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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Chicago Alfresco Program Debuts In Uptown Just As Outdoor Dining Season Comes To A Close

Some business groups have been frustrated with the pace of the program's rollout, but each space can remain for up to three years, a city spokesman said. Several are still on track to make their debut this year.

Chicago Alfresco will make its debut in Uptown, where expanded outdoor dining will take over street space on Argyle.
Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago

UPTOWN — A city program meant to give neighbors more outdoor space during the pandemic has debuted in Uptown, with more spaces set to roll out across the city as the outdoor dining season comes to a close.

The Chicago Alfresco space has opened on Uptown’s Argyle Street, where additional outdoor seating, decorations and programing will come to the Asia on Argyle district. It is the first of 15 new outdoor spaces meant to help residents and businesses safely gather during the pandemic.

The new outdoor spaces were announced in May, with the first making its debut in Uptown over four months later. Argyle’s space will be rolled out slowly, with new components and features being added through the fall and winter months, local business officials said.

The other Chicago Alfresco spaces — including ones in Humboldt Park, Rogers Park, and South Shore — are still on track to make their debut this year, said Mike Claffey, spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Transportation.

Some businesses and business groups have been frustrated with the pace of the program’s rollout, but Chicago Alfresco is a new initiative that is not just for this year, Claffey said. Each space can remain for up to three years.

“This is a long term project,” Claffey said. “It’s a very ambitious project. It takes time.”

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
Officials and local business owners cut the ribbon on the city’s first Chicago Alfresco program in Uptown.

On Argyle Street, businesses will be able to take over the parking lane for outdoor seating. Colorful barricades and outdoor furniture will be set aside for businesses to assemble and take down as they see fit, said Justin Weidl, director of neighborhood services for chamber group Uptown United.

More features of the outdoor space, including new decor and programming, will be rolled out on a monthly basis, with the final form of the Alfresco space likely taking shape in the fall, Weidl said.

RELATED: Chicago Alfresco Program Nears Debut — But In Rogers Park, The Plans Face Backlash

Special programming including live music will take place inside Argyle businesses during the winter, and Uptown United is seeking a grant to winterize some of its outdoor spaces for the winter season, he said.

“Everything was design with the restaurants in mind, so they can utilize the area as they need it,” Weidl said.

Argyle’s Chicago Alfresco space is picking up where Argyle Night Music left off. Argyle Night Music took over the street four Thursdays in September, bringing outdoor seating and a stage to the area. Neighbors gathered Thursday to gather outdoors and listen to live music and a circus performance while local officials cut the ribbon on the Alfresco space.

Argyle Night Music was thanks to a different city program, but some of its features will be used for Chicago Alfresco.

“This is exactly what we’re trying to do,” Gia Biagi, commission of the Chicago Department of Transportation, said at the event. “We want to keep going. it’s all about how we put our streets and public ways in service of what communities need and want.”

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
Jarvis Square’s expanded outdoor dining will be turned into a Chicago Alfresco space.

Chicago Alfresco builds off of the city’s expanded outdoor dining program, which was rolled out during the height of the pandemic and gave restaurants more space to safely serve customers.

An expanded outdoor dining space at Jarvis Square will be turned into an alfresco site, giving neighbors an idea of what the program will look like. Jarvis Square’s outdoor seating and programing has been a hit with some neighbors, but some nearby businesses have not liked the closure of the street.

Argyle Street works well for the Chicago Alfresco project, officials said, because it was turned into a “shared street” under a 2016 redesign. Without a traditional curb between sidewalk and street, outdoor space can more easily be accommodated, they said.

“The shared street concept on Argyle was designed to allow for more dynamic uses, and the Alfresco program aligns perfectly with that vision,” Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said.

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