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Southport 'People Spot' Taking a Beating From Jumping Kids

By Serena Dai | August 9, 2013 9:02am | Updated on August 9, 2013 10:51am
 A bench made especially for the Southport People Spot looks like it's meant to make the area look more "posh," said one observer, but kids ended up taking it over.
Southport People Spot Custom Bench
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LAKEVIEW — The under-7 crowd has taken over the custom benches at Southport's new "people spot," but it turns out too much jumping is rough on the benches.

While there's no immediate danger of the benches collapsing, their long-term integrity will be affected by all the rigorous activity from tots, said Heather Way, executive director of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, which runs the spot.

Way and the bench's designers wanted kids to interact with it — and are happy that they are — but the benches are not meant to be a playground, they said.

"The design and the installation of the piece is not really meant for heavy-duty physical activity such as jumping and running and climbing off and on," she said.

Her appeal to Southport parents: Your kids can stand and sit on the benches, but please, stop them from jumping. 

"We want to make sure that it’s safe and can be enjoyed by everyone for a long time," Way said.

The total cost of the spot, including planters and maintenance, is about $75,000 and is paid for by special service taxes. The bulk of the money was spent on a one-time payment for the custom bench. It's made of mahogany plywood and is expected to last at least a decade.

Southport's people spot is part of a citywide program called "Make Way for People" that aims to "cultivate community and culture" in public spaces, according to a Chicago Department of Transportation. On Thursday, CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein visited the spot to hail it as a prime example of invigorating a city space.

The artsy design of the benches was intended to promote interaction, exploration and curiosity for people young and old, according to designer Kevin Toukoumidis from dSpace Studio.

But it seems no one anticipated the benches attracting as much attention from active kids.

"We’re glad that is family-friendly and that it is multigenerational," Way said. "It’s just not meant for climbing."