FULTON MARKET — Less than a year after the city cut the ribbon on the first phase of the $20 million Fulton Market Streetscape project, trucks in the rapidly-developing area are already destroying it.
On a weekly, sometimes daily basis, West Loop resident Levar Hoard said he’s spotted toppled bollards or broken tiles along a stretch of West Fulton Market between Halsted and Carpenter streets. Hoard, an urban planner and designer who curated the nearby B_Line, said the first phase of the streetscape project has not lived up to its potential of highlighting the character of the historic street.
He is not hopeful the second phase will either.
“It’s frustrating, to say the least,” Hoard said. “We should not have a streetscape of such poor quality and poor material that obviously can’t stand up to day to day use.”
On Wednesday evening, three overturned bollards were spotted on Fulton Market sidewalks, while a handful of others showed signs of damage.
The streetscape project, “a community-inspired modernization of the historic corridor,” according to Michael Claffey, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation, aimed to make the street more pedestrian-friendly as the corridor continued its transformation from wholesale market district to techie hub with upscale restaurants.
As part of the project, a new parking scheme, wider sidewalks, shorter pedestrian crossings, granite cobbled intersections, new lighting and other accents were installed. Claffey said the new streetscape better allows for outdoor markets like the Fulton Market Expo and other special events to be hosted on the stretch.
Now, as the city has started work on the second phase of the tax-increment finance (TIF) funded project, crews have already had to make repairs to broken bollards that were installed as part of the first phase. Trucks are believed to have toppled some of the bollards as construction continues on new buildings in the congested area, according to a city official.
While crews work on the streetscape projects along Fulton, several other developments are simultaneously under construction along the historic strip, including a 19-story office tower at the Fulton Market gateway and a six-story office building at Fulton and Racine.
The concrete bollards, located in a curbless part of the streetscape, are intended to protect other streetscape fixtures, including benches and planters, and separate the sidewalk from the street, a city official said. They’re meant to protect pedestrians walking on Fulton Market, too, said Carla Agostinelli, executive director of the West Loop Community Organization.
A Chicago Department of Transportation official said the second streetscape phase, which spans from Carpenter Street to Ogden Avenue, will not include the bollards.
Agostinelli said Department of Transportation crews are working to repair the bollards and tiles quickly. And the department is “exploring solutions” to address the damaged bollards, one official said.
But city transportation officials would not disclose how many bollards have been damaged or how much repairs cost.
Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) could not be immediately be reached for comment.
In the few weeks, Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Fulton Market Association, said he’s fielded complaints from area businesses about overturned bollards.
He said he was “absolutely shocked and stunned” to see the bollards knocked over along the strip.
“It’s concerning that something that just got installed, for significant funding using TIF money, are deteriorating already,” he said.
Along with the broken bollards, Romanelli said businesses had complained of the overall design of the streetscape and overgrown landscaping on the corridor. Some elements were not well designed, he said, like a bike rack that keeps customers at mattress store Casper, 821 W. Fulton Market, from loading mattresses into their SUVs.
Hoard, who has lived in the West Loop for a decade, spotted crews repairing a toppled bollard along the strip Tuesday.
“When you put in a streetscape and spend as much as you do, it’s supposed to be resilient,” Hoard said. “ We shouldn’t have to send crews weekly to make repairs. That means it’s an expensive streetscape to maintain.”
The toppled bollards and broken tiles could injure a pedestrian or scooter rider, too, Hoard worried.
In his opinion, the streetscape doesn’t help live up “hoopla and hype.
“When you walk out and see the broken fixtures it doesn’t convey quality or durability,” nor does it hold its own against other “world-class designed” streetscapes in other cities, Hoard said.
“We haven’t even reached peak use, this is a fraction of what we will see when this is completed,” Hoard said. “It’s an unfortunate design, not resilient enough design to withstand Chicago… to withstand how people drive and use this street.”
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