Logan Square Redesign Seeks to Overhaul 'Dangerous' Streets Around Landmark

By Darryl Holliday on May 8, 2014 6:39am 

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 The proposed overhaul of Logan Square proper would bring big changes including a 2-acre "people space."
Logan Square Redesigners Put Revamped Plan to Businesses, Community
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LOGAN SQUARE — Streets surrounding the neighborhood’s namesake landmark are hazardous, confusing and in need of some sorting out, according to organizers with a new plan to redesign Logan Square.

The plan, called the Bicentennial Improvements Project in a nod to the square’s iconic centennial monument, is itself a revamped version of a 2012 plan that was preceded by numerous suggested improvements and complaints that the “lane puzzle” be solved.

“If you’ve lived in Logan for even a few months, you realize how dangerous it is up there. Everyone says, ‘Yeah this really could be amazing,’” said project organizer Charlie Keel. “Our role has been to show the potential.”

Darryl Holliday joins DNAinfo Radio to chat about the possible redesign of Logan Square:

That potential lies in making the two- to four-lane streets surrounding Logan Square into a true roundabout by altering Kedzie Avenue and shutting Milwaukee Avenue off at both ends of the park to create a safe “people space,” project officials said.

The new design would “embrace the ideals of placemaking,” creating safe and well-defined spaces for pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles while designating 2 acres of new green space at the center of Logan Square, they said.

Sorting out the cluttered intersection could involve rerouting traffic around Sawyer Avenue, shifting Kedzie Avenue slightly to the north and placing a traffic signal at Kedzie and Milwaukee avenues, Keel said.

“Instead of the intersection being confusing, you make it much more precise. You shift [Kedzie] north, and the whole concept simplifies the way autos interact with the space,” he said. “Right now, it’s so confusing you have no idea what to do.”

The new round of redesign concepts for Logan Square is gaining traction with business leaders who would be most affected by the change, as well as 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack, whose ward contains the monument.

 The proposed overhaul of Logan Square proper would bring big changes, including a 2-acre "people space."
The proposed overhaul of Logan Square proper would bring big changes, including a 2-acre "people space."
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DNAInfo/Victoria Johnson

Over the last few years, Waguespack and the project organizers have been in talks with the city's Transportation Department, the CTA, and several local politicians, including Cook County Commissioner Edwin Reyes and 35th Ward Ald. Rey Colon, to work out key details.

“It’s a really good project, but people need to be aware that it has to go through a lot more vetting,” Waguespack said. “Any government body that touches any aspect of it has to put it through the ropes.”

Even now, looming conflicts over development agendas could derail, or complement, plans for the square redesign, according to those closest to the proposal. A renovation of the Logan Square bus station, an as-yet-undisclosed development under consideration by Colon and the city approvement process could potentially hold up final redesign plans, according to Keel and Waguespack.

“From our perspective, we think it’s a good idea,” Waguespack said. “I think what people need to understand is that when you have a project like this, they have to go through a whole different set of planning concepts, financing and all sorts of other steps that don’t always come out the same way you want."

For now, the plan is to open discussion in the community, Keel said, including a petition that was less than 50 signatures away from its goal as of Wednesday.

“My role has been to be very optimistic. We’re creating the foundation for the community to engage with the site,” Keel said. The project "is just creating the foundation from the nuts and bolts of what we actually think could work best.”

According to one business owner who would be directly affected by the proposed changes, Peter Toalson, owner of Longman & Eagle, “the overall redesign is an impactful and important step in emphasizing one of the neighborhood's most unique characteristics, the boulevard, monument and square.”

“It obviously impacts Longman & Eagle greatly, and we think the addition of a pedestrian-friendly 'mall' greatly emphasizes and enhances one of the neighborhood's most unique characteristics, the square itself,” Toalson added.

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