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Lakeview’s Car-Free Sunday Events Are Returning, In a More Intimate Setting

Sunday Play Spot 7
One of last year's Sunday Play Streets events. Photo: Lakeview Chamber of Commerce.

The popular car-free happenings that pedestrianized a Lakeview street on several Sundays last year are returning this month, albeit in a somewhat scaled-down format. But the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce hopes that moving the events from a one-block stretch of Lincoln Avenue to a half-block, narrower stretch of Paulina Street will make these celebrations of art, music and play more intimate, as well as more vibrant.

Sunday Play Spots debuted last year on Lincoln between School and Roscoe streets, an underperforming retail strip. The chamber hoped the mix of musical performances, fitness classes, craft demonstrations, a pop-up seating plaza, art installations, and more would energize the district and help foster a sense of community. The events did bring plenty of people to the street, with up to a thousand people turning out on each of the four Sundays, according to Dillon Goodson, who manages the local Special Service Area program for the chamber.

The logo for this years events emphasizes that car space will be transformed into people space.

This year, the series is returning as Sunday Spots, on Paulina between Roscoe and Henderson Street, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., on three weekends in October. According to Goodson, the word  “Play” has been dropped from the name because each of the three events will focus on a different area: Art on 4th, Music on the 11th, and Play on the 18th. Last year’s events mostly drew families with children, so the name change may also help attract a wider demographic.

There is one less event this year because the fourth Sunday of October is the Chamber’s Trick or Treat on Southport event, which also pedestrianizes that nearby business district, according to Goodson. The $10,000 cost of Sunday Spots is being funded by SSA money plus sponsorship from Whole Foods.

Unlike the retail-rich stretch of Lincoln, the segment of Paulina only borders a handful of storefronts, but Goodson argued that it’s a plus that the event will connect residential and business areas. He said that pushback from merchants against the street closure and temporary conversion of car parking doesn’t seem to have been a major factor in the decision to move the event. “All the business owners seem to be really supportive.”

He added that the shorter, narrower car-free space will consolidate the action and provide a sense of containment, while last year’s events on broad Lincoln Avenue felt a bit spread out. “Lincoln is such a beast, so this will provide a nice sense of scale by comparison.”

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This pedestrian island will become a makeshift stage. Image: Google Street View

The adjoining block of Henderson Street has an unusual boulevard layout, with a wide, tree filled median. While Sunday Spots won’t be using Henderson, it will be provide additional green space where families can hang out, as well as a low-traffic roadway where kids can ride bikes and scooters.

A triangular pedestrian island at the north end of the car-free space will serve as a makeshift stage for street musicians. This seems like an obvious location where safety could be enhanced and new public space created by eliminating the slip lane. The chamber and the Chicago Department of Transportation recently did exactly that kind of treatment to a few corners at Lincoln, Southport, and Wellington Street as part of the Lincoln Hub placemaking project – more on that later.

Sunday Play Spot 9
Pop-up seating lounge at one of last year's events. Photo: Lakeview Chamber of Commerce

Astroturf and chairs will be added next to the pedestrian island to create a pop-up seating lounge. The rest of the car-free asphalt will be filled with a wide range of performances and activities, including street games, painting on canvas, interactive musical demos, breakdancing, yoga, and even a giant Connect Four game with pieces made out of bucket lids.

Of special interest to Streetsblog readers is the “Be an Architect for a Day” session hosted by Zed Architects. They’ll help kids lay out pretend cities with people-friendly streets and imaginative buildings using tape and special wooden blocks on the pavement. View the full schedule of events here.

The Lincoln Hub. Photo: John Greenfield

Dillon also provides an update on the Lincoln Hub. In conjunction with the placemaking project, large cedar planter boxes are being installed today on Lincoln, mostly between Wellington and Belmont Avenue. Much of this stretch is devoid of greenery, so it will be enhanced by the planters, some of which will house six-foot-tall trees.

The Hub hosted several musical performances this summer, including a keyboard player, a violinist, and a jazz trio. The players rotated between three of the mini plazas that were created by using paint dots and flexible posts to extend the curbs.“That really made the intersection come alive,” Goodson said. “People would stop by, grab a seat, listen for a while, and continue with their day.”

The chamber is currently working with nearby business owners on a snow-removal plan for the Hub. That will ensure the installation continues to enhance the pedestrian environment.

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