Local residents and business owners believe the proposed streetscaping plan along Fullerton Avenue between Ashland and Racine avenues is a much-needed improvement for the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
The project is a complete infrastructure upgrade, said Janet Attarian, project manager from the Chicago Department of Transportation. Pedestrians need to receive more than minimal service because they haven’t been getting that, she said.
The plan includes sidewalk expansion, stamped crosswalks, sidewalk bumps, trees, planters, new lamp posts and benches.
Trees will be planted along the expanded sidewalk strip in hopes of increasing the number of customers and the amount they spend at local businesses. Studies have shown that trees and other foliage changes people’s views of an area, said Attarian.
Laury Lewis, one of the directors for Sheffield Neighborhood Association, raised his concern of overflowing garbage cans.
The streetscaping plan will bring more garbage cans to the strip that have overflow controlled lids to prevent trash spilling over the top.
Benches are also included in the plan, but questions remain about where to put them.
“There are places you put a bench, and all the wrong sorts of people end up using the bench,” said Attarian.
The main goal is to have consistent movement along Fullerton, to invite both drivers and pedestrians to spend more time on the street.
Pedestrians need to feel like they belong here, too, Attarian said.
The streetscaping project will be beneficial for current and future local business owners, said Stephan Fisher, owner of Uncle Sammy’s Sandwich Classics.
He said he’s seen a lot of business turnover during the seven years his shop has been open at 1231 W. Fullerton Ave., just west of Racine Ave.
He has questioned whether there is something other than the recession causing blight in Lincoln Park, one of Chicago’s most affluent neighborhoods. It comes down to the logistics of the walkways, he said.
“[The street] is just not inviting,” Fisher said.
The project will “unquestionably” bring more pedestrians up Fullerton, west of Ashland toward Racine, he said.
“I’m more than happy to help,” Fisher said. “Give me a shovel.”
Construction will begin some time next year, however a specific date has yet to be determined, said Attarian. Sidewalks and the four-lane road of Fullerton will not be closed off for pedestrians and drivers during the construction period.
As for funding, local resident, Carol Bogosian, questioned where the money was coming from to front the project.
“We’ve had an unbelievable amount of construction in the area,” Bogosian said.
“The city’s broke,” she said. “There must be some federal funding.”
The estimated $5 million project will be, in part, funded by the federal government, as well as Illinois Jobs Now, and state enhancement funding, which project managers expect to be getting soon.