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Is Clark Street Ugly? Yes, Residents Say

By Serena Dai | May 2, 2013 8:46am | Updated on May 2, 2013 10:24am

LAKEVIEW — The consensus is in: Clark Street between Barry and Diversey is ugly, unwalkable and unfriendly.

A task force seeking to revitalize the street hosted an open house Wednesday night seeking feedback on how area residents, business owners and property owners want to see Clark spruced up.

People attending the open house at Century Shopping Centre, 2828 N. Clark St., posted stickers on a blown-up map of the area to indicate places that needed improvement. And a lot of areas need help if the number of stickers is any indication.

Red stickers were placed on buildings that people thought needed beautification or facade updates, and red peppered a good deal of the street.

"The buildings are just not that attractive," said Mary Beth Smith, a residential real estate agent and local Chamber of Commerce volunteer.

"There are three buildings [farther south] that are ugly," said resident Bob Gilbert. "They look abandoned."

Other stickers representing branding, such as neighborhood signs, transportation amenities like bike racks or crosswalks, and landscaping and "people spots" also colored the map.

Another clear desire: More greenery along the street. Green stickers representing landscaping lined the entire street on the map, and people said it would make the street friendlier to pedestrians.

"It's gotta be spruced up," said Robert Smith, a commissioner for the special service area in the neighborhood.

The open house was the task force's first community event to get feedback on how special service area money should be spent — and what bigger, more expensive dream projects the special service area should pursue with the city. Potential short-term fix ideas include adding more trees or planters, and long-term ideas include a vintage streetcars or widening the sidewalk. 

The task force, run by Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, is made up of local business owners, property owners, an aldermanic representative, retail specialists and a representative from the city's Department of Housing and Economic Development. Urban design consultant company The Lakota Group, paid for with special service area funds, put together the presentation.

After Wednesday's event, more work must be done to determine a specific game plan. Stickers help identify where the community sees the most need, said Justin Weidl, an urban designer with The Lakota Group.

They will host another open house for community members later this year to show more specific plans. 

"We're trying to recognize patterns," he said.