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At first public meeting on Ogden redesign, ideas for shortening crosswalks, adding protected bike lanes are discussed

The project covers a 2.5-mile stretch of the southwest-northeast diagonal street, from from Pulaski Road to Roosevelt Road, mostly in North Lawndale.

10:44 AM CDT on September 1, 2023

Aerial view of Ogden Avenue. Image: CDOT

This post is sponsored by the Active Transportation Alliance

The first community meeting for the INVEST South/West Ogden Avenue Corridor Improvement Project was held last Monday. The initiative covers a 2.5-mile stretch of the southwest-northeast diagonal street, from from Pulaski Road (4000 W., about 2200 S.) to Roosevelt Road (1200 S., 2300 W.), mostly in the North Lawndale community. This hearing was hosted by the Chicago Department of Transportation and local alderpersons Monique Scott (24th), Michael Rodriguez (22nd), and Jason Ervin (28th).

Vanessa Irizarry, the CDOT project manager, said the the goal of the initiative is to help positively activate the street and create amenities for local residents. The latter include better transportation options, retail, and public spaces, and possibly wider sidewalks; outdoor seating and dining areas; and protected bike lanes.

Vanessa Irizarry presents at the meeting. Photo: Cameron Bolton

The to-do list for the project also includes better street geography, especially at intersections; curb extensions; ADA upgrades; and better lighting. The plan also calls for improved drainage; road resurfacing; gateway identifiers; landscaping; and new seating. 

Image: CDOT

Irizarry said there will be another public meeting in early 2024. "And we already have our first online survey and the results of that will be presented at the second public meeting." While the second and third workshop will be focused on placemaking and street design respectively, the first community workshop concentrated on corridor identity.

Slide from the presentation emphasizing the importance of making Ogden less car-centric and more people-friendly.

“Chicago is a city made up of many unique neighborhoods, and streetscape projects like this one present an opportunity to express a unique identity for each neighborhood ," said Phil Hutchinson, landscape architect and urban designer for Civiltech Engineering. "Corridor identity is a celebration of our unique and diverse cultures and history.  And a design can enhance the sense of community and civic pride.”

Slide from the presentation noting that Ogden is currently a highway-like street with long pedestrian crossings, that could be improved with wider sidewalks and protected bike lanes. Image: CDOT

Later, Hutchinson elaborated on the design process, using the city's previous work in the Fulton Market District as an example. "Fulton Market is a neighborhood that has a history of food and meat packing and food distribution, and that history is reflected in the architecture and the use of the public way.  The design team gathered images of the corridor both historic and current and used these for discussion with the community through a series of workshops similar to this to develop specific themes." The Fulton Market planners also looked at other meatpacking and warehouse districts across the country for inspiration.

The Odgen Avenue meeting attendees were split into separate tables for brainstorming. Thanks to the public survey that was sent out last spring, there were already a couple of ideas for Ogden corridor themes. Those included "Route 66," "One Lawndale," and "African American History and Colors." None of those designs were intended to be the final option for the corridor. After discussion of the three themes, the second half of the workshop was devoted to the attendees coming up with their own ideas for a design that would best serve the community.

Attendees at Monday's meeting. Photo: Cameron Bolton

“We kind of opted to say that we didn't want a gateway or arch," said the spokesperson for table five. "It was too limiting in terms of the rich and diverse history of Lawndale. And so we wanted to push to encourage economic development and people just to learn more about the community and walk the community, so that we should actually do something that's more reflective of that. And maybe we do some individual structures to highlight all of the people within North Lawndale and the rich history.”

The next community workshop for the INVEST South/West Ogden Avenue Corridor Improvement Project is scheduled for September, with a specific date to be sent out over email in the near future.

“I think [this meeting] went okay," said Rochelle Jackson, a member of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council. "I'm always disappointed that not enough residents show up. Because we need to be out here and we need to be counted... People need to be here to voice their opinions and give their feedback because it's very important.”

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