Construction work has begun on a new brick sign wall at the corner of Foster and Kedzie avenues.
Crews are also laying the foundation for masonry pillars that eventually will serve as the connectors for wrought iron fencing along Foster Avenue, which will complement a streetscape planned for 2013 by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT).
"I don't think there's any doubt that the improvements to the campus and the street willa vastly improve the appearance," said John Brooks, North Park University spokesman. "We're all excited to see it."
The university also broke ground in late October on the the Nancy and G. Timothy Johnson Center for Science and Community Life, which will house science labs, classrooms and offices as well as a number of student services. The Johnson Center is slated to open in fall 2014.
CDOT frequently works with universities to expand or build upon campus improvements, according to CDOT project director Janet Attarian. In the case of North Park, CDOT also received a permanent two-foot easement from the university, which will allow for wider sidewalks and larger plantings between Albany and Kimball avenues along Foster Avenue.
More importantly, CDOT is planning a "big infrastructure upgrade" as part of the streetscape, said Attarian. "You do have a lot of small businesses there. They haven't seen an infrastructure investment in a long time."
The street, sidewalk and curbs will be torn up and replaced, and additional amenities will include community identifiers and what Attarian called "pretty crazy croswalks," which will incorporate images of the nearby Chicago River in the pavement.
The ultimate aim is to create a walkable commercial district for North Park students and the community, she said.
Though North Park University is proceeding apace with its campus upgrades, the streetscape has yet to go out to bid to contractors.
"It has federal funds" attached, explained Attarian. "Projects with federal funds have a lot of hoops."