Sunday, November 9, 2008

Learning to Love Density: 53rd St. Visioning Workshop Pt. 3 -- Saturday November 15

posted by chicago pop

The third in a series of workshops dealing with development dynamics on Hyde Park's 53rd Street retail district will take place this coming Saturday, November 15 (see flier below).

Hyde Park alum and Metropolitan Planning Council VP for External Relations Peter Skosey helps to explain what the whole things is about, based on a similar workshop done in the Lawndale neighborhood.

Check it out in this video:

Like the previous two 53rd Street workshops, this one will be based on a series of exercises meant to visualize and make tangible the abstract and ominous-sounding notion of "density." Using a method developed in Minneapolis called the Corridor Housing Initiative, the idea is to help people "connect community visions with market realities" through a series of exercises that demonstrate the variety of forms that density can take, and the market constraints that face developers in urban projects.

Logistics below:


Anonymous said...

This is a really great idea. I hope lots of people will show up and learn something about what it takes to make a business district truly viable.

gogomama said...

I hope the building block approach detailed in the video will also guide participants to consider the traffic issues at play.

What's the problem? The HarperCourt/movie theatre/city parking lot (53rd /Lake Park/Harper) as well as the Village Center (51st/Lake Park/Harper) have been good candidates for redevelopment for a long time. But years back when the McMobil deal went south, some far-sighted (not) planners decided to put a drive-thru McDonalds and a new BP smack dab in the middle of what we only NOW see as a potentially pedestrian-friendly corridor of retail/housing adjacent to Metra and CTA routes.

The intersection of 52nd and Lake Park is already a problem for pedestrians, as cars leaving the McD and BP seek to turn onto Lake Park and impede pedestrian flow through the Lake Park crosswalk. North-bound cars on Lake Park seeking to turn left onto 52nd are watching the oncoming motor traffic, but not the pedestrians. Lets not talk about the curb cuts for now.

Building density along a Lake Park corridor is something I support, but this car-centered McD/BP complex is sort of an ugly boil in the center of what could be a a really nice connection between the proposed developments on 53rd and 51st. Is this what the housing corridor concept is all about? Drive-thrus and gas stations?

Picture the future: you buy one of those proposed (and very cool-looking) Antheus apartments at 51st and Lake Park. Metra, CTA, and some retail are at your doorstep. You don't need a car, and you like it like that. But you grumble every time you try to run the McD/BP gauntlet to walk to your new shopping district on 53rd.

What might have been a reasonable tactic to get the McMobil site developed back then, now appears to have its downside. (I'm not asking anybody to fess up, I'm just saying . . .)

What's the solution? Maybe a re-opened Harper will become the connecting corridor for pedestrians and bikers. I hope that participants and planners at the Vision workshop will take this into account as they build their concept models. Someone will surely come up with a solution. I also hope people don't focus too narrowly on the 53rd street development, but at least consider the adjacent areas, so we don't make the same mistake twice.