Boundary Tree Pit Update

by Scott Rappe

As reported in last month’s newsletter, Boundary, a new Division Street bar, has removed two tree pit fences and paved over the planting area. The tree pits contribute to a unified streetscape giving Division Street a cohesive identity and were installed during Division Street's low point as a shopping district in the hope that it would one day be revitalized.It is ironic that now that the area has become a 'hot'destination individual merchants, would erode this unity and consistency.

In the ensuing uproar, I contacted Janet Attarian, project manager with the Chicago Department of Transportation. In order to prevent streetscape improvements being decimated by subsequent construction, CDOT has instituted moratoria in areas where such improvements have been made.Ms. Attarian confirmed that our stretch of tree pits on Division Street is one of the protected streetscapes.

In cases where work is necessary, CDOT requires that the property owner sign a 'release' and restore the public way improvements. When the work is complete, CDOT sends an inspector out to check that the streetscape elements have been restored.

During the normal building permit process, the Department of Zoning reviews all projects. It regulates the Landscape Ordinance and has jurisdiction over things like the installation ofand tree grates in the parkway.is supposed to check whether there is a CDOT moratorium in place before approving any work in the parkway; apparently this procedure was not followed in the case of Boundary.

Alderman Flores quickly responded, requiring that Boundary restore the tree pits to their original condition. Unfortunately, despite the community outcry, Boundary didn’t quite get the point. They began installing miniature versions of the original tree pit fences without removing the concrete that was poured. Thus the size of the planting area has been reduced from 10’x10’ to 5’x5’. The Alderman’s office stopped the work, and suggested getting a permit before resuming. Presumably, the permit process will ensure that the tree pits are properly restored this time.

Several years ago, the East Village Association did a sidewalk cafĂ© survey and amassed a photographic record of tree pits, some of which have subsequently been removed. Alderman Flores’ has committed to getting the tree pits on either side of Boundary, which were also removed illegally, restored.