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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Like The Idea Of Closing Streets For Pedestrians To Use? Weigh In On This Survey

Other cities have closed off streets to give social-distancing residents more elbow room.

Two pedestrians walk in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on Monday, April 27, 2020. Starting May 1, All Illinois residents are required to wear face masks in public. | Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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STREETERVILLE — A Streeterville urban planning and architecture firm that recently put together a proposal to turn neighborhood streets into public promenades to create more open space during the pandemic is asking the public for input.

The proposal, created by Lisa Wronski and Brian Hammersley of Hammersley Architecture and unveiled last week, was designed as a conversation starter. It outlined a broad plan that proposed closing streets to car traffic (aside from emergency vehicles and deliveries) in dense areas to provide more outdoor space to residents during the pandemic. Already, Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Oakland, Minneapolis, San Diego and Portland have implemented similar plans. 

Hammersley sent the proposal to the Chicago Department of Transportation in response to a call from Commissioner Gia Biagi’s call for ideas. They also sent it to Mayor Lori Lightfoot. To date, they have not received a response from the city, Wronski said.

Last week, Wronski addressed the proposal’s lack of detail, saying, “We didn’t propose actual routes because I don’t think it’s my place to tell someone who is in a different neighborhood than I am how to maneuver through the neighborhood,” Wronski said. “These are guidelines to get people to think about it and talk about it and then if they think that a street is viable for this plan, we’d like to hear about it. It would be cool to have a lot of people’s input and slowly have this turn into a design.”

Hammersely concurred with Wronski, saying at the time, “If we could expand this and include neighborhood groups and get input from people, I think for us it would be great to have people to collaborate with of all stripes, from all different neighborhoods. I think it would be different from neighborhood to neighborhood based on how they are laid out and neighborhood needs.”

On Thursday, Wronski said in response to the amount of comments from the public to the Block Club Chicago story about the initial proposal, the firm has unveiled a survey for residents from anywhere in the city to give input anonymously. 

Credit: Provided

In it, besides demographic and geographic data, participants are asked questions like whether they feel safe walking through their neighborhood (pre-COVID), how they usually get to and from work, how often they engage in physical activity and if they belong to a gym. Residents are also being asked to email concerns and ideas that go beyond the survey to the firm.

 Wronski believes the information will help her firm collect data to create more specific proposals and find out if people are willing to help implement any plans.

“Some people love it, some hate it and some are in the middle,” Wronski said. “This is a way for us to quantify all of these opinions.” 

She added the data will give her firm’s proposal more substance.

“The idea is to take the data from this and present it to the city again. Now we’ll have some data behind it, it’s not just ‘this firm came up with this idea.’” 

The survey will be available for a week, she said.

“I feel like ideally, everything we’ve done has had a week deadline. We had the first week where we put together the proposal and now we’ve had the second week where we’ve made this survey, and I imagine that we’ll have it out for a week. I know it sounds fast but it’s a really quick survey that can be completed fast.”