Special Service Area #33

by Scott A. Rappe

Special Service Area #33 includes the commercial properties on Division, North, Western, Damen, and Ashland in the area roughly bounded by those streets and the Kennedy Expressway on the North. The property taxes paid by these buildings include an additional assessment which funds targeted community improvement projects within the area. Recently I met with SSA #33 Commissioner Claudia Skylar to discuss several issues where EVA and SSA interests overlap.

The SSA has commissioned Philadelphia urban planning firm Interface Studio to prepare a commercial master plan. When completed next spring, this plan will serve as a roadmap to guide the SSA’s capital improvements. The importance of such an effort cannot be understated; for all its world-class recognition, Chicago has suffered greatly for the lack of comprehensive planning. This is demonstrated repeatedly by frequent zoning changes, major development battles and minor scuffles like the tree pit fiasco on Division Street.

The SSA has also commissioned a comprehensive inventory of trees on its commercial streets. The survey collected data on the location, species, size, and existing condition of each tree and tree pit/grate/planter and will include a botanist’s findings and recommendations. The inventory will be delivered to the SSA in the form of a searchable database accessible by a GIS (Graphical Information System) viewing interface. The survey was prepared in parallel with an effort by the SSA to get the tree-pit fences on Division Street repaired and painted. Reportedly, the Chicago Department of Transportation is in the process of soliciting bids for this work.

We also discussed the continuing problems at the Polish Triangle. Many exciting ideas for improvements to the fountain and the subway entrances are being discussed within the SSA and by others outside the organization advocating the display of local artist’s work. However, decisions regarding these improvements will await delivery of the master plan. This will ensure that they fit within an overarching concept for improvements in the area and are prioritized properly among the many other things that need to be accomplished.