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Park Manor businesses get patio to bring people together

City officials and community partners cut the ribbon of a new "parklet" in the Park Manor neighborhood Monday afternoon. | Manny Ramos/Sun-Times

Business owners in the Park Manor neighborhood hope a quaint new patio on 75th Street will foster a renewed sense of community and perhaps encourage a few customers to sit and enjoy a bite to eat.

The patio is called a People Spot. Also known as a “parklet,” the space is built from temporary platforms that turn a parking spot into a miniature outdoor patio for people to sit, eat and congregate. The latest patio prototype is part of the Chicago Department of Transportation’s Make Way for People initiative to strengthen communities that encourage neighborhood economic development.

It received funding from AARP, which awarded the Chicago Department of Transportation $30,000 to support the installation of temporary parklets in parking lanes in commercial corridors. The money covered the cost of the parklet design documents, assembly manuals, construction and installation of the prototypes.

Derrick Rowe, the owner of the new Mabe’s Deli, says the patio in front of his four-month-old deli at 312 E. 75th St. will help attract new customers to his business and others along the 75th Street corridor.

“We should foster more creative ways to help people gather and communicate with one another in the community,” Rowe said.

The patio takes up about two parking spaces and will be maintained by the Chatham Business Association. It will be dismantled during the winter months and relocated to another location along the 75th street business corridor next spring. It will stay in Park Manor until the end of 2019 and will then be moved on a rolling basis in areas of “high economic hardship” on the South and West side.

“I think it’s beautiful,” said Deja James, manager of the nearby Brown Sugar Bakery. “I think it brings a beautiful aesthetic to the neighborhood and gives a nice downtown feel.”

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said the parklet is an example of what the neighborhood can accomplish when everyone works together.

“It really is indicative of transforming our community into a place where people can sit down, enjoy themselves and have a bite to eat,” Sawyer said.

Luann Hamilton, the deputy commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, said the parklet is a prototype that can be implemented in other communities without the expense of hiring architects to develop designs.

City’s “People Spots” encourage economic growth in communities. | Manny Ramos/Sun-Times.

But one business owner is worried about the patio’s location.

“I think the concept is wonderful and it is a great way to get the community to connect with each other,” said Carmen Lemons, owner of Lem’s BBQ, which is located directly across the street from the parklet. “I just hope it doesn’t create an accident.”

Lemons said she is worried that it can leave patrons vulnerable to traffic along 75th Street and to cars leaving her parking lot.

“They should’ve put it on the sidewalk,” she said.