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How Can 55th Street Be Improved? City Asks Hyde Parkers

By Sam Cholke | October 7, 2014 5:28am
 The Chicago Department of Transportation started a planning process Monday night to set priorities for fixing up 55th Street.
The Chicago Department of Transportation started a planning process Monday night to set priorities for fixing up 55th Street.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

HYDE PARK — The city wants Hyde Parkers to weigh in on how to improve 55th Street — the neighborhood’s longest and probably most motley thoroughfare.

The Chicago Department of Transportation started a master planning process at a Monday night meeting for a stretch of road from Cottage Grove Avenue to South Shore Drive where major features seem bizarrely out of place.

Along the more than one-mile stretch of road twin high-rise towers spike up in the center of the traffic lanes, a tree-lined boulevard is pushed off to the side with the neighboring buildings turned away from its leafy promenade, and a single intersection near the lake can have seemingly innumerable stop signs.

Despite the fractured features, Hyde Parkers had a slew of improvements at hand for improving the street at the city meeting at the Catholic Theological Union, 5416 S. Cornell Ave.

Many residents rallied behind making new protected bike lanes permanent despite the many problems that arose when the city struggled to find equipment small enough to plow and sweep the narrow lanes.

Residents also pushed for street lamps, benches and trash cans to reinforce the neighborhood’s character all along the strip.

“If we want our neighborhood to be more walk-able, then we need more benches,” Robin Kaufman said.

Others advocated fixing decades-old slights at Nichols Park from when the street was cleared of its 75 jazz and blues clubs during the federal urban renewal program in the 1960s to create a more suburban feel.

“It’s been 60 years, but we still don’t have permanent trees planted along that line,” Peter Cassel said of the south end of Nichols Park.

The planning process will help determine what should be prioritized on the street as money becomes available, said Janet Attarian, a transportation department project manager.

Attarian said there would be likely be two more meetings to gather input from the community and get feedback on the city’s own survey of the strip.

She said more information about the project would be posted on chicagocompletestreets.org in the coming days.

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