. “Not bicyclists. Not drivers. Not pedestrians.”

Actually, a city traffic study found that, because the bike lanes helped to better organize car traffic, rush-hour travel times for drivers generally improved after the PBLs went in. Meanwhile, morning rush-hour bike ridership increased by 55 percent. And, while we don’t have safety stats for Chicago’s protected lanes yet, a study found that New York’s 9th Avenue PBL led to a 56 percent reduction in crashes for all road users.

More recently, Konkol blamed protected lanes, as well as a bike-share station, for the temporary closure of his favorite eatery, River West’s Silver Palm. “The addition of protected bike lanes and a Divvy bike station coupled with Milwaukee Avenue construction gobbled customer parking spots and had shooed diners away,” he wrote in a DNA piece. In fact, the Divvy station was installed on the sidewalk, so it eliminated zero car parking, while adding 12 bike parking spaces that the restaurant’s customers can use.

Since Konkol had previously claimed that Divvy stations can drive merchants out of business, it was amusing to read yesterday that he’s bummed that bike-share hasn’t come to his neighborhood yet. That complaint was included in a column arguing that many affluent Chicagoans don’t understand the challenges faced by people in low-income, high-crime areas.

That’s a worthwhile topic, but Konkol approached it in a dubious manner. First of all, he conflates the Pullman Historic District, the picturesque, safe, middle-class-and-gentrifying enclave where he lives, with the besieged communities that surround it. “If I’m honest, living there… has always been something of a struggle,” he writes.

This summer, instead of spending his vacation money on a long beachfront getaway, he subleased a $2,440 a month condo in Streeterville. Ironically, he used that experience to write a “Tale of Two Cities”-style narrative, preaching about how privileged his North Side neighbors were.

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Wicker Park Bus Stop Hasn’t Been ADA Accessible for Months

The CTA has been using this as a bus stop for over two months

People with disabilities can’t step off the curb to board buses.

For the past three months, #56 Milwaukee bus drivers have had a tough time picking up passengers, especially those with disabilities, from a temporary bus stop in the heart of Wicker Park.

The bus stop was formerly located on the northwest leg of the bustling junction of Milwaukee, North, and Damen, in front of a Walgreens. In order to accommodate construction at the iconic Northwest Tower, the Chicago Transit Authority relocated the stop to the southeast leg in July.

The temporary stop is located at a corner dotted with newspaper boxes, trash bins, and signs, so instead passengers often wait within the 15-minute standing zone in front of the Bank of America branch. When cars are standing there, they block the bus from pulling all the way up to the curb. This forces those boarding the bus at this busy transit interchange to step off the curb. That isn’t an option for people in wheelchairs, and they also can’t access the nearby Damen Blue Line station because it doesn’t have an elevator.

I alerted the CTA about the situation a month ago, and reminded them earlier this week. Spokesman Brian Steele told me the agency had been working with the bank’s property managers on the issue ever since the stop was relocated.

Steele provided another update on Wednesday. “CTA and [the Chicago Department of Transportation] have spoken to the property managers for the Bank of America building, and will be removing this 15-minute standing zone, and installing bus stop signs (heavy coated signs, not just paper signs) to clearly identify the stop,” he wrote. However, he couldn’t provide an ETA for the change.


Car-Free Cappleman Touts Wilson Station Rehab as a Catalyst for TOD


Rendering of the new station, including the restored Gerber building.

At a community meeting Wednesday on the upcoming reconstruction of the Red Line’s Wilson stop, 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman argued that one of the best things about the new station is that it will encourage walkable, transit-friendly development.

“One of the things I’ve pushed for as alderman is transit-oriented development, [which is a] good, sound urban planning practice,” he told residents during the hearing at Truman College. “We want to create more density closest to the ‘L’ stop.”

Cappleman noted that 45 percent of ward residents don’t own cars. “I am one of those people,” he said. “We also found that that 50 percent of the disposable income that you spend is spent outside the ward. So if we are going to make this a livable, walkable community, we need to make sure you can do your shopping here. “


Rendering of the new main entrance on the south side of Wilson.

He added that the ward has been working with the mayor’s office and various city departments on strategies to fill empty storefronts near the station. “From my discussions with many developers, they are banging on the doors wanting to do something, so you’re going to see some exciting things, and it’s because of this Wilson ‘L’ stop,” Cappleman said. “The trick is making sure that, while we do that, we keep [the ward] as diverse as possible.”

At the meeting, officials updated residents on construction plans for the $203 million project, a massive overhaul of a station that RedEye readers have thrice voted Chicago’s grungiest. Originally built in 1923, the station has badly deteriorated over the last century, and it is not ADA accessible.

The new station will function as an additional transfer point between the Red and Purple lines, which means Uptown residents will be able to catch the Evanston Express for a faster ride downtown or to Evanston during rush hours. To accommodate Purple Line service, there will be two different “island” platforms, with canopies to shelter riders from the elements.

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