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Cobblestone Clark Street? Lakeview Leaders Consider Throwback Makeover

By Serena Dai | July 29, 2013 9:08am
 The Clark Street Task Force hosted its first open house to get ideas on revitalizing the street.
Clark Street Revitalization Open House
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LAKEVIEW — A cobblestone Clark Street?

That was just one of the ideas that consultants have presented to Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce as a way to revitalize Clark between Barry and Diversey avenues.

Adding cobblestone, smoothing out the sidewalk curbs and using urns, planters or benches to separate walkers from parking could turn the street into a unique pedestrian paradise — livening up the street and bringing in more business, The Lakota Group consultants said.

It's a design strategy that can be seen in Europe, said resident Nancy Wallace, 62, and she loves it.

"This would make us look very innovative," she said. "It's very inviting."

The Lakota Group presented renderings last week at a meeting with neighbors at 2865 N. Clark St. The ideas were based on feedback from focus groups, interviews with area stakeholders and an open house in May where residents dished on all the things they hate about Clark.

Residents previously said the street is "ugly," with empty storefronts, long stretches of parking, a narrow sidewalk and a lack of greenery. That stretch of the street has been losing businesses and has long needed improvements, they said. A Clark Street Task Force was created to help form a plan to enliven the area.

Aside from a cobblestone Clark, other additions — some short-term, some long-term — were offered by Lakota's Kevin Clark.

Diagonal intersections, like at Diversey, Broadway and Clark or Barry, Halsted and Clark, have long pedestrian crosswalks. The walk across the street could be shortened if the corner sidewalks are extended, making the walks safer and more appealing, he said.

"You take away smoothness for cars, but you're improving the environment for everyone else," Clark said.

Some parking could be eliminated and replaced with "people spots" — temporary platforms adjacent to sidewalks that can be used to create outdoor seating and dining. Biking corrals could be placed in street parking spaces to free up sidewalk space. The defined bike lanes could be removed to widen the sidewalk.

Properties with parking lots could be vamped up with greenery or seating space. A rendering of Clark Street Dog showed the corner parking lot transformed into a mini-park, and another drawing showed the Sports Authority parking lot lined with plants.

Those ideas would require a partnership with the property owner, Clark said.

Open house attendees submitted comment cards about the different ideas. Afterward, the task force will identify the most popular ideas. Together, they'll put together a plan with the most financially viable ideas — ideas that may require grants or city help, said Maureen Martino, executive director of Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce.

Adding some greenery and cleaning up light poles could possibly be paid for by a local special service tax area or the chamber.

"We'll take ones we can afford and do them right away," she said.

One idea wasn't a hit with at least one resident: an arch over the street that declares the visitor has entered "Clark St."

"I don't like signs that define the neighborhood," said resident York Chan, 45. "Neighborhoods define themselves."

Besides, Wallace said: "Old Town's already done that. We should come up with our own thing."