Monday, January 29, 2007

Who's minding the North Avenue Corridor?

Anonymous made this comment to my post about Whole Foods ditching its current North Avenue location for a triple-sized one just south:

"I wonder what is being done to handle new
traffic patterns and the added congestion from
building going in south of North Avenue?
Whole Foods -- the British School---Twin
condo towers that will be thirty stories tall--

All this added traffic will be pouring onto North
Avenue and Clyborn and Halsted Street.
Who is planning this stuff? Where's the city

I have thought about this A LOT -- ever since North Avenue began looking like a suburban mall zone.

Here are my hunches.

At least three different alderman's wards converge in that area: Burnett, Matlak, and Daley. Maybe some others.

And, there is almost no one living there. So, there is no citizen base to fight the changes, question them, or encourage design improvements. Furthermore, the aldermen are not requiring that developers include housing in conjunction with all those shopping malls. That would have the benefit of making that area a truly mixed-use community. Thus, all possibility of a civic life has been drained from the area.

As the area lacks a complete voice, the developers get to do whatever they want, more or less, and traffic will not be addressed until it is too late.

Matlak touts the new North Avenue bridge and several new traffic lights along North Avenue as the cure for the congestion, but I don't get how that will be, except for the first few hours after the bridge officially opens.

Finally, over here in Lincoln Park, the citizenry has been sliced, diced, and roto-chopped into such small subgroups of community organizations that no one has the collective power to say: "Hey, enough is enough! Have some vision and build something that is vibrant, alive, and HOUSES PEOPLE AND CITIZENS."

Aaaarch. The whole thing frustrates the heck out of me. They had an opportunity to enhance that small part of the city and make it really thrive all the way to the expressway. Now, it's just another ugly shopping strip devoid of human presence when the shops are closed and enabled by a bunch of alderman who are all too free to say, "Not my ward."


Anonymous said...

The North Avenue and Clybourn Avenue corridors are horrible developments in the city. They are great examples of how little thought is going into urban planning and zoning in Chicago. These chains have effectively made it impossible for any independent stores with similar wares to survive in Lincoln Park, Lake View, and Old Town. It is also sad to see the awful traffic and congestion that has been generated in this area, especially on weekends. Overall, too many people in this area accept this horrendous model of suburbia in the the city.

Steven Vance said...

Maybe make some cul-de-sacs? I'm kidding.

But we could cut off parking lot access in a few places, and cut off the small driveway/alley/street between the gas station and the entrance to the North/Clybourn Red line station. Turn this into a landscaped plaza.

Also, take off those hideous signs on the North Ave. mall building. For one, Jamba Juice no longer exists in there. The sidewalk in front of that building is way too narrow.

Maybe when the bridge is done they can add bike lanes to this stretch of North Ave. which might help calm the traffic, provide a buffer, get cars off the street. At least everyone's driving slow because they can't drive any faster.

Jennifer said...

Yes!!! That building at the SE corner of Sheffield and North (that had Jamba Juice in it) is one of the most poorly designed buildings EVER.

The sidewalks ARE way too narrow. I NEVER use those stores because it is too risky to walk along that stretch with a rowdy toddler. I'm not even comfortable using a stroller because the cars are so close to the sidewalk, it just feels too risky even if it isn't.

Furhter, the only store entrances sit along North Avenue, which makes the giant ugly parking garage tacked on the back utterly useless.

Finally, the complete lack of local shop owners and independent guys and the unfriendly biking area are two more reasons why that area is just awful.

With New City Y coming down, it will only get worse.

Melanie R. said...

We NEVER cross North Avenue. We walk on
weekends because it is too congested to drive.
The suburban strip mall of stores is disgusting.It is high time for the city (Alderman Daley but not the other guy -Matlak
he doesn't care about us over here) to
put some of our tax dollars to work. The
comments have been great. There was NO city
planning except a plan to let a few guys get
rich and forget the rest of us who live here and
keep the Machine rolling along with our money.
I am sick to death of this and we are considering
moving. The British School will never be a neighborhood school for families north of North
Avenue. Most of us will be priced out of this
neighborhood when our kids get older. No one who lives here approves of the building of
out of proportion houses and chain stores.
Our taxes are not worth it for what we get.
Local neighborhood volunteers can't stop the
stupidity of a City Hall that blindly defends developers. It makes me crazy to listen to our
political officials who actually think they are
doing a good job.