JEFFERSON PARK — A few parking spaces across from the Jefferson Park Transit Center will be transformed Friday in the name of “tactical urbanism,” a strategy involving temporary changes to public spaces to make them more welcoming to people.
Friday is Park(ing) Day, an international holiday that reclaims space normally reserved for cars for people.
“It’s basically trying to say, in too many spaces there is too much room devoted to cars,” said Ryan Richter, the president of Jefferson Park Forward, a neighborhood organization dedicated to improving pedestrian safety and access in the area. “This is one way we can support a better built environment.”
Jefferson Park Forward will host Chicago’s only Park(ing) Day event supported by a community organization. This year, the group will roll out astroturf, set up some chairs, provide games and partner with a local church group to provide music throughout the day. The activities start at 7 a.m. on Friday and go through 5 p.m., Richter said.
“In what we call the downtown area, by the Blue Line, there’s been a lot of retail vacancy, and it’s underdeveloped economically,” he said.
Jefferson Park Forward also hosted an event last year in a few parking spaces just south of the transit center on Milwaukee Avenue. It ended up leading to some conversation about the use of public space and was well-received by local groups, he said.
“The local Chamber of Commerce was really interested in the way we had activated that space for public use,” Richter said. “They have been kicking around this idea of making a permanent pedestrian plaza in the space that we were occupying last year. We don’t really have a quality pedestrian space in an area where we have a lot of pedestrians.”
This event comes at a time when development is a key issue in the neighborhood. On Thursday, a long-debated affordable housing complex planned for 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. won City Council approval.
“Park(ing) day is related because we’re looking at how people are using the space around the transit center,” Richter said.