While perusing photos of this year’s PARK(ing) Day back in September (also see Fall diversions in Logan Square: PARK(ing) Day installations), I got to thinking that we might expand on the idea for more than a day in a way that’s more than just making a statement about the use of public space.
Milwaukee Avenue is challenged to have the lively street life that outdoor dining can bring because of its narrow sidewalks. On the east side of Milwaukee Avenue, the sidewalks are about 11.5 feet wide, and on the west, 10.5 feet wide. Where there are street trees, the sidewalk clearances to the tree well are only 6.5 feet and 5.5 feet respectively. A three-foot clearance is the minimum required for accessibility, and six feet is recommended to allow for easy two-way pedestrian traffic.
These constraints permit sidewalk seating, if any, just one table deep (and a two-top at that) (see photo below). But what if we could expand the space available for outdoor seating by co-opting six to eight feet of the street itself for a limited season?
“Cafés will (soon) be popping up on the streets of New York.” And San Francisco is several steps ahead with periodic requests for proposal, a formal application process, and insurance and maintenance requirements for these sidewalk extensions or “Parklets,” just one of its Pavement to Parks projects.
I would be surprised if The idea for these sidewalk extensions did not emanate from PARK(ing) Day , though I don’t know for sure. [Update: Confirmed.]
The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat…at least until the meter runs out!
The sidewalk extension idea goes beyond PARK(ing) Day’s aim in scope and length of time as a use that could potentially add value–both aesthetic and economic–to Milwaukee Avenue for about six months of the year.
The bad news is that the City has practically ceded control of its parking lanes to Chicago Parking Meters, LLC for the next 73 years. Any co-opting of parking spaces will require a corresponding cash contribution to the “concessionaire.” Assuming a couple of parking spaces front a typical 25 foot property width, and based on the numbers provided to Alderman Scott Waguespack last year and adjusted for rate increases, each business would have to fork over at least $1000 a season for the privilege of using the public way. Not that they shouldn’t pay for using it; just that they would have to take the extra cost into consideration. Also, the cost will rise with currently scheduled and future approved parking rate increases.
While parking on the stretch of Milwaukee Avenue that is the focus of this blog has been underutilized since the parking meter lease deal, you don’t want to eliminate all street parking. Besides the convenience to drivers who might patronize the businesses, parked cars do form a comforting buffer zone between pedestrians and moving cars. It would be advisable to place some sort of limit on the number of parking spaces that could be co-opted, either a limited number of spaces per quarter mile and/or a required separation between the spaces.
Milwaukee Avenue also has regular street cleaning that must be maintained. However, since most places with outdoor seating move their tables indoors or at least stack up their tables and chairs for the night, Milwaukee Avenue businesses could design their sidewalk extensions to allow them to pack up their platform each evening.
These seem like obstacles that could be overcome for a greater benefit for the neighborhood.
Celebration of IshootRockstars VISITORS, a year-long photography project on Friday, November 18, 8:00 p.m. at Logan Square Auditorium; ticket options can include a coffee table book, proceeds of which will be donated to Humboldt Park’s Reason to Give.