LOGAN SQUARE — A long-discussed project to overhaul the notoriously confusing — and dangerous — Logan Square traffic circle is moving forward.
As part of the project, the city is planning to build a plaza on Kedzie Avenue adjacent to the Logan Square Blue Line station, according to city planning documents obtained by Block Club Chicago.
The city has secured the necessary funds to make the project a reality, Chicago Department of Transportation spokeswoman Susan Hofer confirmed in an email.
Construction is expected to begin next spring, according to the documents.
It’s a big step forward for the overhaul, which has been stuck in the planning stage for years and discussed for decades.
Under the project, the city will completely redesign the Logan Square traffic circle surrounding the Illinois Centennial Monument.
The plan is to re-route Kedzie Avenue north of Milwaukee Avenue to create a plaza adjacent to the Logan Square Blue Line station, and to re-route Milwaukee Avenue around the square “to create a unified Logan Square,” according to the documents. The roadways surrounding the square will be converted to two-way traffic.
That design was chosen after a series of public meetings.
As part of the intersection redesign, the city is planning to update the sidewalks, install new light poles in the area and create access to the monument to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, according to the planning documents.
As for the plaza, residents can expect public seating, as well as planters and landscaping. The city is looking for a local partner or a community group to maintain the plaza and handle recreational programming. A special service area, or SSA, could be implemented, the city said. In a special service area, a special tax is levied on property owners within specific boundaries for communal services such as snow removal.
“CDOT will continue to mow the Square but cannot add to maintenance beyond that,” the city wrote in the documents.
In addition to redesigning the square and building a plaza, the city is also making improvements along Milwaukee Avenue, including adding protected bike lanes and updating sidewalks.
Hofer, the city spokeswoman, said the city has received an $11.825 million federal grant toward the project. The exact figure is “pending a final estimate,” but the city is also allocating $10-15 million in Tax Increment Finance (TIF) dollars for it, Hofer said.
Hofer couldn’t provide a total cost, saying, “Final estimates are under review.”
Residents have complained about the dangerous intersection for years and most cheered the city’s plans at a public meeting in late 2018.
Between 2011 and 2015, the circle saw 121 crashes, according to CDOT data. In 2016 alone — the most recent year data is available — the circle saw 34 crashes, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. The data only includes reported crashes, not the many near-misses seen daily in the area.
But not everyone supports the planned plaza.
“If you look at their rendering, there is not one single Latinx family included,” Christian Diaz, organizer with Logan Square Neighborhood Association, posted on Facebook.
“There is nothing in the design that is inclusive or welcoming to us here. It is just another example of the continued erasure of my people and my culture from this neighborhood that I love and is my home.”
Lifelong Logan Square resident and Logan Square Neighborhood Association intern David Rivera, 21, said many would like to see the city build a “Latin American-style plaza for all,” or “La Plazita.”
“The community members we’ve spoken to are very excited about this idea,” Rivera said in a written statement. “In the past we may have felt marginalized but we hope this is an opportunity to feel empowered to speak to CDOT and bring something to our community that will benefit everyone.”
Local activists and community leaders have said they’re worried the project could speed up gentrification. They crafted a Racial Equity Impact Assessment in 2018.
Andrew Schneider, president of the neighborhood group Logan Square Preservation, said the current plan has the support of his group.
“This plan has enormous potential to be really good, both in terms of increasing access to the square and enjoyment of it in general in the community,” Schneider said.
“The plaza is likely to improve traffic and it’s also going to really help utilize the CTA plaza there. That plaza was always envisioned as something that has life in it, but for whatever reason it wasn’t a success. Nobody lingers there.”
Schneider said he understands the concerns of Diaz and Rivera, but he’s hopeful the city will continue to work with Logan Square Neighborhood Association on a plan that celebrates the Latino community.
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