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Lincoln Square

Neighbors applaud plans for bike-ped upgrades at open house for plaza and streetscape upgrades near Western Brown Line stop

"It will make it safer for the kids to walk and bike to school or for recreation," said an attendee. "So, it’s really for them. For the future."

Looking at a display board showing the upcoming Leland Greenway bike route. Photo: Cameron Bolton

This post is sponsored by the Active Transportation Alliance.

Last week the Chicago Department of Transportation and the 47th Ward held a community open house for the Lincoln Square Brown Line Area Streetscape and Plaza Improvements project. Held at Szold Hall at the Old Town School of Folk Music, the event provided a rundown of what's happened with the project so far and allowed attendees to leave suggestions on improvements for the Western Brown Line station area. Construction is slated to begin this spring and last for the rest of the year.

Participant Hannah Mira Friedland said the comments she left were "mostly about activation of the space and ways to prepare it for possible food trucks, performers, pop-up installations, or markets of some sort. That's a big thing that I focused on."

Overhead view of the immediate area around the Western station. Image: Google Maps

The plaza that’s going to be improved is located at the southeast corner of Leland (4700 N.) and Western (2400 W.) avenues, north of the station. The streetscape element includes Leland between Western and Lincoln (2300 W.) avenues, and Western between Leland and Montrose (4400 N.) avenues. Other Another area that is included in project is the parking lot on the southwest corner of Leland/Lincoln, which is used for the local farmers market.

According to a flier handed out at the open house, there will be a wide range of improvements, such as new sidewalks and curbs; wheelchair ramps; curb extensions; and high-visibility crosswalks. CDOT says the affected streets will be repaved and there will be drainage improvements, and new street lighting, as well trees and landscaping.

Attendees at the open house. Photo: Cameron Bolton

According to one of the boards at the open house "The project will foster community and economic growth, support opportunities for community gatherings and events, and provide protected bike facilities." The latter refers to the long-awaited Leland Greenway bike route, approved by neighbors back in 2019, which will include a raised two-way bike lane on the south side of Leland between Western and Lincoln. The project "will also provide an enhanced pedestrian connection from the CTA Brown Line Station to Lincoln Avenue under the existing elevated tracks."

The planned layout of the Leland Greenway route between Western and Lincoln. Image: CDOT

There were two different station design proposals for attendees to voice their support for. Theme A is "Olde World Concept" while Theme B is "Contemporary Arts Concept." Holly Gerberding, an architect and longtime Lincoln Square resident, opined that the plaza should have a forward-thinking design, because the 20th Century CTA station is never going to look "Olde World."

"Olde World" design theme. Photo: Cameron Bolton

"I like that they’re really thinking about bicycle safety and pedestrian safety,” Gerberding added. "And they’re really thinking through the multi-use of the parking lot to the east of the CTA plaza, enhancing its use as a farmer’s market, and things like that."

The foundation for the improvement project is the Lincoln Square Master Plan, the result of a 12-month collaboration between residents, business owners, and other stakeholders. It's used by the local chamber of commerce to guide future transportation projects, infrastructure, and private development.

Checking out a display board at the open house. Photo: Cameron Bolton

"Based on the conceptual design recommendations in the original Master Plan, the chamber conducted a CTA Station Area Study which delved further into design and outreach for the areas within and surrounding the CTA Station Area," said a display board. "Following a second robust outreach program, the Chamber completed the CTA Station Area study in Spring 2022, which serves as a guide to the CDOT/CTA Transit Plaza Area and Streetscape Project."

"This will make it a much more welcoming place," said attendee Andres Chamorro. "A much safer place. Lincoln Square, there’s a lot of young families here, so I think it’ll make it safer not just for a seasoned cyclist, but for all the young families here. "It will make it safer for the kids to walk and bike to school or for recreation. So, it’s really for them. For the future."

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