NORTH CENTER — Officials celebrated the completion of a pedestrian-friendly town square in North Center years in the making with a ribbon cutting Thursday.
The new plaza at 4100 N. Damen Ave. features a performance area with a stage and canopy, a turf sitting area, benches, lighting, trees and landscaping. It was created by closing a small segment of West Belle Plaine Avenue between North Lincoln Avenue and North Damen Avenue.
The plaza came about thanks to years of collaboration between the chamber, residents, business owners and local government pushing for an accessible, year-round public space, said Lindsay Eanet, executive director of the North Center Chamber.
The space is akin to Giddings Plaza in the heart of Lincoln Square and will host weekend farmers markets, outdoor yoga classes and socially-distanced performances, Eanet said. It also gives people a place to picnic with carryout food from nearby restaurants.
“We are excited to see the future of our beloved neighborhood space,” she said. “… Having this extra community space is really something wonderful, not just now doing the pandemic but also long term.”
While plans for the plaza date back almost a decade, in the absence of funding, the project didn’t gain traction until former Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) set aside $500,000 to jump-start the project in 2017.
The $2.05 million North Center Town Square project broke ground in July 2019 and was completed a few weeks ago.
Ald. Matt Martin (47th) thanked his predecessor for getting the project started.
“Both before, and especially during COVID, shared spaces like these that can accommodate a myriad of uses are badly needed,” Martin said. “… And once we put COVID in the rearview mirror we’ll have the option for more congregate setting likes movies in the square.”
Since taking office, Martin has advocated for more pedestrian and bicycle friendly streets. The city’s first Shared Street was implemented in Martin’s ward on Leland between Lincoln and Clark Street earlier this year.
“Once you unlock your mind about what a street can be you start to see how its parts can be used in different ways,” said Gia Biagi, Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner.
Neighbor Jared Flaconer was enjoying the new plaza with his 2-year-old son Titus Thursday.
“It’s a great spot for the neighborhood. I’m really happy we have it,” he said.
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