LINCOLN SQUARE — Neighbors want the new Ainslie Plaza to include food trucks, lounge seating and unique lighting, according to the results of a survey from the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
The plaza will take over the triangle-shaped block that currently has sidewalks, a parkway with trees and grass, and a bus stop just east of the McDonald’s at 4844 N. Lincoln Ave.
Neighbors were asked to weigh in on what the future of the plaza could look like, and a survey recorded more than 2,200 comments from more than 1,200 people in 11 days.
When asked to describe the current state of the plaza, neighbors said it looks unsightly and is underutilized.
“Right now the space is designed to be a buffer between the McDonald’s and Western Avenue,” said Rudy Flores, executive director for the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce. “What most people told us is we need to really look at how we build out public spaces.”
Survey respondents said they want to see lounge seating, parking for food trucks, heat lamps, shade from the sun, experimental lighting and movie screenings at the plaza.
Initial work on the plaza is tentatively set to begin in October, Flores said. Some of the requests neighbors made regarding seating and landscaping will to be implemented in a temporary way at that time.
“We’re taking a phased approach because when the McDonald’s started renovating their space it gave us this rare opportunity to take back this street that isn’t really utilized by anybody except for the traffic that was exiting the drive-thru,” Flores said. “The final version of the new plaza may take a couple of years to design, but right now we can test out ideas and see what works in what was essentially a dead public space.”
The plaza will also allow the chamber to experiment will how people use the space as the temperatures drop during fall and winter before settling on a final permanent design.
Since getting elected last year, Vasquez has sought to turn the north side of Lincoln Avenue into the Lincoln Avenue North Arts corridor, complete with murals and housing for artists to bring vibrancy — and, hopefully, commercial and community interest — to the area.
“We’ve been working on [the Lincoln Avenue North Arts corridor] and related things for that area for a long time, typically meeting at least once a week. And now, in the world of COVID, we have to figure out how to have more public spaces for people to be socially distant but still be able to come together somehow,” Vasquez said. “There’s so much opportunity here … to look at how we utilize public spaces differently.”
Local artists who submitted their portfolios are being reviewed by the chamber and 40th Ward office to determine who will create a mural for the plaza.
“There’s even more coming, so folks should keep reaching out to let us know the things they’d want to see here,” Vasquez said.
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