He’s referring to the fact that for the past five hours, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, Milwaukee Avenue– Wicker Park’s main throughway street– was closed to motorized traffic as part of Open Streets, an initiative of the Active Transportation Alliance that encourages participants to enjoy healthy recreation and play.
We have to admit… it was a lot of fun… Children making chalk drawings in the street, slack-lining (see photo), adults and even the 14th District Police Commander spotted playing four square. Even if you were just walking aimlessly around in the center of the street like we were, there was something to be said for wandering without fear that you’ll get hit by a car.
Was it worth it, though?
Sam Marts, a Special Service Area #33 Commissioner, said, “We’ll have to weigh the costs of whether or not it was worth it, and how do you judge the worth. That would determine whether or not we do it again.”
An architect with a business on Milwaukee Ave., Marts had put some of his models out on the street, which piqued the curiosity of attendees who took a break from strolling the streets to check out his work.
“I met neighbors of mine that told me they didn’t even know I was an architect,” he said.
When asked about the cost of the event (the SSA #33 kicked in $70,000 of taxpayer dollars to be a sponsor, not to mention rumors circulating that LAZ, the private company that owns and operates parking meters, will require compensation from revenues lost from cars-that-weren’t-parked), Marts replied that he definitely thinks that Open Streets might be more successful in future years if more business sponsored it and if community groups like the PTAs at local schools got involved.
“More sponsorships would bring more of a community focus, too,” he said. ”[Open Streets] is such a great community thing that I think it would self sell itself [to business].”
Karen of Karen Marie Salon at 1859 N. Milwaukee Ave. told the pipeline that although her salon is not open on Sundays, she opened just for Open Streets and was offering a raffle giveaway for hair products. “I think it’s a great event. We’re excited to be here,” she said, echoing the words of Luis, co-owner of Bucktown Music, 1890 N. Milwaukee who also took the opportunity to promote awareness for his business.
Joe Rubin, manager of Odd Obsession Movies, 1822 N. Milwaukee Ave., said that he was disappointed by logistics. Referring to a letter that was sent by the Active Transportation Alliance to businesses along the 1.4 mile, 15-block stretch of Milwaukee Ave affected by the event, Rubin said that he’d signed it under two conditions: that there would not be loud music and that the road would be free of barricades. According to Rubin, the music started by 9 a.m. and due to the skateboard park in front of the movie shop, it was difficult for people to come in and out. Normally having at least one dozen customers on a Sunday shortly before Noon, Rubin said that only three patrons had come into the movie shop. “Ultimately I really don’t care, though it’s BS that taxpayer money is going to pay the parking meters,” he expressed. [UPDATE: In following up with Rubin, he told us that an ATA representative visited his business during the event to respond to his concerns, and then worked with the skateboard park 'MC' to make an announcement every half hour telling attendees that the video shop is open for business, a move that Rubin said he appreciated].
Connie Hinkle, a local art instructor, who lives on the 1900 block of N. Milwaukee Ave., had just returned to the neighborhood from being out of town. She said that she thought it looks like a cool event and only wishes that she’d known about it, as she would have tried to promote her classes that she teaches for the Chicago Park District, or sell some of her handmade jewelry. Gesturing to the somewhat empty street at the northernmost stretch of Open Streets near Milwaukee and Western, she wondered why local theater Gorilla Tango, a photographer’s studio, and other businesses on the 1900 block of Milwaukee Ave. were not involved. “I did not even see a poster for Open Streets,” she said, adding, “Though maybe if I’d been in town the last week I would have known more about it… Next year.”
Pictured (l-to-r) are a few of Open Streets’ main drivers: Julia Kim, ATA’s Open Streets Director, 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack, Adam Burck, Executive Director of the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce, David Ginople, SSA #33 Chair,
Somebody Whose Name We Did Not Jot Down, Ron Burke
Executive Director of the ATA, and in the foreground, City of Chicago Director of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein. 1st Ward Alderman ‘Proco’ Joe Moreno was unable to attend Open Streets, per his latest e-newsletter, wherein he told his constituents, “Unfortunately, I’ll be out of town, otherwise I would have made myself available to be dunked. I’m sure there’s a few folks who would like to take this opportunity.”
For more photos, visit our pipeline Facebook page.
Please share your Open Streets experience as a comment to this post.
Check out further coverage on Grid Chicago (“Open Streets on Milwaukee Ave. Steal Spotlight from State Street”), Chicagoist (“Open Streets Gives a view At Post-Apocalyptic Wicker Park/Bucktown”), and Our Urban Times, (“Wicker Park Bucktown SSA #33 Seeks Feedback on Open Streets.”)