Friday, October 30, 2009

Big Plans Afoot for Congress Parkway

One of the streets that welcome thousands of cars barreling into the Loop or fleeing for the suburbs each day is going to get a big makeover.

Construction is expected to start in the spring on a Congress Parkway screetscaping scheme that will transform the street between Wells and Michigan into a gateway to downtown Chicago.

Drawing from the CDOT presentation linked below of what Congress Parkway might look like

Over a year ago we mentioned the plans to light the parkway with LED bollards.  Now we know more about the project.

It includes adding trees to both sides of the street wherever possible, adding trees in the medians where they fit, and a dramatic lighting system.  The lights would take the form of illuminated gateway markers as well as LED floodlights coloring the bordering buildings.

Drawing from the CDOT presentation linked below of what the Auditorium Building might look like

The current, rather hazardous, pedestrian crosswalks would have their stripes replaced by fake bricks, in an effort to make the area more pedestrian-friendly and to remind drivers that they're no longer on I-290, and to slow down in this residential zone.  In addition, there would be places in the median for pedestrians to wait for the next signal change if they're not able to make it all the way across in 40 seconds (the new time to cross). In some places, the road is eight lanes wide.

Also in the plan:

  • A new Blue Line subway entrance at Dearborn Street
  • New crossing signals with countdown timers
  • New street furniture (newspaper machines, benches, etc...)
  • New median planters
  • Wider sidewalks, where possible
  • Reconfigured turning lanes (some added, some removed)
  • A crossing signal for the blind at Congress and Wells
  • Many more trees (Elm, Ginko, Oak, London Planetree, Honeylocust, Hackberry, Kentucky Coffeetree)
  • A barrier between the sidewalk and the street where it crosses under the Chicago Board of Trade
  • Trellises supporting climbing vines in areas too narrow for other landscaping
Page 27 of the CDOT presentation highlights two city-owned pieces of land -- one on the northwest corner of Clark and Congress, and the other at the southeast corner of Congress and Plymouth.  It then shows examples of public plazas.  Does this mean that these surface parking lots could become something better, a la Pritzker Park (334 South State Street)?  We'll keep out fingers crossed.

You can read more about the plan here: Congress Parkway improvement project


  1. Thanks for the info. I'm really excited about this, right outside my door. (But can we time travel to the part where it is done?)

  2. As for the comment regarding Pritzker Park, I was hoping for something a bit nicer there -- it doesn't seem to inviting to me. However, it is certainly more inviting (and perhaps useful) than the mysterious fake "palm tree" court a block north on State next to Payless Shoes.

  3. Yeah, Pritzker Park isn't everything it could be. A little seating area would be nice, and maybe some more plantings in the concrete zone. The fake palm court is visually interesting, but I'm not sure if it's functional. Both are at least better than what preceded them. I guess we should be grateful for baby steps.

  4. Ah, fake bricks. Gotta love that stamped asphalt.
    I witnessed its production in action at 31st and Halsted.
    You put a 3D stencil over the asphalt and then run a machine over that's flat on the bottom and has a motor on top that vibrates at a high frequency. Eventually, it wears away, like unstamped asphalt tends to do.

  5. I'm not a big fan of the fake bricks, either. They were put in a few years ago at Viagra Triangle, and also in front of the Le Passage nightclub on Rush Street. They looked fine for the first few months, but after winter they just looked like someone spilled old paint. Although the pattern remains, today you can barely tell they were ever painted.

  6. You can also make the bricks by stamping concrete, which (since it is white) can be dyed instead of painted. That way, the tacky color will stay around forever! My main problem with the fake bricks is as a cyclist. They're a pain (sometimes literally).


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