ROGERS PARK — The installation of a clock tower on Howard Street last week capped off a yearslong streetscape project along Howard Street, officials said.
The project added permeable pavers, street lights, garden planters and 68 new trees to the stretch of Howard Street between Howard Station and Sheridan Road.
A few lights need repairs, and plants should be planted this spring, according to the office of Ald. Joe Moore (49th). Planning for the project began in November 2010 and crews broke ground in July 2012.
Moore said the completion of the project would have a positive impact on the rejuvenation of the Howard Street business district, which has grown in recent years with the opening of Sol Cafe. This summer, a large community garden run by the Peterson Garden Project is scheduled to open.
Moore likened the project to a similar streetscape along Morse Avenue that wrapped up about the same time Howard Street's began.
"The Morse Avenue streetscape, which is similar to Howard's, helped buttress the revitalization of the Morse Avenue business district," he said. "I know each business district is unique, but the new Howard streetscape can only help spur the nascent revitalization that is taking place on the Howard business strip."
The project used $1.87 million in Tax Increment Financing money and $4.74 million in other funding, according to the city's TIF database.
Business owners said they see business improving, but not fast enough.
"The better the place looks really helps, but the people who loiter around, it really deters people from coming here," said Freddie Lee, 32, who runs Freddie's Modern Kung Fu, at 1642 W. Howard St.
Lee said his wife's business, Jenny's Gourmet Restaurant, operated out of the same building about three years ago before closing.
He said the road construction for the streetscape was partially to blame.
"At first, I think it hurt our business," he said of the project.
He's seen other businesses struggle too. A shoe shop recently closed across the street.
For the positive effects of the streetscape to take hold, he said, "It might take more time."
Resident Derek Samaras, 33, said that one thing's for sure when asked about the trees, pavers and other amenities added to the street.
"It looks so much better," he said.