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