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Englewood, Chatham, Auburn Gresham

Chatham’s ‘Mobile Boardwalk’ Will Bring Outdoor Dining, More Summer Events

The Greater Chatham Initiative is building eight mobile seating areas that can be moved around the South Side for events.

Mark Johnson plays the drums near Fullerton Beach along the Lakefront Path during the warm weather on May 21, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHATHAM — Outdoor dining, sip-and-paints, live music and more are coming to Chatham this summer under a new city program.

The Greater Chatham Initiative was one of 15 community organizations chosen for a Chicago Alfresco grant, a program to create spaces for outdoor entertainment.

Nedra Sims Fears, executive director of the Greater Chatham Initiative, said the organization will use its grant money to build eight wooden, mobile seating areas called “parklets” along East 75th Street, East 79th Street and East 71st Street. They’ll be available in Chatham and the surrounding communities.

“We wanted to have a mobile boardwalk so that different areas of the South Side could experience al fresco dining,” Fears said. “We wanted it to be a more seamless experience so that a special service area provider could simply say, ‘We would like to have that,’ and it would just show up.”

The parklets can be arranged in a single file, side by side or in a quadrant, Fears said. And once an event is over, the parklets can be packed up and moved to another area for a new event.

“We envision a boardwalk to be in a specific area for a two-week period at a time, and then we would move it,” Fears said. “We would go where there are restaurants or activities so that not only would you have the boardwalk, but you would have the street activation by having that event there.”

Fears said fun events, from sip-and-paints to live DJs, are already in the works.

“When we have done parklets, we have done a variety of different activities — anywhere from having a dog park to having dining to music and DJs and artists,” Fears said. “We’ve had community paintings, games, arts and crafts. We’ve also done storytelling, yoga and chess. There will be a variety of different activities for children, families and adults.”

With outdoor dining and community events usually held on the North Side, Fears said the Alfresco grant will help Chicagoans see what the South Side has to offer.

“We’re always pleased when we can add another tool to our toolbox so that our residents can have something new, different and exciting to experience,” Fears said. “We hope that this will be similar to the circus coming to town and everyone having a good time.”

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