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Lakeview SSA Readies Placemaking Plan For Lincoln Avenue

Lincoln Avenue & SSA #27 placemaking project
Lee Crandell, left, shows drawings of the proposed "Lincoln Crossing" place the special service area he manages wants to build this year.

Lisa Santos hopes that a new Lincoln Avenue Placemaking Plan will "slow down traffic – people, too – on Lincoln Avenue, so they can see our independent businesses." Santos owns Southport Grocery and also chairs the West Lakeview Special Service Area #27, one of Chicago's 44 business improvement districts. The SSA and the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce are working with Site Design Group to highlight Lincoln's street corners and "keep people walking" down the street.

The project includes just over half a mile of Lincoln, from Diversey to Belmont, and follows up on the Lakeview Area Master Plan. Santos said they wanted to "stitch together pedestrian activity" along a street that has a different mix of uses than other parts of the business improvement district. Right now, Lincoln feels a little overlooked: It was long one of the North Side's busiest streetcar corridors, but the 2012 loss of the #11 Lincoln bus route has hurt retailers' visibility.

Lincoln Avenue, she said, has more homes and professional offices and less continuous retail: "It's offices interspersed with retail." Santos added that the plan will add "gateways," or sidewalk structures, that will encourage people to "stop, slow down, park their bikes, sit down, and share books" – Santos mentioned the take-a-book, leave-a-book "libraries" in Wicker Park and Logan Square repurposed from newspaper racks. The gateways will also serve to give the neighborhood a brand, and to visually connect each block to the next.

Chamber president Heather Way Kitzes said that her favorite component of the plan would be the colorful "Lincoln Crossing" at Lincoln, Wellington, and Southport. The plan paints curb extensions of green and blue painted dots, which mark different areas for moving and lingering, create a square around the angled intersection, and reduces walking distances across the streets.

The SSA plans to use inexpensive planters and seating to create informal gathering spaces around the intersection's anchors, like St. Alphonsus Church, Athenaeum Theater, Chase Bank, and the Golden Apple restaurant, all of which ensure a steady stream of foot traffic. Designers also propose an artificial turf dome for children to play on, outside the church's front steps.

The curb extensions would also have the benefit of closing off the handful of slip lanes at the intersection, which will slow down turning traffic and thus improve pedestrian safety. Chicago's complete streets design guidelines call for closing slip lanes throughout the city.

Play area on West Lakeview SSA #27 Lincoln Avenue placemaking project
A photo illustration shows the artificial turf dome outside St. Alphonsus church. The blue and green dots highlight Lincoln Crossing. Image: West Lakeview SSA

Santos said they are also looking into activating a vacant lot across from Peerless Rug, potentially using it to screen films during the summer. Crandell said in an email last week they "will [plant] ivy and flowering vines on a fence to screen [the] gravel lot."

The plan will also add street trees and address poor sidewalk conditions. The project doesn't yet have cost estimates, but the SSA will look to partner with businesses to offset the cost as it implements the plan over the next three years.

SSA program manager Lee Crandell said that most items in the plan are final, but "we, of course, wanted to present it publicly before it was totally final, so there’d be an opportunity to consider additional input." He said that the gateway elements, the sidewalk stencil pattern, and street furniture choice are still being worked out. The goal for this year, Crandell said, "is to get new planters and seating out on the sidewalk, and to get the painted curb extensions done for the Lincoln Crossing."

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