LAKEVIEW — Since it began four years ago, the Low-Line Market has gone through some growing pains.
The summer farmers market is a staple on Southport, but its popularity with both customers and vendors called for the market to expand last year to the gravel lot under the Southport "L" tracks.
Last week, the Low-Line Plaza was unveiled to the public with fanfare and painted murals from local artists.
Looking to encourage more activity there, the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce worked with the CTA to develop the lot and make it a more welcoming place for the market and other community events.
"We're excited to take that step toward making something permanent and more welcoming," said Lee Crandell, executive director for the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce. "It's exciting to see that plan come to fruition."
Artists created paintings during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Low-Line Plaza July 15. [Provided/Lakeview Chamber of Commerce]
The rough gravel was replaced with much finer pea gravel, and a walkway of brick pavers encircles the new plaza area. The chamber also added a few planters and a set of tables and chairs.
"It's a little more pleasant on the eyes — and the feet as well," said Dillon Goodson, program manager for the chamber's Special Service Area, which levies an extra property tax to pay for improvements in the area. "This is a phase process, so we have some stuff now, and some will be coming down the road."
The Low-Line Market and the plaza fulfill goals set in the chamber's Lakeview Area Master Plan. In 2011, the chamber released its study of the neighborhood and outlined its economic needs and goals.
Among them, residents and business owners called for more green space, an expanded farmers market and a walking path beneath the Brown Line tracks from Southport to Paulina that will help connect different parts of the Lakeview community.
The Lakeview Area Master Plan envisions a walking path beneath the Brown Line from Southport to Paulina. The Low-Line Plaza is a first step. [Provided/Lakeview Chamber of Commerce]
"This is kind of an entry way to that long-term vision," Crandell said. "The Low-Line Market was the start, and developing a hardscape plaza is the next step to creating a lasting presence in this space."
It took about two years of planning before the CTA signed off on the plaza, Crandell said. The process includes engineering reviews and detailed plans on the right of entry to what is technically CTA property.
The Special Service Area spent $22,600 on developing the plaza — a fraction of the cost for other projects like the $175,000 Lincoln Hub.
"Instead of coming up with a big flashy plan that costs a lot of money, and when we move in it doesn't quite work, we're going to look at things as we go," Crandell said.
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