LINCOLN SQUARE — Neighbors want wider sidewalks, upgraded infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists and more greenery for the northern stretch of Lincoln Avenue, according to a community poll.
The roadway between Western and Catalpa avenues has been the focus of revitalization efforts in Lincoln Square, in hopes of making it as much a draw as the more popular commercial district southeast. In March, Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) announced a $15 million plan for the Lincoln Avenue North streetscape.
Hundreds of residents responded to a Chicago Department of Transportation survey about what they want those improvements to look like, with a clear consensus for the area to be less car-oriented and more open for walking and community leisure.
The community survey builds upon more than a year of work building up that stretch of Lincoln Avenue into a neighborhood destination.
The pedestrian plaza next to the McDonalds at 4844 N. Lincoln Ave. was a “dead space,” neighbors said last year as they asked for improvements like lounge seating, parking for food trucks, heat lamps, shade from the sun, experimental lighting and movie screenings.
Now, Ainslie Arts Plaza has Adirondack chairs, landscaping, lights and a mural by artist Andrea Jablonski. It’s already hosted Maker Markets, and on Wednesday evening it hosted the first screening of a new free film series with the Davis Theater.
Vasquez’s office is working with CDOT and design firm Teska Associates to bring the next phase of Lincoln Avenue improvements to life.
“This is something that has been a vision of mine, to be able to partner with so many people to build off of the master plan from the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber,” Vasquez said. “Now having CDOT and you all willing to help us out, I think there is so much that we can do here.”
More than 1,300 people responded to the poll in June and July and submitted more than 2,000 additional comments, said Jodi Mariano, a principal urban designer at Teska Associates.
Key takeaways from the respondents: Catalpa Avenue is too wide and sidewalks should be widened, bicycle facilities should be added and safety, sustainability and adding greenery should be prioritized.
Not all the requested changes complement one another, and one street improvement could come at the cost or reduction of another, said Ellen Schmidt, a CDOT project manager. The city agencies will have to work in tandem with the CTA and Illinois Department of Transportation, as well.
A second community poll is forthcoming. By the end of summer, the design team will have preliminary schematics neighbors can review in a community meeting. In the fall, a preliminary design concept will be drafted, and another public meeting on this plan will be hosted to gather feedback.
“We’re really excited that our master plan that we worked on a couple years ago and adopted at the end of our summer 2019 has led to conversations about the North Lincoln Avenue corridor,” said Rudy Flores, the chamber’s executive director.
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