Chicago’s first two parklets, or “People Spots” as CDOT calls them, have opened for neighbors to enjoy a little extra space in the Lakeview and Andersonville neighborhoods. They’re being designed and developed independently, but both have permits and are waiting for materials to arrive, so it’s a toss-up on which will finish first.
Their locations, inception stories, and designs differ, but the projects have many similarities: local architecture firms are working pro bono to design and obtain permitting; the respective Chambers of Commerce are contributing construction funds.
Kevin is the principal at dSPACE Studio, down the street from the Heritage Store. His intention was to activate a space differently than a sidewalk cafe. “If people see just tables, they think it’s part of an establishment. This isn’t,” he said.
While the door to Heritage is a few feet away, Toukoumidis has designed chaise lounges into the space that can remain useful after businesses close for the day. The design also calls for metal stools with solar-powered lighting shining downward after dusk.
Matt Nardella of Moss Design explained that the parklet’s location was chosen in part because of its distance from food retail “so people don’t feel obligated to purchase from them.” Another factor was that swapping metered parking spaces didn’t play a significant role. Speaking more about who owns the space, Nardella described that his firm tried to create a space that felt more like a park—with trees, a small lawn, and an herb garden—than a plaza, so there’s less of a sense that an entity owns the parklet.
The process to getting two parklets in Chicago grew organically. In the case of Lakeview, Toukoumidis saw the positive impacts of parklets in San Francisco and New York City and approached the Heritage Store’s owner prior to opening. Andersonville Chamber of Commerce was approached by staff from the transportation department; the Chamber then contacted Moss Design for assistance because of their experience in building temporary parklets for Park(ing) Day, the international event that helped popularize converting parking spaces into public space.
Perhaps the organizers will agree to host grand opening parties simultaneously.