Argyle Street between Broadway and Sheridan would be converted into Chicago’s first “shared street” under an innovative project launched Monday.
The Chicago Department of Transportation plan calls for raising the level of the street and eliminating curbs to create the feel of a plaza that, City Hall hopes, will be filled with street fairs and sidewalk cafes.
“The goal is to spur additional street life and economic development along the corridor, building on Argyle Street’s existing weekly use for night markets and Chinese New Year celebrations,” Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld was quoted as saying in a news release.
“This project was designed through CDOT’s Complete Streets approach and is the result of an extensive community engagement process involving local stakeholders and Ald. Harry Osterman (48th),” she said.
The project was designed by the firm of Burns & McDonnell with support from Site Design Group, Ltd.
The yearlong project will be completed in phases to minimize disruption to area businesses. During that time, Argyle, which is now a two-way street, will switch to a one-way street eastbound between Broadway and Sheridan.
Once the work is done, two-way traffic will begin again.
The Shared Street concept is part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s innovative, “Make Way for People” plan to make Chicago streets safer for pedestrians while generating traffic for neighborhood retailers.
The plan includes four separate initiatives under the same umbrella: People Spots; People Streets; People Alleys and People Plazas.
Earlier this year, the City Council approved the mayor’s plan to bring 50 under-utilized plazas to life with artwork and year-round cultural programming.
Some aldermen had misgivings about the contract amid concern about a proliferation of advertising and questions about who gets to sell the signage. The contract also allows the private contractor, Latent Design Corp., to grade itself. The grade will determine how much the company gets paid.
Aldermen also expressed concern that the plazas would be confined to upscale neighborhoods.