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Mayor’s ‘strategic vision’ for seven neighborhoods

Artist rendering LoyolCTA Red LIne Statiplaza

Artist rendering of the Loyola CTA Red LIne Station and plaza

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Updated: March 16, 2013 9:58AM

A “permanent farmer’s market” that could rival Seattle’s Pike’s Market. The nation’s longest protected bike lane. An Uptown Music District. A pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive at 35th Street. An elevated, boardwalk bike trail at the Drive’s north end.

Those are just some of the ideas that could become a reality, thanks to a $3 billion plan that shows Mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking Daniel Burnham’s, “make no small plans” mantra to heart.

Emanuel has identified seven geographic areas brimming with either development or promise — Bronzeville, the Eisenhower Corridor, Englewood, Little Village, Pullman, Uptown and Rogers Park — and targeted those “Opportunity Planning Areas” for the City Hall equivalent of a full-court press.

With a combined, $2.65 billion in private sector and university projects on the drawing board, Emanuel wants to pump an additional $350 million in city money into those areas to accelerate the progress.

The city’s contribution would come in the form of federal, state, Park District and city land and transportation funds, as well as general obligation bonds and tax-increment-financing (TIF) districts.

“Usually, we’ll put in a train station. We’ll pave a road. We’ll put [in] some streetscape. And that was it. This is a more nuanced, coordinated effort … to make a series of investments in neighborhoods in a strategic vision,” Emanuel said in an exclusive interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

Using the Eisenhower corridor as an example, the mayor said, “Malcolm X is getting a new university campus. We did convince the Bulls to come down and build a new training facility. So, you have some things that are happening. What could we do to kind of draft behind that — using the bike racing term — to facilitate and accelerate what is happening so it doesn’t happen over a three-, four-, five-year window, [but] it happens quicker with a bigger economic punch that benefits the entire city?”

Top mayoral aides started last fall with “18 to 22” areas, then homed in on the seven areas that hold the most promise.

“In Englewood, you have Kennedy-King. It’s becoming the center for hospitality and culinary. But, there’s a lot of open land. So, we’re gonna be investing a lot in urban agriculture that … takes advantage of Kennedy-King’s strength. In Bronzeville, we’re having the Gospel Fest that’s gonna be down there now on a regular basis. There’s a cultural element. We’re talking about marketing it as the ‘New Harlem,’” Emanuel said.

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley used four years of up-to-the-limit property tax increases to rebuild libraries, police and fire stations he viewed as “anchors” for neighborhood development.

Emanuel’s plan makes Daley’s look like small potatoes:

EISENHOWER CORRIDOR: This area clearly falls into Emanuel’s “happening” category, with the United Center, the Bulls’ soon-to-be-built training facility, plans for a new Malcolm X College, the CTA’s new Morgan Street station, and the Fulton Street market.

City plans call for: an “entertainment district” along Madison Street; rehabilitation of the Illinois Medical District station on the CTA’s Blue Line; a giant bike garage at Morgan and Fulton; streetscaping along Damen, Fulton and a permanent farmer’s market with its own dedicated, year-round facility.

“You already have the produce and meat market along Fulton, and you’re beginning to see different types of produce and suppliers coming in there,” said Housing and Economic Development Commissioner Andy Mooney.

“Temporary markets are … there for a day or two or a week. This would be a year-round, functioning market with the same type of vendors. ... It would provide a permanent location for local farmers and other suppliers to provide their, probably organic types of products in a permanent structure. ... Like Pike’s market in Seattle or the Cleveland or St. Louis market, it could become a tourism draw similar to the way the markets are in these other cities.”

Cultural Affairs and Special Events Commissioner Michelle Boone added, “This would be something everybody across the city could go to: restaurateurs, families, individuals who live in that immediate community and also be supportive of urban farmers.”

The Bulls also want to build a $95 million retail and entertainment complex on the east side of the United Center, but only if they get an extended property tax break.

That’s a politically-sensitive subject that, Emanuel stressed, has not yet been decided. Mooney added, “We’d love to see it happen, but we’re not counting on it.”

ENGLEWOOD: City Hall wants to belatedly build around the $254 million Kennedy-King College and its Washburne Culinary Institute. City land would be converted into at least three more urban agriculture sites. TIF funding would be used to attract commercial development to a city-owned site kitty-corner from the college on the northwest corner of 63rd and Halsted.

In between the “new farms,” as Mooney put it, there are plans to convert two unused rail spurs — on 49th Street and between 58th and 59th Streets — into “elevated” bike trails.

“These could be used as a way to spur redevelopment in Englewood similar to what’s going on with the Bloomingdale Trail on the North Side,” Mooney said.

ROGERS PARK: With Loyola University Chicago moving aggressively to “re-invent” itself as a “residential” university, City Hall wants to help it along.

Plans call for streetscaping the Devon and Broadway commercial strips and using speed bumps and other “traffic-calming” devices to create a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly environment.

“We need traffic enhancements and potentially closures along Kenmore and Winthrop Avenues to help Loyola turn that into more of a campus feel,” Mooney said.

“We’re taking a look at [vacating those streets] because they now own nearly all of the real estate along both streets.”

The Chicago Park District also plans to build a 1,200-foot-long “lakefront beach trail” between Hollywood and Thorndale at a cost of $4 million.

“This is a very nice [way] to get some of that bike pressure off that turn that dumps into Sheridan and is very dangerous,” said Park District Supt. Michael Kelly.

“This would be an elevated bike trail. We would continue the [lakefront] bike trail. It would be more of a boardwalk form because of the lake levels. Now, they’re low, and they’ve been low for quite a while, but eventually, they’re gonna come back up.”

UPTOWN: Emanuel has talked about creating an Uptown Music District akin to the downtown theater district to synergize the area’s musical treasures: the Green Mill, the Aragon Ballroom, the Riviera and the Uptown Theater.

With the CTA rebuilding the Wilson Station, the city’s plan calls for using signage, gateway identifiers and streetscaping along large stretches of Broadway and Lawrence to create a “distinctive” environment.

It also calls for creating a “people plaza” at Broadway and Racine, a “people street” on Clifton that could be shut down for musical performances and use parking garage at Truman College to lure music fans.

“It’s about making it easier for people to get from one [music venue] to the other in the evening safely [and] parking. How do we take advantage of the public transportation renovation at Wilson and connect that with the parking that’s available at Truman College?” Boone said.

“There’s limited parking. It’s not very accessible via public transportation. People don’t feel safe. But, the bones of the infrastructure for what you need to make it an entertainment district are there. You have the music venues.”

LITTLE VILLAGE: Last year, Emanuel touted 26th Street as Chicago’s “second Magnificent Mile” — second only to Michigan Avenue — and said the bustling commercial strip should be marketed that way. The city now plans to do just that — by creating a distinctive gateway to 26th Street. The plan also relies heavily on the 22-acre park to be built this summer at a former Super-fund site at 2800 S. Sacramento and on the massive St. Anthony Hospital development on city-owned land appraised at $2.1 million, but sold for $1.

BRONZEVILLE: This bustling area with its rich cultural history is in line for several new projects, ranging from a pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive at 35th Street to a Botanic Garden farm at State and Federal on the site of the old Robert Taylor Homes. The city also plans to install a protected bike lane along a 51-block stretch of State Street that would be the longest of its kind in the nation.

“South of IIT, there’s a lot of capacity and not enough cars. We’re gonna take advantage of that capacity, slim the roadway down and make it safer. It’s part of our road diet strategy so the cars slow and it’s safer for people to cross the street and cycle,” said Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein.

Wal-Mart is “actively looking at” 39th and State as the site of a new Supercenter, in addition to the Wal-Mart being built at 47th and State, officials said. The city also needs to find a new developer willing to turn the far north end area once known as Motor Row into a thriving entertainment district. Streetscaping alone will not do the trick.

“A couple ideas have fallen through. Motor Row is gonna need a lot of focus by the city,” Mooney said.

Boone pointed to Bronzeville’s history as the birthplace of gospel music, it’s roots in jazz, the African-American-owned galleries built over the last decade and the presence of the South Side Community Arts Center. The city is also financing the Bronzeville artists’ lofts at 436 E. 47th Street.

“The identity of what Harlem was is disappearing whereas in Bronzeville, it’s kind of building. The reverse is happening,” she said.

PULLMAN: Local Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) fought for years to get a Wal-Mart Supercenter at 720 E. 111th St. Now, the city hopes to use that Pullman Park development as a catalyst for development. Plans include: pursuing a national park designation for the Pullman National Register District; resurfacing Corliss Ave.; rehabilitating the Pullman Wheelworks Apartments; developing a “live-work” space for artists in North Pullman, and marketing the residential and historical cultural assets of Pullman.

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