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'Open Streets' Returns to Milwaukee Avenue in September

By  Juan Thompson and Alisa Hauser | August 7, 2013 6:07pm 

 Open Streets will shut down three miles of vehicular traffic on Milwaukee Avenue between Ashland Avenue and Logan Boulevard on Sept. 15 (Sunday).
Open Streets Wicker Park and Logan Square
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WICKER PARK — The car-free, pedestrian playground known as "Open Streets" returns to Wicker Park, Bucktown and Logan Square on Sept. 15.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. a three-mile swath of Milwaukee Avenue between Ashland Avenue and Logan Boulevard will be shut down to car traffic and available for use by the general public.

Hired to organize the setup, which is modeled after similar events in New York, Los Angeles, and Latin American cities, the non-profit Active Transportation Alliance has planned a number of activities for attendees.

Those activities include biking, running, yoga, a dunking booth and a playground that will allow children age 3 and up to play with water, sand and blocks.

"We want to make people, not cars a priority for Chicago's streets, and this event pushes our goal of more livable streets," said Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein.

Businesses along the route that may fear losing revenue due to the street being shut down, or want to capitalize on Open Street's increased foot traffic as some did at the first Open Streets, have been invited to sell their merchandise and goods on the sidewalks.

Jessica Wobbekind, program director of the special service area taxpayer district, confirmed that the group kicked in $70,000 for last year's inaugural event, with $50,000 of that going to the Active Transportation Alliance to run the event and $20,000 to the organizers of a mobile skateboard park. 

Wobbekind said last year's event attracted an estimated 20,000 people.

The route stopped at Western Avenue last year. This year, Open Streets will be extended north on Milwaukee Avenue, to Logan Boulevard in Logan Square, due to the city chipping in money to pay for barricades, workers and street closure costs, according to the Chicago Streetsblog.

Wobbekind said that this year the Wicker Park group is paying $40,000 to the Active Transportation Alliance to run the Wicker Park/Bucktown section of the event.

"I think a lot of businesses and residents were pleasantly surprised by the success of [Open Streets] last year and will be more prepared to participate this year. We are expecting a really great event," Wobbekind said.

"Open Streets" is sponsored by the Wicker Park-Bucktown Chamber of Commerce, the Wicker Park Bucktown Special Service Area and the Active Transportation Alliance.