Parks Pop up in Chicago Parking Spaces

"People spots" take up the space of two parking spaces

By LeeAnn Trotter and Mitchell Grogg
|  Friday, Aug 3, 2012  |  Updated 7:56 PM CDT
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The spots are designed for people to relax and socialize. Planners also hope the people relaxing in the areas help increase foot traffic, helping area businesses. LeeAnn Trotter reports.

The spots are designed for people to relax and socialize. Planners also hope the people relaxing in the areas help increase foot traffic, helping area businesses. LeeAnn Trotter reports.

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Small parks have sprouted among the concrete of some Chicago streets.

San Francisco calls them parklets; the Chicago Department of Transportation says they are people spots. They are areas with benches or tables and chairs, surrounded by shrubbery, and placed next to parking spaces on the sides of city streets.

"I think it's awesome," said Johanna Bye, who lives near one of the parks. "I love the idea of taking spots that are supposed to be for cars and giving them back to people."

The spots are designed for people to relax and socialize. Planners also hope the people relaxing in the areas help increase foot traffic, helping area businesses.

They are part of the city's Make Way for People initiative, which aims to create a sense of community in Chicago neighborhoods.

"There is unregulated space. We just have to find it. So, we looked around here and we found some space that wasn't metered," said DOT Commissioner Gabe Klien.

The parking spots taken up by the people spots have been relocated within the neighborhood.

There are rules for using the spaces. People sitting down in the areas are not allowed to smoke or drink alcohol there. City officials are hoping business owners near the people spots ensure the rules are followed.

"Obviously it's public property, you can't stand out here and guard 24-seven, I mean, we'll keep an eye on it," said Mike Salvatore, who owns a business near one of the spots.

City officials are also asking business owners to give them an idea of who and how many people use the spots.

"We've been asked to keep very detailed notes on how many people are sitting here," said Ald. Scott Waguespsack (32nd). "And I'm kind of hoping Mike Salvatore, as a business owner tracks that for us."

The spots cost around $25,000, paid for by property taxes. Two more are expected to pop up in Bronzeville next week. City officials hope to build more people spots in other neighborhoods next spring.

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