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Dutch-Inspired 'Living Street' Proposed for Kenmore Ave. on DePaul's Campus

By Paul Biasco | October 4, 2013 7:59am
 Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) is proposing a Dutch-inspired "woonerf" design for Kenmore Avenue in the heart of DePaul University's Lincoln Park campus.
Kenmore woonerf
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LINCOLN PARK — Plans are in the works to transform a one-way street that cuts through the heart of DePaul's Lincoln Park campus into a Dutch-inspired "livable" roadway.

The proposal would turn Kenmore Avenue into a winding "woonerf," which would give pedestrians and cyclists the right of way, but allow slow-moving traffic and emergency vehicles through.

The plans were suggested by Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) as an alternative to the complete closure of Kenmore Avenue that was proposed last fall.

The university originally wanted to shut down Kenmore between Belden and Fullerton avenues and turn the area into a "Kenmore Green," to make the area safer for students and other pedestrians.

Early proposals for the woonerf include adding "significant" new landscaping, chairs, tables, benches, bricks or cobblestones on the street, and possibly a Divvy bike station, according to DePaul University.

The road itself would be raised to the same level as the sidewalk.

The built-in seating elements and landscaping would be built in a way to force vehicles to slow down, as drivers would need to maneuver the winding roadway, according to DePaul.

Parking would be removed along the street, a loss of 47 free spots in an area where spaces already are scarce.

DePaul would make up for the loss of spaces by giving the community 24-hour access to various parking lots and structures on campus, the university said.

"My thought is that it would be awful," said Jacki Licciardi, a 27-year-old graduate student who commutes from Itasca. "There's barely any parking as it is."

Other students thought the proposal would connect the campus.

"It's a good idea to have a more closed campus," said 22-year-old senior Ali Sheriff. "Less traffic, less people, just a more cozy campus."

Neighbors in the area are open to the idea, according to longtime community leader Allan Mellis, but fear the university will eventually shut down traffic completely on Kenmore.

"We need to have something that sees this is open forever," Mellis said. "There's a lot of unanswered questions of how this would work."

The Dutch word woonerf translates as "living streets," and the designs promote human interaction, according to a recent New York Times article.

There are more than 6,000 woonerf zones in the Netherlands, according to the Times, and cities and towns around the world are adopting the model.

"I think it's an interesting idea," Mellis said. "I hope that DePaul makes this so that people from all around the country want to come and see it."

DePaul closed Kenmore for a full month in May 2012 to see the impact on traffic in the neighborhood.

During that test, Sheriff said the feel of the Lincoln Park campus improved greatly.

"It was nice, a lot more peaceful," he said.

Some students said the campus felt more connected, but neighbors argued that closing the street would shut down a main north-south route in the area, thus diverting traffic onto Sheffield and Racine avenues.

The school is hosting a community meeting to discuss the project at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the DePaul University student center, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave.