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Nice! Catalpa Avenue in Andersonville will be Chicago’s next permanently car-free street

Catalpa pedestrianized for the Andersonville farmers market. Photo: Jamie Kelter Davis via CDOT

In early August, alders Andre Vasquez (40th) and Harry Osterman (48th) hosted an outdoor community meeting on a proposal to partially or completely pedestrianize the block of Catalpa Avenue (5500 N.) between Ashland Avenue (1600 W.) and Clark Street (1530 W.), creating a new community gathering space.

Of the 150 people people who showed up, most seemed to be in favor of the potential design scenario that involved making the block totally car-free. Under this layout, drivers seeking a signaled crossing of Ashland would use Bryn Mawr Avenue (5600 N.) to the north, or Berwyn Avenue (5300 N.) to the south, where a new stoplight would be installed.

Layout concept 1.
Layout concept 1. Image courtesy of 48th Ward via Block Club Chicago.
Layout concept 1.

But a minority of attendees were opposed, arguing this would make driving less convenient. Some people even openly voiced concerns that unhoused people would spend time in the new plaza. "If you would like to work on housing issues, we can do that together," Vasquez responded. "But if you are opposed to this project because it could make homelessness more visible to you, then that is something you must resolve in your own heart."

Happily, Vasquez announced today that the YIMBYs won out over the NIMBYs. "I am pleased to announce that after substantial meetings, surveys, and process, the majority of our community is supportive of complete [pedestrianization] of Catalpa between Clark and Ashland to create a public plaza," he said in a statement.

CDOT staffer with “the best job in the city.” Photo: Carl Beien
A CDOT staffer presenting at the August meeting. Vasquez is to the right in baseball cap and glasses. Photo: Carl Beien
CDOT staffer with “the best job in the city.” Photo: Carl Beien

Out of 462 survey responses, 346 (75 percent) were in favor of completely opening the street to people on foot. Only 116 respondents (25 percent) were opposed.

Vasquez said a working group will be formed to meet with the Chicago Department of Transportation design team and provide input. The group will be composed of residents from nearby neighborhood associations, members of the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, and reps from the ward offices.

The alder thanked Osterman, CDOT, the neighborhood groups, and the chamber for helping to facilitate public feedback collection. "Together we were able to have an open discussion and fair process."

It's always nice to kick off the weekend with a feel-good story of a win for livable streets.

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