Kenmore Avenue. Can you spot the monk in this photo?
The Chicago Department of Transportation’s Janet Attarian recently told me about DePaul University’s proposal to create a new pedestrian plaza by closing the block of Kenmore Avenue (1030 West) south of Fullerton Avenue (2400 North). Known as the Kenmore Green, it sounded like a great plan to me, but it’s turning out to be more controversial than I thought.
Allen Mellis of the Wrightwood Neighbors Association, a local community group, has been spearheading opposition to the plaza. Mellis is concerned about the loss of 47 parking spaces associated with closing the block. Also, a traffic study conducted by the firm Kenig, Lindgren, O’Hara, Aboona Incorporated found that the closure would funnel thirty percent more southbound traffic onto Sheffield Avenue (1000 West), the nearby business street. Mellis also argues that the project would create little additional green space. He also feels that, unlike the closure of Seminary Street (1100 West), which created the campus quadrangles, a popular dog walking site for neighbors, the Kenmore Green would be used almost exclusively by students.
The DePaul quadrangle at Seminary Street.
At an October 11 meeting on the DePaul Campus, dozens of community members showed up for an update on the plan, and many joined Mellis in voicing their opposition. I recently contacted DePaul spokeswoman Valerie Phillips and asked for DePaul’s perspective on Mellis’ claims, and an update on the project. She provided the following statement:
“DePaul has always welcomed neighborhood residents to its campus. The university consistently supports community events and makes accommodations to provide meeting space for the community. Kenmore Green would increase the quality of on-campus park-like space that can be enjoyed by all members of the Lincoln Park community.”
“The proposed street closure between Kenmore and Belden Avenues is designed to create open green space for DePaul and the surrounding community. The “greening” of the street would feature pathways, landscaping and a pocket park that could be used for university and community activities such as art fairs and food fests.”
“Both the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and a DePaul-commissioned study conducted by the firm Kenig, Lindgren, O’Hara , Aboona Inc., have reported that closing Kenmore during a month-long trial this past May had a relatively minor impact on parking and traffic in the studied area. They also found that there would be some levels of impact on pre-existing traffic hotspots—the intersections of Sheffield/Belden, Racine/Fullerton and Racine/Webster— and recommended improvements to address traffic conditions in those hotspot areas that would improve existing traffic operations and mitigate the impact of the Kenmore closure. [These included adding a through lane in each direction at Sheffield and Fullerton and adding a traffic signal at Belden Street (2300 North) and Sheffield.] CDOT also stated they did not favor the improvements in the specified locations due to pedestrian safety concerns.”
“The final decision about whether or not the plan moves forward currently rests with 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack.”
Waguespack apparently has not made a decision for or against the plaza, saying he is still gathering information on the project, according to a recent article in DePaul’s student newspaper. I dropped by the block on Wednesday afternoon as classes were letting out. During the fifteen minutes or so I observed traffic on the street, many dozen DePaul students crossed Kenmore from one campus building to another but there were only a handful of southbound automobiles on the one-way street. So, if the parking issue doesn’t wind up being a dealbreaker, it seems to me that it makes sense to turn this block of Kenmore over to people rather than cars.
Grid Chicago is a blog about sustainable transportation matters, projects and culture in Chicago and Illinois, by John Greenfield and Steven Vance since June 2011.
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