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Broadway visioning process: Residents, not developers, should plan the corridor’s future

7:29 PM CDT on April 7, 2022

The 5800 block of North Broadway. Image: Google Maps

Last weekend, 48th Ward stakeholders came together for a visioning session to determine the future of Broadway from Ainslie Street (4900 N.) to Devon Avenue (6400 N.) Attendees were invited to share their ideas and insights on the future of Broadway as it relates to affordable housing; economic development; sidewalk and roadway improvements; public art and placemaking; environmental sustainability; and public transit improvements.

Local alderman Harry Osterman told the sizable crowd that gathered at Senn High School on Saturday that the visioning process would allow stakeholders to “try to get some of these guiding principles to move us forward, let us as a neighborhood proactively get ahead of the curve” of incoming development after the CTA Red and Purple Modernization project is complete. Osterman added, “We want to make sure that development is done on the terms of the community and not developers.” 

The visioning session was held in an open house format in which attendees were encouraged to leave their feedback, suggestions, and ideas on Post-it notes at various stations focusing on things like pedestrian and cyclist safety, and local sites that can be redeveloped. Staff from the Chicago Department of Transportation, the Chicago Department of Housing departments, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and the Chicago Department of Planning and Development were on hand to field questions and suggestions. Staff from Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation were also there to show attendees plans for an all-affordable transit-oriented housing development in the ward.

Suggestions on one of the visioning boards. Photo: Courtney Cobbs
Suggestions on one of the visioning boards. Photo: Courtney Cobbs

At a station asking what attendees want to see more of along Broadway, there were lots of votes for trees, public seating, green spaces, and affordable housing. Many people commented that they want to see more car trips converted to walking, biking, and transit trips. Regarding the weaknesses of Broadway, most of the feedback centered around the drawbacks of lots of motorized traffic such as road noise and the street being unappealing to spend significant time on when traveling outside of a vehicle. Attendees felt that Broadway’s strengths are good CTA access, wide sidewalks in some segments, and the presence of the Edgewater library.

I noticed that the table for the Chicago Department of Transportation was very popular. There was a brief paper survey on hand asking attendees how they access Broadway and what would they like to see changed. There was also a map available for folks to fill out a Post-it note with suggestions for safety improvements or their experience at a particular intersection. Options to improve pedestrian safety such as pedestrian islands, bus bulbs, raised crosswalks, and speed displays that tell drivers how fast they’re driving were presented. I personally would like to see speed cameras rather than simply displays, since the former are much more effective at encouraging safer speeds. When I asked a CDOT staffer if it would be possible for speed cameras to be installed along Broadway, they noted that state law dictates that speed cameras can only be installed within the eighth-mile "Safety Zones" around schools and parks.

A display from DCASE showcased different types of public art and events, and sought attendees' input on what art and events they preferred. Events similar to Edgefest and murals racked up lots of votes. The planning department presented potential of streetscape design options. While a scenario where the Illinois Department of Transportation would allow parts of Broadway, a state road, to be pedestrianized is a bout as likely as consecutive 60+ degree days in January in Chicago, the option of a pedestrianized area on an east-west street was presented.

A pedestrianized streetscape received lots of votes from attendees.
A pedestrianized streetscape received lots of votes from attendees. Photo: Courtney Cobbs

If you would like to offer your input on the future of Broadway in the Uptown and Edgewater area, the next visioning meeting will be held on Saturday, April 30, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Broadway Armory, 5917 N. Broadway. You can also check out materials from the first meeting which will be on display in the satellite ward office at 1040 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

A community survey will be sent out this week in the 48th ward newsletter. There will also be a community walk along Broadway during which the 48th ward office will gather feedback from stakeholders. Streetsblog will share the date and time when more details are released. Lastly, a third meeting will be held in late May or early June. This meeting will unveil the summary of the input received and possibilities to move the plan forward.

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