There will be a public meeting regarding the concept of a public plaza to be located at 2546-2566 N. Milwaukee Avenue on Tuesday, August 17 at 6:00 p.m. The meeting location is 2333 N. Milwaukee Avenue (Logan Square Kitchen).
Perhaps you’ve noticed the sign that’s been up forever quite a long time. (Note that Arnold Randall is listed on the sign as the planning commissioner. He left that post in January 2009 and has held two other jobs since then. And the Department of Planning and Development is no longer. It merged with other city departments to become the Department of Community Development and the Department of Zoning and Land Planning.)
One of the purposes of next week’s meeting is to give an update on what was originally conceived as a public market plaza that would host the Logan Square Farmers Market. The farmers market no longer finds the site suitable due to issues such as inadequate access and parking for vendors’ trucks, and it appears content with its current location. So the Department of Zoning and Land Planning has been looking at other ideas for the site.
The only idea they are inclined to bring to the public’s attention at this point is the proposal by the Chicago Rarities Orchard Project (C.R.O.P.) to use a fair amount of the space for a fruit orchard as I described back in April (Fertile fields of Milwaukee Avenue?).
As I wrote then,
The open space between Milwaukee and Kedzie Avenues (as desolate as it may be) and the Paseo Prairie Garden at the Logan Square “el” stop, the square itself, and the planned plaza south of the square can potentially kill foot traffic on this retail corridor, the same as parking lots and blank walls can. To replace the space of the plaza planned for the farmers market with an orchard…would be even more detrimental to maintaining the flow of foot traffic.
Just as the pace of businesses opening on Milwaukee Avenue has picked up despite the recession, just as more businesses will be opening soon such as Jam (photo left of possible location) and Wasabi (photo below) and Play and La Boulangerie, and just as those openings suggest the promise of other new businesses, I just can’t comprehend the argument in favor of dampening further business development and possibly hindering businesses’ success with a mostly passive green space. I want those new businesses to thrive! I want those new businesses to keep marching north on Milwaukee Avenue!
Other good discussions have cropped up (pun intended) at Payton Chung’s West North blog and at Switchboard, the National Resources Defense Council staff blog, where I concur with the suggestion that “proponents may be seizing the most opportunistic space rather than the best one for their project.” This is a fine idea that needs a different home, and as far as C.R.O.P. is concerned, the whole of Chicago is its oyster. Surely there are better sites.
Some posit that anything is better than the current state of the site. I disagree. An orchard is a long-term commitment. The city needs to do soil remediation (is this the best use of tax dollars right now?). The trees take seven years to mature (and what happens with the deadened space in the meantime?). C.R.O.P. is an organization only five months old (what happens if it fails?).
I’m also concerned about the appearance and management of the orchard should it be accepted for Milwaukee Avenue or wherever it may land. The people who manage the nearby Paseo Prairie Garden can attest to the difficulty of maintaining both the site and a cadre of volunteers to keep up with the necessary maintenance of the site. And if this video is any indication of what the orchard could look like on Milwaukee Avenue under C.R.O.P.’s stewardship, I have to go beyond saying “no thank you” to “no way!”
Not a done deal
Despite some language from the alderman’s posting on the neighborhood listserv and language in an email I received from I AM Logan Square, the proposal is not a done deal. Not surprisingly some of C.R.O.P.’s language, such as in the press release covered in the email above and in this information sheet, also reads as if this is a done deal.
However, Nelson Chueng of the Department of Zoning and Land Use Planning assures me that another purpose for the public meeting is to get feedback from the public about the orchard proposal to gauge if there is support.
I don’t know how the city is promoting this meeting. Besides the communications mentioned above, I haven’t seen anything. If it’s like other public or community meetings in the neighborhood, the group with the most to gain, in this case C.R.O.P., will be aggressively recruiting its supporters to attend the meeting. This common approach never lends itself to a fair discussion of the pros and cons of any proposal.
We can hope for something different. Your voice can and should be heard, and I encourage you to attend the public meeting on Tuesday, August 17, 6:00 p.m. at 2333 N. Milwaukee Avenue.
In the meantime, what are some alternative ideas for the site that could activate the space and contribute to the progression of new businesses?