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Cubs Divvy Station and Southport People Spot Enliven Wrigleyville

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It’s a pleasure to see Divvy docking stations, People Spot seating areas, on-street bike corrals, and other productive uses of the public way popping up around Chicago. They serve as reminders that there are much more effective ways to move people around the city and attract customers to business districts than focusing on facilitating car driving and parking. Today the Chicago Department of Transportation celebrated two of the city’s newest public space amenities, a docking station in the shadow of Wrigley Field, and a People Spot featuring bizarrely shaped, yet-comfy, seating fixtures.

At the first of the two ribbon cuttings, by the ballpark, CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein noted that the bike-share system has logged more than 110,000 trips and roughly 350,000 miles of pedaling in its first month. “Many more of these rides will be taken to and from Wrigley Field this summer now that there are two Divvy stations nearby, one here at Waveland and Clark and another at Sheffield and Addison,” he said.

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42nd Ward Alderman Tom Tunney and Chicago Cubs owner Todd Ricketts were in attendance, apparently having buried the hatchet over their recent conflict about the Wrigley rehab. “As I’m sure the alderman and Mr. Ricketts can attest, it can get pretty congested here," Klein said. "So this is a great way to relieve congestion in the area.”

Ricketts, who’s also co-owner of the two Higher Gear bike shops on the North Shore, took the mic to highlight the power of cycling to improve quality of life. “If you think of genius as ‘a simple solution to a complicated problem,’ bicycles and bicycling is really it,” he said. “When you think of energy dependency, public health and the environment, bicycles really do a lot in that direction. And today a more exciting way to think about it is traffic congestion. For years the Cubs have had our bike valet here at Wrigley…We’re super excited for Cubs fans to be able to ride Divvy bikes to Wrigley.”

From there, the group moved a few blocks southwest to the People Spot, located in front of Uncle Dan’s Outdoors Store at Addison and Southport. It’s the sixth example of the city repurposing on-street right-of-way to create a public “parklet” that acitivates the street and draws customers to the retail district. Other parklet locations include 643 and 1060 East 47th in Bronzeville, 2959 North Lincoln in Lakeview, 5228 North Clark in Andersonville, and a brand new People Spot at 5624 North Clark in Andersonville, which I’m looking forward to checking out this evening.

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The Southport seating area was funded by SSA #27, which is administered by the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce. While most of the other parklets resemble sidewalk café seating, this one, Designed by Kevin Toukoumidis of dSpace Studio, features undulating, vertebrae-like benches assembled from some 375 wooden cross-sections.

When I first visited on Sunday evening for 15 minutes or so, dozens of people stopped and relaxed on the benches. One burly guy in a Cubs jersey reclined on a corrugated, chaise-longue like structure and exclaimed, “This is awesome! It’s like a mini massage.” I’m looking forward to writing some Streetsblog posts from the section of the seating wall that’s shaped like a desk.

“I have to say, this is the most beautiful example of a People Spot that I’ve seen in any city,” Klein said at the second press conference. “On a personal note, I came out here over the weekend with my wife, we ended up walking from the train station. We spent about $400, and then I sat down here and was tweeting away and noticed Uncle Dan’s. I don’t think we would have noticed it if I hadn’t stopped and sat. Then we went and spent another $200 in Uncle Dan’s. So, as the mayor likes to say, this is economic development.”

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Lakeview Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Heather Way said the large People Spot occupies street space that was formerly the outdoors store’s loading zone, plus two metered spaces, which were relocated elsewhere in the ward. “Uncle Dan’s agreed because they felt that the swap of the loading zone for this was way more beneficial to their business,” she said.

Tunney said Klein was correct that People Spots attract shoppers to retail. “When you’re moving fast in a car you don’t necessarily take in the flavor of the streets and the different types of unique retail that we have here,” he said. “If Gabe wasn’t walking and relaxing, he might not have spent the $200 that he did at Uncle Dan’s. So it is part of economic development.”

“The biggest problem in Lakeview over the last few years is lack of parking,” Tunney added. “I really feel that we’re actually changing the mindset of economic development, so the car isn’t the only way to shop in our neighborhood. So I’m really excited to be doing these [People Spots] in conjunction with the SSA and the chambers of commerce and I anticipate there’ll be many more.”

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