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15 Chicago Alfresco projects get the green light for outdoor dining, cultural arts community spaces

Mayor Lori Lightfoot praised the first round of participants for their “creative ideas for transforming the public way into active community spaces.”

Anthony Jackson and Robin Jackson relax on a street patio on North Broadway in Lakeview in 2020 as part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s “Make Way For Dining” program.
Anthony Jackson and Robin Jackson relax on a street patio on North Broadway in Lakeview in 2020 as part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s “Make Way For Dining” program.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Fifteen community organizations have been approved in the first wave of programming for Chicago Alfresco, the city’s expanded outdoor dining space/cultural arts initiative.

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Choose Chicago made the joint announcement Tuesday in a statement that described the approved applications as “an outpouring of creative ideas for transforming the public way into active community spaces for eating, street vending, storytelling, movie nights, and music and arts programming with the use of street furniture, pavement treatments, plantings, lighting, and other placemaking tools.”

“I am thrilled that so many community organizations across our city have stepped up to participate in Chicago Alfresco and improve their neighborhoods by creating and enhancing spaces for residents to enjoy themselves in,” the mayor said via statement. “With more and more proposals, Chicago Alfresco will only build on the success we have had with similar initiatives, beautify our city, and further ensure that our economic recovery from this pandemic is inclusive of all of our communities.”

The Alfresco initiative — announced in March as an expansion of the city’s Expanded Outdoor Dining Permit that created corridors of “Make Way” outdoor dining spaces to help bolster the city’s devastated restaurant industry during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year — comes amid the continued easing of pandemic restrictions in Chicago and across the state.

According to the official announcement, Choose Chicago is providing $2.3 million in grants sponsored by alcoholic beverages giant Diageo North America to approved applicants of projects intended to help create even more outdoor public space for arts, culture and other neighborhood activities such as walking, live performances, movie nights, biking and more. Chicago Alfresco applications are still being accepted by CDOT at chicago.gov/alfresco.

Here are the 15 community organizations selected for the first round of Chicago Alfresco projects, as outlined in the official announcement:

  • Austin Chamber of Commerce (West Madison Street and West Chicago Avenue): Pockets of arts and cultural spaces along the curb anchored by restaurants. These will include the installation of large planters filled with annuals and perennials as well as metal partitions with small planters creating a perimeter section for art performances, art exhibits, art projects and other meetings/events.
  • Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council (West 47th Street and Honore Street): The Back of the Yards Caminata will provide spaces for dining, lounging, performing, and flexible programming opportunities.
  • Greater Chatham Initiative (East 75th St.reet, East 79th Street, and East 71st Street): Eight mobile wood modular rectangular parklet units with street barriers, planters, lighting, tables and chairs, will promote dining and community activity.
  • Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce (North Broadway Street): Dine Out program extending the outdoor space near restaurants for full service and pick up orders. The installations will include planters, lighting, signage, and decorative fencing, and will incorporate arts and music programming.
  • Little Village Community Foundation (Perez Plaza): The Mercadito will provide a space for local craftspeople to converge on a weekly basis while promoting additional activity on the plaza. The goal is to promote a seasonal market made from semi‐permanent structures that reflect the cultural vibrancy of the various regions on Mexico.
  • Logan Square Chamber of Commerce (Woodard Plaza): Elements including LED fixtures and picnic tables will promote the use of Woodard Plaza for outdoor dining, performances, craft markets, and social gatherings.
  • Morgan Park Beverly Hills (103rd Street and Wood Street): Installation of a CDOT standard design People Spot in coordination with local businesses.
  • Northwest Side CDC (West Fullerton Avenue and West Grand Avenue): Creation of a plaza space to support street vendors (elotero, paleta, tamale carts and other popular Latin American street foods) in organized “stalls” to support culturally‐relevant dining, public life, community, arts, and culture.
  • Puerto Rican Cultural Center (West Division Street): Curbside and street activation along the Paseo Boricua commercial corridor, incorporating outdoor dining spaces and placemaking to promote foot traffic, foster community engagement and stimulate economic development along the corridor. The project will include artistic interventions and murals, visually appearing wood kiosks, gathering areas, seating arrangements, furniture, and programming, in at least 5 different hubs, each one with its own theme and purpose.
  • Rogers Park Business Alliance (West Jarvis Avenue & North Glenwood Avenue): Expanding on an existing EOD closure along Jarvis Avenue by providing landscape, furnishings and design elements to promote community activities, including daily alfresco dining, as well as special events like live performances, moonlight ice cream socials, festivals, movie nights, and a monthly artisan market from May to September. Closing vehicular traffic along a stretch of Glenwood Avenue and incorporating decorative lighting, seating, signage, performance space, bike parking, and ADA accessible platforms to make the space adaptable for daily alfresco dining use as well outdoor performances and special events.
  • South Shore Chamber of Commerce (East 71st Street): “Walk ‐Shop‐ Dine” curbside activation including planters, patio sets with umbrellas and signage. Bi‐weekly entertainment will include live musical performances, outdoor fitness events, paint parties and outdoor movies.
  • South Chicago Parents & Friends (South Commercial Avenue): ”Who Tells Your Story” is a block long activation and installation comprised of a base module of structures that will incorporate art, seating, planting and programming zones.
  • Uptown United (West Argyle Street): Expanded dining and placemaking using north and south curbside parking along Argyle between North Broadway and Sheridan Road.
  • West Ridge Chamber of Commerce (West Devon Avenue): Devon Potluck Plazas” will serve as pop‐up public plazas on side streets with movable street furniture and temporary surface treatments to encourage carry‐out dining and programming.
  • Woodlawn Chamber of Commerce (East 62nd Street and South Ingleside Avenue): Activation of an underutilized plaza by creating an attractive and accessible space where people will want to gather by bringing local business owners, from caterers to yoga teachers.