SSA Hopes Lincoln Project Will Provide Magic Carpet Ride to Higher Sales

the lincoln crossing
Lincoln Hub, inspired by Oriental rug designs. St. Alphonsus is on left side of rendering.

In a little over a month from now, a relatively sleepy stretch of Lincoln in Lakeview will be transformed. Construction on the Lincoln Avenue Placemaking Project is slated to begin next Monday, April 20, with work finishing up around May 22.

The initiative will activate the four-block business strip between Diversey and Belmont with clusters of custom seating and planters, plus patterns of blue and green dots painted on the sidewalk, inspired by Oriental carpet designs. Best of all, the project will create a new “Lincoln Hub” at Lincoln/Wellington/Southport, which will combine traffic calming with seats and public art to create a new gathering place for the neighborhood.

“We want people to slow down and linger, and notice all the great things on Lincoln,” said Lee Crandell, program director for Special Service Area #27, which is working with the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce on the endeavor. “We want the street to be a vibrant community place, rather than just somewhere to pass through.”

He noted that there are several new businesses on this stretch, including Wrightwood Furniture, the Brown Elephant thrift store, Gyros on the Spit restaurant, and Beermiscuous bar. “There’s a lot of great energy on this part of Lincoln nowadays, but the foot traffic hasn’t cemented yet. That’s something we want to support by making the street a more welcoming place.” The elimination of this stretch of the #11 Lincoln bus route back in 2012, is one factor in why this stretch of the street – sections of which are more than a ten-minute walk from the Brown Line – is relatively quiet.

Last year, the SSA released a new placemaking plan for the business district, based on input from two public meeting and an online survey, with 250 residents and business owners participating. The idea was to come up with relatively inexpensive, short-term improvements that could be made over the next three years, before the city does a full streetscape, which will include new curbs and trees. The price tag for the placemaking project, which was designed by the urban design and landscape architecture firm Site Design, is $175K.

Participants said they wanted more sidewalk cafes, public seating, and other places for people to hang out on the street. They requested more greenery to beautify the street and provide shade. And they wanted walking on the sidewalks and crossing streets to be safer, more convenient, and more pleasant. Merchants were especially interested in calming car traffic so that motorists would be more likely to notice their storefronts, Crandell said.

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The Lincoln Hub’s painted bumpouts were partly inspired by Philly’s Baltimore Crossing plaza. Photo:

The Lincoln Hub, partly inspired by Philadelphia’s Baltimore Crossing pedestrian plaza, will feature Chicago’s first painted curb extensions. These neckdowns will have planters and flexible posts to help keep cars out of the space, which will shorten pedestrian crossing distances. This will also create space for small seating plazas in the street at the northwest and southeast corners of the six-way intersection, in front of Pockets restaurant and the Golden Apple diner.

Planters will be used to block off three slip lanes, which will slow down turning traffic, improving pedestrian safety. The round seating will also be installed on the wide sidewalk on the southwest corner, in front of St. Alphonsus Church and the Athenaeum Theater.

The star-shaped intersection will be overlaid with the blue and green dots painted on the street and sidewalks in a rectangular pattern reminiscent of an Oriental carpet, designed to tie the six corners together. “There’s a large concentration of home goods stores nearby, including several rug stores,” said Crandell, explaining the inspiration for the design. He hopes the painted curb extension technique can be replicated in other parts of the city in the future.

Play area on West Lakeview SSA #27 Lincoln Avenue placemaking project
Rendering of seating and painted pattern at St. Alphonsus. The play area won’t be included in the current project.

Of course, this six-way is already relatively walkable compared to the giant Belmont/Ashland/Lincoln intersection two blocks north, which is a significant barrier to people on foot and bicycles. In the future, the city will be launching a community input process for redesigning that intersection as well, Crandell said. “We’ve been advocating to fix that intersection since the Nineties.”

In other local placemaking news, the neighborhood’s popular People Spot parklets are currently being reinstalled in front of Heritage Bicycles, 2959 North Lincoln, and the Butcher’s Tap, 3553 North Southport. The SSA is currently planning kickoff events at both of the mini parks, including live music during lunch hours.

  • Jeff H

    Excited for this project. Interested to see how the dots are going to look in real life, it will certainly be unique.

  • ohsweetnothing

    Small correction: Belmont/Ashland/Lincoln*, right?

  • Correct, thanks.

  • JacobEPeters

    only adjustment I would make would be to make the crosswalk marked areas for the Lincoln crossings wider to get closer to the new corner locations. It would make the crossing distances of the intersection visually look less far, but I am guessing their locations are based off of existing curb cuts, since a wider crosswalk would not guide those in wheelchairs or strollers as directly to the existing ramps.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    This is a fairly blah intersection. The bump outs are a good idea. The visual polka dot thing looks like retro, but we are nearly past the retro fad, so sad the designers couldnt have dared a riskier more modern design. The corner is nearly green less with no trees except down the side streets. Considering this intersection is nearly blasted by bright sunlight for pretty much all of the day, those big circles may actually visually grown in size

  • Carl

    This is much needed and I’ll wait to see the finished product, but based on the concept art I’m nervous about the polka dots. They look like Alice in Wonderland and pretty jarring against St. Al’s church, which is a very handsome structure. The problem with a subjective aesthetic is that people will judge the sizzle (dots on the sidewalk) and not the substance (curb extensions and better ped access). How many people are going to see this and think, “I hope they never put polka dots in my neighborhood” compared to, “why can’t we have great plazas like this in my neighborhood?”

  • The paint will wear off in a few months to a year, and if nobody liked it it can be left concrete-colored.

  • BlueFairlane

    I’m more curious about how they’ll look in a year.

  • BlueFairlane

    Yeah, I’m not really sure how potted plants and painted sidewalk polka dots from the 1980s are supposed to make people want to linger. I suppose $175,000 is cheaper than running a bus through here, but I don’t expect much to come of this.

  • Jeff H

    True, street markings usually don’t fare well after that amount of time.

  • Pat

    If Chicago crosswalks are any indication, these will never get repainted.

  • kastigar

    There are several intersections along Milwaukee Avenue, north of Lawrence, that could use the same treatment.


    Just to name a few.

  • Douglas Smith

    Too cute, and not in a good way. Lose the dots.

  • I asked Lee Crandell what the maintenance plans are, noting that the recent “Color Jam” street painting at Jackson and State looked pretty shabby after a few weeks. Here’s his response:

    “I believe the Color Jam installation in the Loop used an adhesive vinyl that was intended to be temporary. We’ve spent a great deal of time researching different coating products for coloring streets, comparing notes with the plaza programs in other cities. The product we’re using has a good track record of holding up in permanent installations in mixed traffic, and we’ll be using it only in pedestrian spaces, so it should hold up for years. It comes with a three-year warranty, and we expect it to last beyond that. We will touch up if necessary, but our hope is that CDOT will be replacing the sidewalks for their streetscape project in the not so distant future.”

  • BlueFairlane

    I think the question will be not so much whether the paint will stay there as how it will look dirty and piled with all the stuff that winds up piled on a Chicago sidewalk. Things only stay as neat as a design rendering very briefly.

  • Jared Kachelmeyer

    They’ll fade away in a year or so anyways.

  • Douglas Smith

    Then save the money and don’t paint the dots. They’re totally not needed.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    And go look at any good sidewalk and the gum glop. I know the SSA powerwashes the sidewalks to get that dreck off, but I have to wonder how these dots will hold up under powerwashing.

  • Ross Guthrie

    I am all about curb bump-outs, pedestrianized spaces & place making. But painting the sidewalk instead of making a true place is a cheap & tacky way to do it. Using cobblestones or granite is a true way to humanize & make a place that is unique. My guess in 10 years (or even 5 if not done well), this will look dated & run-down.

  • Color Jam didn’t even last the summer, IIRC.

  • tg113

    i think it’s a cool idea.

  • tg113

    what will really increase business and people activity is more around the clock businesses like small grocery stores coffee shops and diners.

  • Fred

    I give it 1 winter.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    John’s reference to a “magic carpet ride” makes these dots look like a he’s referencing a bad LSD experience. Ahhh Steppenwolf, those were the years ;)

  • R.A. Stewart

    I don’t know whether you’ve made me feel young again, or even older. :-)

  • Brianbobcat

    Is CDOT planning a full streetscape for Lincoln a fact, or a guess? Is there a concrete timeline for the streetscape project? Last fall, CDOT redid the handicap ramps and curbs at this intersection, and with how many places still need new ramps, I’m disappointed they spent the money just to have these dug up again in a couple years with the streetscaping.

    If nothing else, this plan could be a short term tourist draw for Chicagoians, who maybe will stick around, patron a business, and hopefully come back. This intersection will also get some added life with the reuse of the funeral home and it’s new residences added along side.

  • BlueFairlane

    … some added life with the reuse of the funeral home …

    I can’t help it, but that line’s funny!

  • Yes, there will be a full streetscape on this stretch in a few years.

  • Looking at it again, I wonder why the crosswalks/stop bars are so far back on Lincoln. Drivers are going to edge up to nearly the points of the corners, so they can see; why not put the crosswalks there in the first place?

  • Lee Crandell

    For the purposes of this project, there were two reasons for this: 1. Since this project doesn’t include any concrete work, we needed to keep crosswalks where the existing ramps are; and 2. For the sharper right turns onto Lincoln, the stop bar needed to stay pulled back to give turning vehicles a little space in case they swing wide.

  • Well, cars are going to ignore them, beach across crosswalks, pull up so they can see, and obstruct turns.

    Hope you have a plan for dealing with that, because it’s completely predictable.

  • Kurt Steib

    Once again, the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce has shown complete disregard for local residents. The intersection of Southport and Lincoln is a busy three way intersection, with many left turners from both north and south on Southport. The new construction will prohibit vehicles from moving around left turners, which has already resulted in major backups on Southport. People often must wait three lights to proceed through the intersection. This of course will result in people who know the neighborhood diverting to either Greenview or Lakeview, further burdening what should be residential streets. I’m shocked, dismayed, and insulted that a goal of the project is to slow down traffic. This is just another major inconvenience that the Chamber and our illustrious alderman have foisted upon long time residents. Nice job.

  • BillD

    They really screwed this one up. Not only is the new configuration less efficient it is also less safe. Whoever engineered it was braindead. As you point out, this is the only intersection between Diversey and Belmont that drivers can’t get past left turners. But there is a teeny, almost tempting space that the impatient drivers will over-optimistically try to get into and fail. Plus adding to bike-car conflict. They could have gotten rid of the slip turns without screwing everything else up. Also, the Southport stop line needs to be moved closer to the intersection and the green light time extended. It feels shorter than the Lakewood light.

  • When you say “people” I think you mean “drivers”. Resident walkers will not have to wait any longer than one light to proceed. Walkers who know the neighborhood, who might have diverted to Greenview or Lakeview in the past might now choose to stay on Lincoln or Southport. Walkers are rarely a burden on residential streets. My guess is that this project will be a much greater inconvenience to non-residents of the neighborhood than to residents.

  • Kurt Steib

    Good points. I did indeed mean drivers (I also meant Lakewood, there is no Lakeview Ave). Pedestrians might indeed linger — that’s certainly the point of the project — but that depends on how the dots look once they’re on the street and also how comfortable people feel sitting so close to frustrated traffic. I’m not sure how bicycles are affected.

  • Geenius_at_Wrok

    Those dots are hideous. Please say those dots are simply meant to illustrate the boundaries of parts of the sidewalk and that no one intends to actually paint them down. Seriously, it would be the worst idea anyone’s had since the 1970s. I lived through the 1970s. I am not nostalgic for them.

  • Geenius_at_Wrok

    It looks dated already, and they haven’t even done it yet.

  • I drove through it on Monday and they’re spraypainting dot outlines on the pavement already. The blue is weirdly not-quite the Chicago Flag blue, a bit tealer than that, in person.

  • Geenius_at_Wrok


  • Julie Weisman

    this project is a total mess. i travel this route at least twice a day and because of the new configuration I am sitting thru at least 2 cycles of the light at the intersection. There is now no way to pass a left turning vehicle, so the cars stack up behind. It’s creating a HUGE back up on Southport in both directions. The sidewalks in that area are plenty wide, which makes putting tables and chairs in what is essentially the intersection, frankly, ridiculous. The dots are a distraction while driving and it looks unnatural. the colors are ghastly. i’m ridiculously frustrated with this and have been avoiding the intersection altogether.

  • Julie Weisman

    I completely agree with you. I am sitting at that light for a minimum of 2 cycles now. during rush hour it’s at least 3 cycles. Southport is backed up in both directions. I have been avoiding the intersection and have been traveling down greenview or racine instead. and don’t get me started on the brightly painted gigantic crop circles they’re painting on the street…..

  • Julie Weisman

    crop circles

  • Lakeview Neighbor

    I hope whoever is managing this project reads all of the comments here and removes the colored dots and does something to manage the traffic better. The lime green and turquoise dots are horrible – they are distracting and so ugly against the beautiful St. Alphonsus historic and classy looking church and the other historic buildings in the area. The concept of a town square is great for West Lakeview with benches, planters with flowers, trees and neighborhood sign, but this execution should be much classier and fitting to the gorgeous historic church at this intersection. Look at the Lincoln Square area off Lincoln south of Lawrence with the large neighborhood banner, planters, more trees, benches, the old fashioned street lights with planters hanging from them (like further south on Lincoln). The bright colored dots have got to go!

  • jpski78

    I live right by this intersection. It looks cheap and tacky. The dots are ridiculous. They totally distract from how gorgeous St. Alphonsus is. The plastic poles don’t help. I’m mostly a pedestrian, so usually don’t have too much of a concern for drivers. However, I agree it has screwed up the traffic flow, especially on Southport. This was not well thought out at all!

  • duppie

    I’m confused. While you lament the fact that you have to wait two cycles, in the last sentence you mention that you are no longer using the intersection. So it really is not an issue for you then?

  • duppie

    Lincoln is a complete streetscape at a large cost.Think a few million.
    This project was done at $150K cost. Expecting that $150K gives you the same “look and feel” as Lincoln is unrealistic.

  • jpski78

    I think the fact Julie had to change her route is an issue! You’re awfully defensive of this duppie. Did you help plan this monstrosity?

  • Barry Nelson

    Two Words: Dirty Clown.
    ill conceived, poorly executed and becomes uglier with each passing season.


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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 […]