Ogden Avenue from Roosevelt to Pulaski Road is the heart of North Lawndale. As such, it is the lynchpin in ongoing efforts to redevelop the neighborhood. The street is scheduled to be rebuilt in 2009 (estimate), and so the Chicago Department of Transportation has begun a context sensitive solution process for redesigning the street. The transportation department, with the support of the Department of Planning and Development, is partnering with community stakeholders to create a design that will support the neighborhood’s redevelopment goals.
North Lawndale’s attractive housing stock, easy access to public transit, great park space, proximity to downtown Chicago , and strong community organizations, make the neighborhood well positioned for new retail and residential growth. However, North Lawndale’s main commercial street, Ogden Avenue, is today overrun by drivers rushing in and out of downtown; the highway-like use of the street makes it unsightly and unsafe, which presents a considerable challenge to spurring new development and enhancing the neighborhood’s aesthetic appeal. With careful planning, a redesigned Ogden Avenue will help organize North Lawndale around its strongest assets and catalyze redevelopment of the community at large.
The Ogden Avenue redevelopment process is led by a coordinating committee, which is a forum that allows the transportation department to balance engineering demands with community interests. The committee is composed of a diverse group of community stakeholders, including residents and members from the following organizations:
- Neighborhood Housing Services
- Mt. Sinai Hospital
- Steans Family Foundation
- Lawndale Business and Local Development Corporation
- Lawndale Christian Development Corporation
The coordinating committee is supported by the Chicago Department of Transportation and its consultants, Ciorba Group and DLK Civic Design. The outreach process is being coordinated by the Metropolitan Planning Council.
The coordinating committee met three times in 2006 to discuss the future of Ogden Avenue . Below is a summary of each meeting.
Meeting 1 (September 26, 2006): Shaping the Basic Vision
Purpose: To develop a community vision for the redevelopment of Ogden Avenue .
Action: The coordinating committee reviewed relevant neighborhood features and existing street characteristics, including:
- The wide variety of street users, including buses and passengers, bicyclists, hospital patients, and pedestrians.
- Typical street movements and common traffic conflicts on Ogden Avenue , including frequent crash locations and average daily traffic volume.
- Existing street anchors on Ogden Avenue , including the CTA station at Central Park Avenue, Mt. Sinai Hospital , Douglas Park, the police station at Ogden and Christiana Avenue , as well as sites of potential retail development along the corridor.
The Chicago Department of Transportation then clarified the phases of the design process. Phase 1 will consist primarily of conceptual design, and Phase 2 will focus on engineering-level design.
Response: Through a guided discussion process, the Coordinating Committee voiced the following concerns:
- Residents see Ogden Avenue as a barrier that is often avoided because of various factors: traffic is too heavy, crossing is difficult, and accidents are common.
- Drivers from outside the area use Ogden Avenue only as a shortcut; there are no destinations to get them to stop in the community.
- Ogden Avenue is seen as “big, daunting, scary, ugly”
- The service drives are confusing to outside residents and are only necessary at some points along the street.
- There are many car crashes at Ogden Avenue , Cermak Road , and Central Park Avenue .
The Committee also made the following suggestions:
- Add more green space along Ogden Avenue .
- Promote more retail development within walking distance, including restaurants, drugstores, hardware stores, and recreational venues.
- Create a more “soothing” street environment through better lighting, greater accessibility, and environmentally friendly measures.
Meeting 2 (November 1, 2006): Choosing a Concept
Purpose: To give consultants feedback on basic design options.
Action: DLK Civic Design presented the five basic design options for Ogden Avenue . These options included:
Additionally, a more detailed design timeline was given, with Phase 1 tentatively running from 2006 to 2008, and phase 2 running from 2008 through first section construction in late 2009.
Response: After discussion of the design concepts, the Coordinating Committee chose concepts C and D as its preferred designs.
Concept A did not rate as favorably because it eliminated access to some side streets. Concept B met with a positive reaction from the Coordinating Committee for its diagonal parking, but it was later deemed too barren for a residential area because of the lack of green space. Concept C received a positive response due to its treatment of medians and green space, elimination of service drives, and shorter crosswalk distances.
The Committee expressed some concerns with Concept D and its unfamiliar reverse diagonal parking, but this concept was also well received. The consultants then resolved to pursue Concept C and Concept D, and return to the next committee meeting with a plan for the full corridor.
Meeting 3 (December 12, 2006): Designing a Direction
Purpose: To give consultants feedback on full corridor design proposal.
Action: The Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s (LISC) MetroEdge presented a retail market analysis of North Lawndale . MetroEdge supports commercial corridor renewal efforts in low-income communities by focusing on the area’s points of retail opportunity. MetroEdge identified the retail float (buying power minus retail sales) of North Lawndale to be over $83 million. They noted that the two main areas of opportunity in the community where development should be concentrated were near the police department and CTA train station, and pointed out that it is important to grow the area’s residential base to increase demand for retail.
Consultants then presented two full corridor design concepts to the Committee. Committee members used a map with overlays of the proposed corridor design and placed “post-its” on what they liked and disliked about the plan.
Response: Comments and concerns raised by the coordinating committee included:
- The potential cost of converting parallel parking to diagonal should there be more demand for parking once more retail appeared in the neighborhood, and who would bear this cost.
- Whether back-in diagonal parking will slow traffic down and make the street safer.
- Safety issues in the positioning of the bike lanes.
After discussion, the committee agreed to pursue a form of diagonal parking rather than parallel parking. An approximate timeline for the project was laid out, with the next committee meeting to be scheduled once the proposed design had been reviewed by the necessary city and state agencies.