Clark Street Crossroads is exploring ways to make the hallway safer and more vibrant – Streetsblog Chicago

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On Tuesday, the Chicago Planning Department hosted a virtual community meeting for the “Clark Street Crossroads” study of a one-mile stretch of Clark between Montrose and Foster Avenues in the Uptown Community Area, which serves the Ravenswood, Sheridan Park, Andersonville neighborhoods.

This project was initiated by a number of stakeholders who make up the steering committee, including Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th), Ald. James Cappleman (46th), Ald. Matt Martin (47th), Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, Uptown Chamber of Commerce and Clark Street Block Club, to name a few. These organizations will help collect feedback from residents to identify appropriate types and scales of new development along the corridor and introduce land uses to increase foot traffic. The study will also promote growth and improvement along the corridor through zoning and land use by identifying public realm improvements for collection, art and placemaking; and improving the streetscape to promote increased safety and comfort for pedestrians and cyclists.

Aerial view of the corridor taken from the Clark Street Crossroads website.
Aerial view of the corridor taken from the Clark Street Crossroads website.

DPD Commissioner Maurice Cox opened the meeting by saying the name of the study is appropriate, given that Clark crosses many neighborhoods and neighborhoods. Cox said he sees “corridor revitalization as key to creating neighborhoods that many people want to live in.”

Aldus. Martin said his neighborhood has seen a lot of turnover in commercial properties and he feels a corridor plan could help ensure a seamless transition to businesses and buildings that reflect community needs. He said he would also like to see the area’s best assets such as walking, access to public transit, the ability to ride a bike and the local arts scene made even better.

Aldus. Cappleman also said he sees Clark Street Crossroads as an opportunity to enhance the positive qualities of Uptown. He noted that about half of the region’s residents do not own a car. However, Cappleman added, there are also challenges in the form of many vacant storefronts along Clark in his neighborhood. He said he wanted to see a grocery store and more service-oriented businesses along the corridor.

Then, the presenters gave an overview of the ideas gleaned during a “walkshop” held last December. Key comments from this event included:

  • The desire for wider sidewalks
  • Demands for streetscape cohesion between neighborhoods through banners, lampposts, street trees, public art and benches
  • The desire for active windows
  • Auto-focused businesses with a driveway and parking lots are a barrier to connectivity and walking
  • Requests for connected and protected cycle lanes

Other comments collected so far on the Clark Street Crossroads website include:

  • Support for mixed-use development with commercial units downstairs and residential units upstairs
  • The desire for a greater diversity of housing options, including affordable housing
  • A call to ban new auto-focused businesses and mitigate existing driveways/curb cuts
  • The desire to widen sidewalks, replace painted sidewalk extensions and posts with permanent concrete bumps, and improve crossings for people who walk, cycle, and hail
  • Support for the mitigation of existing surface parking lots along the street edge
  • The desire for more murals and other public art, tactical town planning, outdoor patios, and other forms of place-making
A paint curb bump and poles on Clark in Andersonville.  Photo: John Greenfield
A sidewalk bump painted and posted on Clark in Andersonville. Photo: John Greenfield

It is important to understand demographic trends when determining a way forward for the region. Meeting attendees saw a graph of demographic changes in the five census tracts that border the study area. Most of the modest population growth in the region has been driven by empty nesters/young elders; families or adults between 35 and 54 years old; and a slight increase in children aged 5 to 19 years. There has been a loss of young adults/families (20-34 years old) and children under four.

Screenshot 2022-02-18 at 5.21.08 PM
Demographic trends in local census tracts.

The presenters also discussed housing trends in the area. While in recent decades new housing developments in the area tended to be condos, nowadays there is a move towards more apartments. From 2013 to 2022, 195 condo units were built along this stretch of Clark Street and 186 rental apartments were built. Condo prices and apartment rents have both increased significantly since 2012. Between 2012 and 2021, the average condo sale price has increased by 80% and the average rent in the area has increased by 23%. Not surprisingly, when participants were then asked what type of housing they would like to see built in the area, limited income/labor rental apartments, as well as new condos received the highest percentage of votes. Market-priced apartments, townhouses and seniors’ residences were also preferred, but in lower numbers.

The presenters gave an overview of existing Clark cross-sections.

Some of the existing street layouts on Clark.
Some of the existing street layouts on Clark.

Then they discussed underutilized assets and opportunities to activate the public domain. Some of the ideas include curbless pavement treatment like the nearby Argyle ‘shared street’; raised pedestrian crossings; protected crossroads; pedestrian islands; bus boarding jumps; and “People Spot” mini-parks in the parking lane.

Argyle Street-style curbless pavement, raised crosswalks, and protected intersections are possible treatments.
Argyle Street-style curbless pavement, raised crosswalks, and protected intersections are possible treatments.

When participants were asked which improvements they would prioritize in the public realm, railroad crossings and storefronts were the top choices.

Throughout the virtual workshop, participants answered survey questions. Here are some highlights:

  • When asked, “How do you most often walk the hallway?” the first response was walking, followed by driving, cycling, and public transit.
  • When asked, “What is Clark Street missing?” the top responses were community spaces and restaurants, followed by shopping, leisure/entertainment, housing and workspaces.
  • When asked what commercial uses they would like to see along Clark, attendees said they would like to see retail, entertainment, restaurants, cafes and child care.

If you would like to provide feedback on the Clark Street Crossroads study, you can find the community survey on the project’s website under “Engage”. A replay of Tuesday’s meeting is also available on the project’s website. It was nice to hear from those involved with the project that the bike came up a lot in the steering committee conversations and in the public comments. Hopefully improvements to the area will include protected bike lanes and more public gathering spaces.

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