PORTAGE PARK — The People Spot that popped up at Six Corners for four years starting in 2016 is dead — at least for now.
People Spots, small plazas set up in parking spaces to promote walkability in business districts, became popular around 2016 and were built in several Chicago neighborhoods, including one near Perkolator Cafe, 6032 W. Irving Park Road.
The Six Corners People Spot, which was outside what is now ice cream shop Lovin’ Scoop at 4032 N. Milwaukee Ave., has been in storage since last year, prompting some neighbors to ask what happened to it.
Six Corners Chamber of Commerce officials told Block Club the spot is not coming back due to neighbors’ concerns about the plaza’s location — on a busy street “so close to vehicle exhaust fumes.” The summer plaza was set up in 2020 but only for a shortened season because of the pandemic.
Michael Giordano, director of operations at the chamber, said the organization is exploring other spots in the neighborhood on less congested streets.
At a recent chamber meeting, commissioner Jack Wroblewski, who lives across from where the spot was located, asked for it to be re-installed for the summer. He suggested installing the patio further north along Milwaukee Avenue, close to Cuyler or Belle Plaine avenues to be more tucked away from traffic.
The spot was “for everybody, but especially for those people who are a little older and need a place to sit down,” Wroblewski said at the meeting. “In my heart, we need that for the older people.”
Instead of working on the People Spot, the chamber has been focusing on helping businesses get sidewalk cafes for a “more robust culinary experience,” Giordano said. The city reduced the $600 permit fee by 75 percent due to the pandemic.
“Many of our restaurants have taken advantage of the decreased cost of the annual sidewalk cafe permit,” he said in a message. “The Six Corners Chamber of Commerce reimbursed restaurants for the cost of their sidewalk cafe permit last year.”
The Six Corners People Spot debuted in 2016 and was installed every summer by the Six Corners Association, the Special Service Area organization that managed the spot. The city-funded plaza was one that received the support of voters as part of former 45th Ward Ald. John Arena’s 2015 participatory budgeting election.
In 2020, the spot was outside for a shortened season because of COVID, said Amie Zander, president of the Six Corners Association.
The spot took up about two parking spots and had about four tables and 10 chairs. Local artists also painted the sidewalk and added flowers around the enclosed border separating it from the street.
Zander and Arena said they never heard any complaints about safety concerns from neighbors or business owners.
“It was used all the time; there were no safety issues,” said Zander, whose group regularly held music concerts and other programming at the plaza.
When the Six Corners Special Service Area became the Six Corners Chamber of Commerce at the beginning of 2021, Zander handed over the keys to a storage unit containing all of the equipment for the People Spot.
The plaza was a fun part of the community and she would like to see it return to the area, especially since it was funded and voted on by ward residents, she said.
Like sidewalk cafes, People Spots need a permit from the city’s Department of Transportation. Permits must be renewed every two years and require a letter of support from the owner of the business near the patio.
Billy Taleb, co-owner of Lovin’ Scoop, said he would welcome a People Spot in front of his business, he said. It would help bring more people to his ice cream shop and make the area more pedestrian-friendly, he said.
“Yes, I would love to see it,” Taleb said.
When asked if he or his customers had concerns over potentially losing two parking spaces in front of his shop for the plaza, Taleb said parking was plentiful elsewhere on Milwaukee Avenue or on nearby side streets.
The chamber plans to look into other locations for a People Spot but pointed to benches along Lamon Avenue and Irving Park Road and spots in Dickinson Park as temporary alternatives, officials said.
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