LOGAN SQUARE — The Chicago Department of Transportation is seeking community input on Logan Square and Avondale's major Milwaukee Avenue corridor improvement plan, which will bring at least $10 million in improvements to the thoroughfare between Logan Boulevard and Belmont Avenue.
The city kicked off the years-long project with an open house Wednesday evening at Logandale Middle School, 3212 W. George St., to gather suggestions from the community, which officials say will be incorporated into the final plan.
The capital improvement project — part of the city's larger "Complete Streets" initiative — will be far more comprehensive than Wicker Park's most recent plan, which brought "low-cost, quick-hitting pilot improvements" to the neighborhood this summer, according to officials.
"This is a soup to nuts rework of this corridor of Milwaukee," said Ald. Carlos-Ramirez-Rosa (35th), adding that it could mean anything from new lights and sidewalks to reshaping Logan Square's confusing namesake intersection.
The project is expected to cost at least $10 million in state, federal and city funds, far more than the Wicker Park project, according to city officials. But that figure will likely change as the plan takes shape.
At the three-hour-long open house, dozens of neighbors wrote down suggestions — both big and small — on large maps of the corridor and filled out surveys. A CDOT study, analyzing the transportation trends of the area, was provided.
Dave Andreson, who has lived in Avondale for more than seven years, was among the residents who attended. Andreson, who has has four kids, ages 5, 3, 10 and 11 months, often goes for walks down Milwaukee Avenue with his family. He said he'd like to see the crosswalks repaired, more bike lanes and better landscaping along Avondale's stretch of Milwaukee.
"As you see newer establishments move in north of Diversey Avenue, there's more foot traffic," Andreson said.
That opinion was shared by 62-year-old Mike Saelens, a Logan Square resident of five years and a member of United Neighbors of the 35th Ward.
"Gentrification generally means more traffic," he said, adding he wants the improvements to ease congestion without compromising the character of the neighborhood.
Many neighbors, like 19-year-old Lily Carbajal, whose family has called Logan Square home for 24 years, would like to see more protected bike lanes along the corridor to accommodate for the neighborhood's growing cyclist community.
About three percent of people who live within a half mile of the corridor were biking to work in 2015, the earliest year city data is available. About 35 percent were taking public transportation — up from 26 percent in 2000 — and about 53 percent were driving to work.
Cyclists make up to four to seven percent of daily traffic on Milwaukee, according to the study shared with neighbors. And each day, more than 5,200 pedestrians use the sidewalks on Milwaukee northwest of Logan Square.
In the study area, the busy intersection at Diversey, Milwaukee and Kimball avenues ranks No. 1 for the most crash incidents involving both cyclists and pedestrians with 112, according to the data.
Jim Merrell with Active Transportation Alliance named the intersection as a major pain point that needs addressing.
Matt Nardella of Logan Square-based architecture firm Moss Design would like to see Logan Square's confusing namesake intersection, which curves around the Illinois Centennial Monument, completely reworked.
"I think the best thing we can do for Milwaukee Avenue is to take some of it away," he said, explaining that Milwaukee didn't used to go through the square.
"I would like to remove that part of Milwaukee, make it a real roundabout and increase the green space in the square. It's already hard, as a pedestrian, to cross that whole area, so it would be nice to not have to cross another couple lanes of traffic," Nardella said.
In the coming months, CDOT officials and local aldermen will continue to collect suggestions ahead of a second community meeting sometime this winter, where officials will give a formal presentation on both the community and the city agency's improvement ideas.
There will be three public meetings before the development phase kicks in. Construction won't begin until 2020, according to the city.
To learn more about the study and upcoming meetings, visit the project's website.