This has long been a sorry excuse for a “plaza,” and the Google Street View above does a fair job of capturing its desolate landscape. It’s unattractive dead space that further deadens the area around it, particularly on its prominent Milwaukee Avenue side. As alluded to in one of the comments on Pedestrians have been left out of the multi-modal Logan Square transportation hub, revamping the plaza area will assist with bringing pedestrians to a more prominent and rightful place at this transportation hub.
Depending on how the proposed food truck ordinance plays out, I would like to see a variety of mobile food dispensers (ones that do not cook on-site that would not directly compete with the bordering restaurants) alternately but regularly set up shop on part of what is now an unnecessarily wide bus turnaround space. As I wrote in a comment on the proposed (Woodard) plaza, food is one leg of the triumvirate of things that attract people to place, along with play and water.
There’s currently a need for more bike parking. The hierarchy of preferred bike parking seems to be inside the station, covered bike racks outside the station, uncovered bike racks, followed by anything a cyclist can lock a bike to. There’s no more room inside the station (except at the unattended end), but there is room for more covered bike parking.
Why not make that bike parking as play? Like MANIFESTO Architecture’s Bike Hanger design (see rendering right, click to enlarge). The design still under development provides for a type of Ferris wheel for bikes, and the wheel is powered by pedal power from a stationary bike at the bottom (look carefully behind the red jacket in the rendering). A kid can come to the plaza with purpose to lock up his bike on the wheel and catch the train to other destinations, but spend a bit of time before or after engaging with this attraction and others at a newly configured plaza.
With some modification for better weather protection, I could see a few of these on the Milwaukee Avenue side of the plaza helping to form a much needed street wall on the east side of Milwaukee Avenue.
I lack confidence that the CTA will allow any type of water feature even though it’s a compelling draw for most people. I’ll leave open a small window of hope since the North/Clybourn Station on the Red Line has one.
I’d like to keep a central area open for performances and temporary installations like The Uni, “a tool to share books, showcase the act of learning, and improve public space” (see rendering left, click to enlarge, and click on link above for more configurations). It’s a project that would perhaps serve those using the space in a traditional manner, providing some reading material for those waiting on a bus. It’s also a project that would bring people to the place for multiple purposes, reading by day, screening by night, for example. It’s a fabulous idea (that you can be a part of through the Kickstarter campaign, BTW)!
I maintain that effective public places either need a consistently engaging draw or need to be programmed with changing activities to draw people in. It’s not different from semi-public places like shops and restaurants. If they don’t have new merchandise or a variety of dishes on the menu, you’re unlikely to return.
If you’re struggling for ideas of your own, here are some ways to think about the space toward making it an effective “place,” chapter titles from William Whyte’s City: Rediscovering the Center (a book I’ve previously referenced):
Water, Wind, Trees, and Light
Steps and Entrances
Sun and Shadow
Return to the Agora
You could also revisit some Blair Kamin words I chose in writing Here’s why the orchard proposal doesn’t work, and some alternatives.
Or revisit Great places in Logan Square, where I wrote of “some ways to inspire you to think about a place and what makes it great.”
Also, watch how this architect talks about a great place in Washington, D.C. (see video below, HT Kaid Benfield, NRDC):
Then, please share what you’re thinking about, and don’t hold back. Let your imagination loose! If you can, include links to images to help us understand what you’d like to see. We need lots of ideas to get this ball rolling.