August Neighbors’ Night Out Summary – Great things happening at neighborhood parks

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Aug 162017
 

At the August GSLA Neighbors’ Night Out, about 35 people joined in conversation about our local parks and recreational opportunities in the South Loop. The event was held at the Weather Mark Tavern.

Two Chicago Park District managers joined the event to give updates and field questions about our local parks: Brandon Cotton representing Ping Tom Park, and Talonna Sharp representing Chicago Women’s Park & Garden.

Among the many topics discussed, were the following highlights from each of the park representatives:

Also at the event, participants learned about the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Shared Air/Shared Action community empowerment through low-cost air pollution monitoring program. Laura Zamboni and Cathi Ortiz spoke about this effort which the Alliance for a Greener South Loop is participating in, and they welcome additional volunteers from the community to get involved! Neighbors are helping monitor air quality in Chicago neighborhoods: Little Village, East Side and Riverdale. Learn more or contact the Alliance for a Greener South Loop to get involved here.

What do our neighbors think about local parks?

Below is a summary of written feedback collected from attendees via a questionnaire we distributed at the event:

Top things about Ping Tom Park

  • Another Park District Park close by
  • Prairie area
  • Waterfront
  • Gazebo
  • Water taxi
  • Views of skyline

Future amenities, programming or other improvements people want at Ping Tom Park

  • kids kayaking lessons
  • canoes
  • more 18+ classes
  • public restrooms year round

Top things about Chicago Women’s Park & Gardens

  • Teachers, programs
  • Flowers, beautiful
  • History
  • Beer & cider fest

Future amenities, programming or other improvements people want at Women’s Park

  • Zumba, yoga/pilates in the park
  • Hindi classes
  • Community clean-up program for the park/neighborhood area
  • More adult centered movies

Other parks in the South Loop people most often visit

  • Mark Twain
  • Cottontail
  • (new) Prairie District Park
  • Fred Anderson

June Neighbors’ Night Out Summary: Folks excited about employment, recreation opportunities at Related Midwest’s riverfront development

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Jul 112017
 

Over 50 neighbors attended the GSLA’s June Neighbors’ Night Out to meet representatives from Related Midwest, the developer who will lead the development of the undeveloped 62-acre tract that stretches along the east side of the Chicago River on the south side of Roosevelt Road. The event was held at Kroll’s South Loop.

Curt Bailey, President of Related Midwest, shared excitement about the opportunity to bring a vibrant, high quality new development to the area and noted that they plan to remain invested in the community and he sees the community relationship as a long-term partnership.  The new development will bring new residential, retail, and employment options (hinting that some commercial/office space may be part of the plan) and the vision is that the area will be “alive” throughout the day and a destination for all to enjoy.

Mr. Bailey expressed appreciation for the opportunity to connect with area residents to hear ideas, questions and concerns and indicated that Related Midwest plans to continue gathering community input as more concrete plans for the site are released. He noted that they are planning to have more to share with the community within the next 6 months.

Below is a summary of written feedback collected from attendees via a questionnaire we distributed at the event, which has also been shared with the Related Midwest team:

Top aspirations for future development (in order of most frequently mentioned)

  • innovation hub, anchor with a tech company for main jobs and fill around it, technology advanced
  • public access to the river
  • restaurants, more businesses, entertainment venue, space for small businesses (local)
  • housing, low rise (no more than 5 stories)
  • destination for all of Chicago
  • high school
  • family friends development and businesses that bring foot traffic
  • greater integration with South Loop
  • additional access to downtown (CTA & Metra)
  • embrace diversity

Most desired riverfront amenities desired at the site

  • water taxi stop
  • riverwalk, pedestrian friendly and dog friendly path with separate bike lanes
  • tiki bars, high-end restaurants, other retail
  • boathouse
  • water/barge houses
  • kayaking, canoeing
  • concert area along the river, small performance areas

Top responses to look and feel of the site 20 years from now

  • neighborhood with great entertainment and employment
  • restaurants, non-chain
  • futuristic, like Japan, like the Jettsons
  • historical feel
  • West Loop, Fulton Market
  • families enjoying the river
  • mix of lower rise housing, retail, parks and recreation
  • tech friendly – electric car charging stations, vertical farms
  • a place where people stay for years
  • a riverfront community
  • transit access to/from other neighborhoods without displacing ethnic neighborhoods nearby
  • suburban area feels safe community

Most important aspects/considerations for the site

  • public transportation (Metra & CTA – Red Line), no cars (monorail), traffic – relieve congestion of Clark St.; east-west access as well as north-south
  • jobs, employment
  • retail (not more hair salons or dentists)
  • schools (high school, elementary school)
  • good mix of demographics
  • high end shopping, high end restaurants
  • public events
  • trees, walking,
  • access to boats
  • noise control

Most desired community events/programs during construction

  • community engagement around site plans, giving feedback – want to see hard numbers/projections on resident increase, mix and how the burden on schools, parks and traffic are going to be affected/properly addressed
  • parks, movies in the park, festivals, concerts, summer theatre
    • no big outside concert venues (too much noise)
  • nature walks
  • pop up restaurants, picnics
  • indoor space for meetings
  • mountain biking, other sports, ball game
  • open space, for dogs to run/play
  • pop up small business hub/tech space
  • pop up art shows
  • farmers markets
  • food truck nights

 

About the GSLA:

The Greater South Loop Association (GSLA) is a 501c3 non-profit organization founded in 1998. Our mission is to bring neighbors together to maintain and improve the South Loop as a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive community.

About Neighbors’ Night Out:

The GSLA’s Neighbors’ Night Out is a monthly series of informal gatherings at local restaurants/bars where neighbors may gather to meet and discuss topics relevant to our neighborhood. The topics change from month to month based on feedback from our annual State of the South Loop survey and other current events that impact the South Loop.

October Neighbors’ Night Out summary – Litter, pests, stormwater, snow a pain, but no big deal

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Oct 242016
 

October’s Neighbors’ Night Out drew a strong and lively crowd – including Ward 3 Alderman Pat Dowell – to Square One for a discussion of litter, pests, stormwater and snow. Attendees were generally very positive about the low frequency of these nuisances and generally solid management of them in the South Loop. There were some specific problems mentioned, such as odor and pests at the Jewel parking lot. Alderman Dowell made note of these, and has already taken action on several of them.

The next Neighbors’ Night Out is November 9, 2016, at Blackie’s South Loop. The topic is real estate development.

 

Overall comments on topics discussed

  • Almost all of the survey respondents recorded that they did NOT have major issues with the topics or did not notice severe problems to report

Top challenges or concerns related to litter

  • most congested areas are Roosevelt & State at the vacant lots (particularly dog feces)
  • litter in planters all along Michigan Avenue
  • Fred Anderson dog park has litter
  • Perspectives Charter School kids are messy

Top challenges or concerns related to pests

  • Women’s Park and Gardens
  • rats, particularly in the alleys

Top challenges or concerns related to snow removal

  • Sidewalks and side streets seem to not be shoveled compared to main streets which always seem plowed
    • south of Roosevelt
    • along 16th street between Michigan and Wabash

Top challenges or concerns related to stormwater

  • Only an issue during construction

Suggested Solutions

ALL: The Alliance for a Greener South Loop would like to be included as an advocate/partner for any requests/actions the community wants to explore/pursue

Litter: CleanSlate and Cara are two businesses which offer litter and snow removal services (www.thecaraprogram.org)

Snow removal: honor businesses that do well with sidewalk plowing; take photos of those that don’t and more aggressive ticketing of those that don’t

Stormwater: how can the community make permeable alleys the standard in the community? Incentivizing construction to install more green roofs

September Neighbors’ Night Out summary – Neighbors want a little of everything as McCormick Place expands

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Sep 272016
 

The September Neighbors’ Night Out drew about 60 area residents and business owners to Motor Row Brewing for an update on all things McCormick Place from Lori Healey, the CEO of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority. Brian Murphy encouraged area businesses to consider the South Loop Business Exchange, and GSLA Board member Cristina Bothe-Hall discussed our re-launch of the South Loop’On, a one-of-a-kind neighborhood discount program for GSLA members.

Here is a summary of responses from the event questionnaire:

  1. What are your top priorities for new retail near McCormick Place?
    1. Restaurants/bars (4)
    2. Live music/jazz club (3)
    3. No big box retail/locally owned (3)
    4. Target/CVS (2)
    5. Drug store
    6. Gym
    7. Mix of national and local
    8. Proactive parking/traffic management
    9. High profile corporate draws
    10. High-density residential
    11. Entertainment/programming outside on the street

 

  1. What major events would you like to see at/near McCormick Place?
    1. Live theater/concerts (4)
    2. Sporting events (specifically boxing and the Big East basketball tournament) (3)
    3. Student performances/dance
    4. GreenBuild
    5. ASHRAF
    6. Smaller events lost in recent year, such as hardware show
    7. High revenue events that attract few people
    8. Entertainment for adults (but not adult entertainment)
    9. Hacker convention

 

  1. Given the potential market for future development, what other new kinds of real estate development would you like to see in the area, particularly near the Green Line stop?
    1. High-density residential to bring more people (2)
    2. Nice/higher end locally owned bar/restaurant (2)
    3. Movie theater
    4. Blues/music district
    5. Return of public housing
    6. A green space near El stop to give sense of community
    7. A school

 

  1. What other development concerns do you have in the area?
    1. Security/More foot patrols/More cameras (6)
    2. Traffic (4)
    3. Parking (3)
    4. More housing, but make sure some is affordable to maintain diversity and offset gentrification

 

The next Neighbors’ Night Out is Wednesday, October 12, at Square One, and will focus on litter, pests, stormwater and snow. Register now!

August Neighbors’ Night Out summary – Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians ALL need to open their eyes

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Sep 102016
 

August’s Neighbors’ Night Out at Spoke & Bird focused on pedestrian and cycling issues. It was a beautiful evening and we appreciated everyone taking the time to gather on Spoke & Bird’s great outdoor patio. A special thanks to Alderman Dowell and Brian Freedman from the 3rd Ward for being part of the conversation and also fielding general questions about updates in the South Loop.

Below is the summary from our survey about resident feedback regarding cycling in the neighborhood. Top take-aways include residents’ concerns about cyclists on sidewalks and the overall lack of awareness and etiquette on behalf of drivers, pedestrians and cyclists pertaining to bike lane/pedestrian crossing/traffic laws.

Additionally, on Tuesday, August 23, representatives from CDOT presented their proposed bike and pedestrian improvements for the Dearborn/Plymouth corridor during a community meeting in the South Loop. Slides from that presentation are available here. GSLA is currently reviewing the proposal and we also wanted to share this information with you as it is timely to our recent bike/ped discussion.

Survey summary:

Top challenges or safety issues pertaining to cycling in the South Loop:

  • #1 concern: adult cyclist on sidewalks
  • lack of car driver awareness, driving/double parking in bike lanes (particularly Uber drivers)
  • lack of pedestrian awareness, standing in bike lanes
  • lack of cyclist awareness, not obeying traffic laws
  • not many cycling lanes overall in the area; finding a good route without going too far out of the way
  • is a challenge

Major cycling issues from pedestrian’s perspective:

  • lack of awareness of cyclists when standing/hailing cabs by Trader Joes/Wabash bike lane
  • tourists aren’t aware of bike lanes

Major cycling issues from cyclists’ perspective:

  • Roosevelt road sharing path in street to Lakeshore Drive
  • other cyclists going wrong direction or biking on sidewalks
  • safe access to bike path and trails
  • pedestrians using bike paths

Overall positive improvements already happening in the area:

  • #1 improvement: blue walkways and green painted bike lanes
  • curb cut at 18th Street bridge
  • Dearborn cycling lane at Polk
  • the City is committed to increasing bike lanes across the city

Areas where future improvements/investments are desired

  • focus attention at Roosevelt Road/Indiana & Columbus to Michigan Ave – heavy traffic
  • ticket drivers double parking
  • tickets to pedestrians not obeying laws
  • focus attention for bike protection along Roosevelt Road between Canal to State street
  • bike lanes on State street
  • crosswalk at 13th & State needs to be marked better; cars block intersection and do not stop for
  • pedestrians or bikes crossing
  • dividers in most congested areas; more concrete barrier bike lanes; protected bike lanes
  • more signage concerning bike lanes for motorists and cyclists
  • mark all bike lanes green and no parking
  • 18th street bike land over the river seems to be seldom used and traffic jams seem common
  • more bike “trails” like the 606

 

Our next Neighbors’ Night Out is Wednesday, September 14, 5:30pm to 7:00 pm at Motor Row Brewing (2337 S. Michigan Ave). Our topic of conversation will be real estate development, and also the South Loop’on “shop local” discount program that GSLA is relaunching in partnership with the South Loop Business Exchange. Pick up your South Loop’on card for free to start enjoying the discounts offered by participating businesses in the South Loop.

RSVP for GSLA September NNO: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/south-loop-neighbors-night-out-a-monthly-community-development-happy-hour-by-gsla-september-tickets-26478946241