LOGAN SQUARE — Next month, Logan Square residents will be able to weigh in on plans that will bring huge changes to the neighborhood's central district.
The office of 35th Ward Ald. Rey Colon will host community meetings with residents, potential developers and city organizations, including the Metropolitan Planning Council, on Sept. 9, Sept. 16 and Sept. 30.
The three public meetings with the council will include a hands-on “wooden block exercise” where residents can literally build what they want to see in the square, as well as a final meeting with experts in real estate and development.
The meetings and public input will largely shape the fate of at least two major redesigns to the square — the Bicentennial Improvement Project, which would revamp the Logan Square bus station and Emmett Street lot at 2634 N. Milwaukee Ave., and the Milwaukee Avenue Corridor Initiative, a redesign of Milwaukee Avenue that essentially involves land from the Megamall, 2500 N. Milwaukee Ave., to the Logan Square bus station.
Two other plans at the location include a $494 million CTA renovation of the O'Hare branch of the Blue Line and an upcoming road study to lay out options for the bus terminal just north of the square.
“I purposefully wanted to make sure everyone had an agenda so that all would be in the mix,” Colon said. “Everybody gets their say, but not necessarily their way. Hopefully that will get the highest and grandest results.”
A “harmonious” merging of the different perspectives is the ideal goal, according to Charlie Keel, a project organizer for the Bicentennial Improvement Project.
“Overall, a general theme of how our team looks at this is the potential for harmony,” he said. “How awesome would it be to have this thoughtful process for the development of these parcels? A space that was really well-designed that helps reinforce the use of activated public space.”
Colon recently allocated funds toward a yearlong study of the square with the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Planning Council to help decide what possibilities exist at the site. Another study of the same area is being funded independently.
Keel’s plan includes shifting Kedzie Avenue slightly to the north to help prevent confusion and increase public space at the heavily traveled gateway.
“There are a lot of things that people are going to be pushing and tugging about," Colon said. "There’s going to be a lot of layers that people want out of this. But if everything runs smoothly and quickly, they could probably start construction by 2018.”
The Bicentennial Improvement Project also has a tentative completion date set for 2018 — the 100-year anniversary of the Logan Square monument, according to Keel.
The project is in celebration of Illinois' 200th birthday.
“What we believe people will say is that they’d like to see public space [at the square],” he said. “In the end, our role has purely been to advocate for the community. We put forth a framework that we thought was the best possible.”
Colon said now is the right time for the community to come together and make things happen.
“If we were to market that property 10 years ago, we wouldn’t get the same response. We wouldn’t have people tripping over themselves to bid on the project," he said. "That strip of Logan Square ... that’s like our downtown. I think it’s significant. It’s a rare upswing, and we have these resources at our disposal — we have the right climate."
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