BRIDGEPORT — The artists and carpenters behind the renegade streetscaping project might have struck first, but Morgan Street is getting an official, much larger, overhaul from the city.
Ald. James Balcer (11th) said the city is using tax increment financing money to pay for the streetscaping project, which will include new street paving, sidewalks, decorative pavers, bike racks, pedestrian safety signs, trash bins and more.
"They're getting the whole thing," he said.
Casey Cora walks us through the proposed work on Morgan Street:
The work, which also includes a major sewer upgrade, is expected to begin in the spring, Balcer said.
Online records show the work is projected to cost $4.3 million, with the money coming from the 35th and Halsted TIF district, but Balcer said the work will cost about $3 million.
For some business owners on Morgan Street, the planned makeover is a long time coming.
Dave Samber has been the chef-owner of the Polo Cafe at 3322 S. Morgan St. since the 1980s.
Since then, he's watched the stretch of Morgan Street fall victim to blight — the acclaimed restaurant's windows have been blown away several times by gunshots — and now bounce back slowly with the addition of restaurants and art galleries.
"We're seeing some new life, some new people," he said.
As part of the TIF money, Samber's restaurant will receive cash from the city's Small Business Improvement Fund to spiff up the signs and lights around his restaurant and banquet hall.
The restaurant "doesn't get the people from 31st and Morgan and the foot traffic on 35th just goes to the ballpark. The city is giving us the shot in the arm we really need. I think it's going to make a huge difference.
"This is exciting. This is a time to look around and say, 'Ahhh ... finally. Finally,'" Samber said.
A small committee of Morgan Street business owners will meet with Balcer later this month to hear more about the plans, Samber said.
Jay Sebastian, co-owner of Bridgeport Pasty at 3142 S. Morgan St., said the city's planned streetscape project is a great sign for Morgan Street, he said.
"It deserves it."
Meanwhile, the renegade project from a group known as the Bridgeport Streetscaping Society presses on unabated, with more knee-high flower planters made from reclaimed wood — complete with colorful flowers — appearing in front of Morgan Street businesses.