The Lakeview “People Spot.”
A new city initiative is taking land that’s currently dead space, or used only for parking cars, and turning it into public space that could energize neighborhood business strips. On Friday the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) officially launched its “Make Way for People” program to transform surplus asphalt into seating areas and lively plazas, unveiling a new parklet in the parking lane in front of Heritage Bicycles, 2959 N. Lincoln Avenue.
The $25,000 installation, which CDOT is calling a “People Spot”, was paid for by the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce via Special Service Area (SSA) #27. (An SSA is a designated district where additional services, programs and projects are funded by an additional property tax.) The parklet, which will be removed in the fall and re-installed in the spring, will be maintained by the bike shop/café, but non-customers are welcome to use the space as well. Due to the city’s contract with LAZ Parking, removing the two metered parking spaces in front of Heritage for the parklet required creating two new metered spots elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Last week a new People Spot also debuted in Andersonville at the T-shaped intersection of Clark Street and Farragut Avenue. It was funded by SSA #22, the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce and a Kickstarter campaign. for a total of about $20,000. Two more parklets are proposed for the neighborhood, and an on-street bike parking corral is slated to open this fall in front of Hopleaf, a tavern at 5148 N. Clark, where it’s sorely needed. Another pair of People Spots funded by SSA #47 / Quad Communities Development Corporation should open in Bronzeville next week, at 47th and Champlain Avenue, and at 47th and Greenwood Avenue.
The Andersonville parklet.
In addition to the parking lane seating areas, CDOT plans to convert cul-de sacs, dead-end streets and other excess pavement into public spaces called “People Streets.” Underutilized existing public plazas, malls and triangles will become “People Plazas” with better maintenance and new event programming, possibly bankrolled by private sponsorship. “People Alleys” will be alleyways used for seating, artwalks and other events.
Here’s a partial transcript of CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein’s remarks at the celebration:
People Spots are a new use of our public space. It’s fun and good for business. It’s a way to enhance our public space and activate it, make it more inviting and also to create space for people to hang out, read or have a nonalcoholic drink where there might not be enough public space. And in this case we’re using two parking spaces, which we’ve offset with two parking spaces somewhere else. [“In my ward,” chimed in 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney, who attended along with 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack – the parklet is located in Waguespack’s district.]
Klein, Waguespack and Tunney.
[Klein thanked the aldermen, the city’s law department (which drafted the ordinance that permitted the new land use), Lakeview Chamber of Commerce director Heather Way and Heritage owner Michael Salvatore.]
I was talking to the mayor yesterday and we were talking about a host of different topics including the Make Way for People program, and he said something that I found inspiring. We were talking about this and we were talking about the Open Streets event that’s going to happen in the next month or so and he said, “When you think of all these different things that we’re doing with public space, what it’s really all about is celebrating Chicago.” And I think what he meant is that Chicago is known for its public space, its architecture, for its arts and its creativity, and this celebrates all of those things. And Chicago should be leading the country in utilizing its public space in the smartest ways possible.
[Klein thanked CDOT staffers Janet Attarian and Gerardo Garcia, who managed the parklet project. He then defined People Streets, People Plazas and People Alleys and mentioned that the city wants to turn a Loop alley, Couch Place, as public space.]
Next year we envision a much larger, more formal rollout of the program, again with People Spots, plazas, alleys and so on. And so we want to hear from the public, what they like, and their ideas. We’d like to hear from the SSAs. The SSA is extremely important for the funding, managing the construction, and also making sure that they’re maintained afterwards. So this is a true public/private partnership and we’re very excited about it.
Afterwards I asked Klein about the issue of the parking contract, which requires the city to compensate LAZ for any loss of revenue due to the removal of metered parking spaces, limiting the amount of space available for People Spots and other novel uses of the public way, like protected bike lanes
Great project. You guys did a great job of getting around the problem with the parking meters on this. But it seems like the parking meter contract has really hampered your ability to do creative projects like this citywide. Is anything being done to reverse the contract so that you can do more innovative projects like this in other parts of the city?
It’s funny you bring that up. I was joking with David Spielfogel, who’s the head of policy and strategy for the mayor, this morning on Twitter about all of the obstacles that we come up against in our jobs and I used the quote, “Persistence always overcomes resistance.” There’s always a way to do things if you’re creative. So what’s wonderful about this project is the incredible partnership between all these people that you see out here and the public in general. If we all put our minds together we can get something done.
With the parking meter issue in particular, there is unregulated space, we just have to find it. So we looked around here and we found some space that wasn’t metered. The beauty of it is that will become a permanent space that will produce revenue all year [while parking revenue will only be lost in front of Heritage for half the year] and we can bank it, so that next year we’re covered as well.
But are there any efforts to overturn the parking meter contract that you can tell us about?
You know I don’t actually manage that, and not that I know of.
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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