The Broadway/Lawrence Streetscape Has Turned Asphalt Into Public Space

The new plaza created by pedestrianizing a stretch of Racine by the Riviera Theater. The raised area in the center is a pedestal for a new sculpture. Photo: John Greenfield
The new plaza created by pedestrianizing a stretch of Racine by the Riviera Theater. The raised area in the center is a pedestal for a new sculpture. Photo: John Greenfield

sponsored post

A project that’s a good example of the city repurposing car space to create more public space is coming along nicely in Uptown. The first phase of the $6 million Broadway/Lawrence streetscape project, which started construction in summer 2017, is expected to wrap up this summer.

Aerial view of the street layout before pedestrianization. Image: Google Maps
Aerial view of the street layout before pedestrianization. The new plaza covers the space formerly occupied by the stretch of Racine next to the Rivera and the Golden House, plus the traffic island and the striped space north of it. A new pedestrian island was constructed on the striped yellow median at the bottom right. Image: Google Maps

The project included pedestrianizing a stretch of Racine just south of Lawrence, in front of the Riviera Theater and the Golden House diner, which connected a traffic island to the sidewalk to create a new plaza.

Looking north towards the new plaza. The southeast corner of the plaza was formerly the traffic island. Photo: John Greenfield
Looking north towards the new plaza. The southeast corner of the plaza was formerly the traffic island. Photo: John Greenfield

This has provided more room for the crowds that gather outside the music venue, and a pedestal has been built for a yet-to-be-installed multicolored ring-shaped public art piece, representing cultural diversity as well as neighborhood unity. Plenty of bike racks have also been added to accommodate concertgoers, and a new pedestrian island has also been added on Broadway south of the plaza.

Rendering of the completed plaza.
Rendering of the completed plaza.

Phase One of the streetscape project involves Broadway between Leland and Gunnison Street, and Lawrence between Broadway and the local Red Line station. In addition to the plaza it includes new sidewalks, lighting, red stamped crosswalks, and concrete planters that say “Uptown” in an Art Deco-inspired font.

The pedestrian island south of the plaza. Photo: John Greenfield
The pedestrian island south of the plaza. Photo: John Greenfield

Phase Two of the project, which includes similar improvements on Broadway from Wilson, is also taking place this year. The upgrades will make this stretch, which was brightened significantly by the relocation of ‘L’ tracks during the Wilson station reconstruction, even more appealing for pedestrians, when it was formerly a rather gloomy space.

The Ba Le Sandwiches seating area. Photo: John Greenfield
The Ba Le Sandwiches seating area. Photo: John Greenfield

Speaking of turning car space into people space in Uptown, two block north of Lawrence at Broadway and Argyle, the Vietnamese-style sub shop Ba Le Sandwiches recently tuned part of their parking lot into an outdoor seating area by fencing it off with plastic posts, adding some planters, and stringing lights across the space.

This post is made possible by a grant from Freeman Kevenides, a Chicago, Illinois personal injury law firm representing and advocating for bicyclists, pedestrians and vulnerable road users.  The content belongs to Streetsblog Chicago, and Freeman Kevenides Law Firm neither endorses nor exercises editorial control over the content.

  • ChicagoCyclist

    Good stuff! Kudos to CDOT, CTA and others who are pitching in on these type of interventions and this understanding of the multipurpose function of streets and the public ROW!

  • Bernard Finucane

    This is a great example of how to create space. There are many places all over the city where it applies.

    There are two simple design ideas: First, side streets that enter at an angle should be curved to meet the main street at a right angle. Second, The long side of triangles should be pedestrianized.

  • Carter O’Brien

    That looks like a major improvement, good story!

  • djmiller

    Now let’s see some action at the Uptown Theatre!

  • Matt

    I was pleasantly surprised to discover this on a walk up to see a show at the Pride Films & Plays theatre. It’s a great improvement and helped made the walk enjoyable.

  • shiny1

    I loved the idea of this project. I can’t believe they actually did it!
    Even with it still under construction it’s a huge improvement when walking through.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Woonerf in the West Suburbs Offers a Sneak Peek at Uptown Streetscapes

|
On a recent bicycle trip, I came across a Dutch-style woonerf or “living street,” in the western suburb of Batavia, where Streetsblog Chicago reporter Steven Vance attended high school. The street layout blurs the line between pedestrian and vehicle space, encouraging drivers to proceed with caution, creating a more pleasant environment for walking, biking, shopping, […]

When Removing a Pedestrian Street Designation, Proceed With Caution

|
Shaun Jacobsen is the author of Transitized.  Last June, 46th ward Alderman James Cappleman proposed removing the Pedestrian Street designation on six blocks radiating from the intersection of Broadway and Lawrence in Uptown. The proposed removal raised some eyebrows. Was a developer planning to build something that wouldn’t fit the criteria of a P-Street, like a […]

Don’t Knock Woodard: Chicago’s Next Great Little Public Space

|
[This piece also runs in Checkerboard City, John’s column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings.] Surrounded by chainlink fence and blanketed with snow, a new plaza under construction at the northwest corner of Milwaukee/Diversey/Kimball in Avondale, an intersection that appears several times in the movie “Wayne’s World,” currently looks pretty bleak. […]

Mix of Protected and Buffered Bike Lanes Slated for Busy Broadway

|
The Chicago Department of Transportation will redesign Broadway between Montrose and Foster, a mile-long stretch that’s currently a very car-centric four- to five-lane road. The street is so inhospitable that one resident at a public meeting Wednesday night said she doesn’t drive, walk, or bike on it. The agency failed to make a “complete street” […]