ROGERS PARK — Outdoor dining and event spaces are coming to four Far North Side streets this summer, expanding on a citywide program to provide more open air space for businesses and neighbors during the pandemic.
Business groups in Uptown, Rogers Park and West Ridge will receive help to establish new or improved outdoor dining space this summer as part of the city’s Chicago Alfresco program. The city’s tourism arm, Choose Chicago, is giving $2.3 million to 15 community groups for the creation of outdoor public spaces.
On the Far North Side, the program will create three outdoor spaces and will upgrade an existing one.
“As the city movies into pandemic recovery phase, these types of community spaces are vital to extending a sense of connection,” said Larissa Tyler, executive director of the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce.
Chicago Alfresco builds on the expanded outdoor dining initiative the city launched last year to help struggling businesses have more outdoor space to safely serve customers. Expanded outdoor dining spaces are still taking place this summer on Andersonville’s Balmoral Avenue and Uptown’s stretch of Broadway near the Green Mill, though they are not part of the new effort.
Here is what is coming to the Far North Side under Chicago Alfresco:
Devon Potluck Plazas will take over areas along the commercial strip this summer.
The pop-up plazas will use sidewalk and side street space for communal seating and special events. The idea is for neighbors to order takeout or bring their own food to eat in the public space, Tyler said.
“They’re meant to encourage people to step outside and dine al fresco,” she said. “We want to make sure there’s space for the neighborhood to express itself.”
Public spaces will be made over with bright installations and community areas meant for art pieces, performances and storytelling, Tyler said. The chamber’s new radio station will also broadcast from the public space’s special events, telling the story of local businesses and residents.
By rotating from one side street near Devon Avenue to the next, the event can reach virtually all businesses in the area, Tyler said. The chamber is enlisting local businesses into its outdoor spaces and special events programs, and the program hopes to start in June and last into September, she said.
The Asia on Argyle district will get an even more pedestrian-friendly makeover this summer.
West Argyle Street will convert parking space into expanded dining and event space, said Martin Sorge, executive director of Uptown United.
Argyle already has a pedestrian-forward design and does not have curbs. By closing parking, business can create more space for seating, sidewalk sales and special events.
“The idea is to give the businesses extra room … and create a sense of vibrancy,” Sorge said. “We’re working with businesses to see what they want.”
Decorations and installations similar to those used for events like Lunar New Year will be installed, and Uptown United will work to add special events to coincide with the shared space. Events like Argyle Night Market are still being planned but will likely include the expanded pedestrian space, Sorge said.
More will be released about the program soon, Sorge said.
An already-existing outdoor space on Jarvis Avenue will get improvements while another on Glenwood Avenue will come online.
The Jarvis Avenue expanded outdoor space will once again have dining and events space take over portions of the street. This year, the area will receive new landscaping, furnishings and design elements, according to the city.
Expected events include daily outdoor dining, live performances, moonlight ice cream socials, movie nights and a monthly artisan market.
Participating businesses include Charmers Cafe, R Public House, Jarvis Square Tavern, Taste Food & Wine, Anto Pizza and Pasta.
Those businesses also participated in the program last year and held special events like watch parties and craft fairs led by Charmers Cafe. The Jarvis Square Artisan Market will take place Saturdays.
A stretch of Glenwood Avenue will close to car traffic to make way for more dining and event space. The city will help install decorative lighting, seating, signs, performance space, bike parking and accessibility features to make the area more usable.
The city is continuing to accept proposals for Chicago Alfresco grants. More information on the program is available here.
The city’s Expanded Outdoor Dining program — which was introduced last year and permits bars and restaurants to operate in private parking lots, on the sidewalk or in closed streets — will also continue this year. Businesses can apply for permits here.
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