NORTH CENTER — Neighbors have until the end of the month to share their thoughts on what the future of the North Center business district should look like.
Since June, the North Center Chamber of Commerce, North Center Neighborhood Association, Ald. Matt Martin (47th) and Place Consulting have hosted three meetings and two walking tours where people could share their thoughts on how the commercial corridor could improve.
“Participating in this process lets you have a say in the future of what the business district will be,” said Kara Riggio, a manager with Place Consulting. “It lets us know where specific investments can be made using things like aldermanic menu funds or Special Service Area [money] to make some improvements to make the streets more welcoming, for example.”
Some of the feedback incorporated into the current draft recommendations for the North Center plan include increasing residential density while broadening the range of housing types and price points.
“We’ve heard overwhelmingly a desire for a broader sense of affordability in North Center,” Riggio said. “The data is showing us that in order to purchase a home here, you have to be rather wealthy and the neighborhood doesn’t really seem affordable to a broad range of potential residents.”
The idea is that if North Center becomes more affordable more people can live in the area and, in turn, spend money supporting the local business community.
“When you have a neighborhood that is less dense, and we’ve heard this from people who have participated in the surveys, people often leave the North Center business district to spend a Saturday in another part of the city,” Riggio said. “That means that money is then leaving the area.”
Other findings in the draft recommendations include amplifying North Center’s branding and identity by using the district’s existing color scheme and logo to unify street furniture like bike racks, trash cans and benches.
And in an effort to unify the business district, the draft plan recommends adding new wayfinding kiosks to the streets.
Another finding is a desire to make the six corner intersection at Lincoln Avenue, Irving Park Road and Damen Avenue safer for cyclists and pedestrians. So far people have said they’re concerned with high traffic speeds and a general lack of feeling of safety, particularly when walking or biking in that area.
Martin’s been an advocate of alternative forms of transportation and has been pursuing ways to make his ward more friendly for pedestrians and cyclists.
“I feel in general people are giving really good ideas. People really want to move the neighborhood forward,” said Brian Murphy, a neighbor who participated in the July 25 visioning meeting. “We have a lot of public transit so I think the neighborhood could use more density to help these businesses thrive.”
So far over 300 people have shared their thoughts on how North Center could be improved, according to Lindsay Eanet, executive director of the chamber.
People interested in participating in the process can still give their feedback until Oct. 31 by emailing Eanet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once the feedback phase of the plan is complete, the next step is analyzing the data and responses from the community to develop a final vision and set of recommendations for the district.
Then final recommendations will be submitted to the Northcenter Chamber of Commerce and the Special Service Area which may include a summary of all contributions collected as well as recommendations for future action.
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