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Fulton and Randolph are now rezoned as people-friendly Pedestrian Streets

Socially-distanced outdoor dining on on a block of Fulton Market that has been pedestrianized during the pandemic. Photo: John Greenfield

When I think of the phrase "pedestrian streets," I think of car-free streets that allow people to walk and perhaps roll without the threat of motor vehicles. In Chicago, however, the term Pedestrian Streets refer to a zoning designation intended to “preserve and enhance the character of streets and intersections that are widely recognized as Chicago's best example of walkable retail corridors,” by banning car-centric land uses like strip malls, drive-throughs, and car washes. In some cases the zoning designation is changed to promote future walkable development, as was the case on Clark Street in Rogers Park which is currently not a very attractive pedestrian corridor compared to the vibrant stretch of Clark in Andersonville about a mile south.

Two additional Chicago roadways were designated as P-Streets last week when the City Council approved rezoning of parts of Fulton and Randolph street in the West Loop. The designation builds on a multi-year $20.3 million project that began in 2015 with the installation of a lit-up Fulton Market gateway arch just west of Halsted Street. The streetscape work, covered the stretch from Halsted to Ogden Avenue and wrapped up in July 2021, also included new wider stone and concrete sidewalks, better drainage, formalized angled parking, and custom street furniture such as benches and bike racks.

👏 Make 👏 this 👏 permanent! 👏 River North & the West Loop are among my least favorite parts of town, but seeing this made clear that my actual problem is with the oppressive, noisy, smoggy, dangerous, relentless presence of cars, which ruin everything. #bancars

— Eric Allix Rogers (@EricAllixRogers) August 30, 2020

The same Fulton Street segment is part was designated as a Pedestrian Street. Randolph, which like Fulton includes many restaurants and bars, was rezoned as a P-Street from Halsted to Ada Street (1330 West.) The designation now means there any project or development that borders the streets will have to meet a certain set of criteria per city code:

    • The entire building façade that faces the street must border the sidewalk or be located within five feet of the sidewalk
    • At least sixty percent of the street facing the side between four to ten feet in height must be comprised of clear, non-reflective, glass to allow the visibility of commerce inside
    • On lights bordering the street, buildings must have a primary entrance door facing the street, corner entrances are also allowed, this includes entrances to shops, lobbies, or other business
    • The following are prohibited on lights bordering the street: drive-through facilities, vehicle sales or services that involve outdoor storage, gas stations, car washes, storage warehouses, and strip mall centers.
    • No new curb cuts will be allowed, all the secular entrances must be from an alley as well as any enclosed parking must not be visible from the designated street

The restrictions will apply to all projects on these stretches moving forward. Additionally, although surface parking lots along both roads are limited, they may come into play for adaptive reuse in the future.

Despite the success of a car-free pedestrian pilot on Fulton during the pandemic there are no immediate plans to permanently restrict vehicle access to Fulton Street.

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