Will Polish Triangle shape up?

The city and CTA budgets, both stretched thin, would play key roles in transforming the Polish Triangle park at Milwaukee, Division and Ashland, according to a new report.

But "Placemaking at the Polish Triangle," released by the Metropolitan Planning Council, also recommends a host of modest changes to what was described as "one of the most unsatisfying places" in the tax-funded Wicker Park Bucktown (WPB) business district.

"Most do not want the Triangle to change dramatically, but think that small changes will make a big impact on the plaza," the planning report states.

Karin Sommer, the council's Placemaking Chicago project manager, and Jamie Simone from WPB will present the report at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7 at the Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott.

Both Sommer and Simone are on the 19-member steering committee charged with following through on Polish Triangle plans. This is the East Village Association's monthly membership meeting, one day later than its usual date, which would fall on Labor Day.

Rapid-transit improvements are tagged as a "long-term goal." Most require unspecified but obviously significant funding from the city and CTA:

  • An upgrade to federal standards for accessible design.

  • A rain canopy for both staircases.

  • More lighting in and around the station.

  • An "Adopt-a-Station" sponsor to commission artwork or plan station improvements.

  • A decorative winter cover for the fountain.

The CTA station at Division is one of the Blue Line's busiest, the report states, with 5,000 people using the station daily and more than 50,000 weekday riders traveling its three connecting bus lines.

Residents gave planners specific ideas on making road crossings safer, from bumping out parking lanes to closing off Milwaukee Avenue as a mall. The report says a city study of traffic and pedestrian use would be the first step in carrying out these ideas.

Elsewhere, the report made mostly small plans:

  • Police patrols. Beat cops would provide "stricter traffic enforcement."

  • Trash pickup. "A casual observer will note there is much evidence of alcohol consumption on the Triangle," the report observes dryly.

  • Landscaping. The city and WPB could quickly add pedestrian-friendly flowers, plants or grass.

  • Activities. Art installations, farmer's markets, an information kiosk and a bicycle station are a few of the suggestions.

The report publishes several architects' designs for the space. Scott Rappe and Norsman Architects submitted separate designs for a café and performance stage, while Hoerr Schaudt proposed a granite walkway, trees and a soundproofing berm.

The study claims that the business district, Chamber of Commerce and 1st Ward office can encourage building owners to broaden the mix of stores, but notes objections in 1997 to a single-story convenience-store plan for the still-vacant Pizza Hut property at 1601 W. Division.

New buildings should be "the same height or taller" than the existing storefronts, the study says, arguing that CTA traffic made off-street parking "inappropriate." It also advocates a zoning change to keep banks from clustering nearby.

An online survey last year took suggestions on this site and elsewhere, and 57 people joined a social network to chat up the Triangle. A storefront open house took more suggestions, and displayed sketches from local architects.

About 500 people an hour travel through the Triangle, according to the planners' count, and 700 during the morning and afternoon rush hours. But most simply pass through or wait for a bus. Transients and pigeons, the report said, "were a common source of complaints among survey respondents."

Next meetings: Wicker Park business, window repair, parkways

Aug. 9 board meeting minutes submitted by Dana Palmer

Board Members: Greg Nagel, Nicole Semple, Dana Palmer, Aaron Bilton, Tom Tomek, Stephen Rynkiewicz, Scott Rappe; Non-board Members: Kenan Obaid. Meeting commenced at 6:39 p.m.

Annual BBQ: Nicole Semple suggested sending thank yous to all businesses that donated food and supplies for the BBQ. Dana Palmer agreed to send out the thank yous.

Next general meeting: Due to the next scheduled membership meeting falling on the Monday after Labor Day, the board agreed to reschedule the meeting to Tuesday, Sept. 7. Stephen Rynkiewicz agreed to announce the change of date on the website.

September membership meeting: The Wicker Park Chamber of Commerce and Special Service Area have agreed to be guest speakers. Janik's Cafe has agreed to do the business minute.

October membership meeting: Principal from LaSalle School is not able to commit to come but plans to if available. Greg Nagel will ask Dan Nehm to also present on windows and energy efficiency.

November membership meeting: Greg Nagel will ask Streets & Sanitation to
present on parkway issues. Will draft a list of questions for the speaker.

EVA signs: Greg Nagel agreed to send an e-mail of suggested text to place on notification signs each month.

Treasurer's report: Nicole Semple deposited the money from new memberships at the BBQ. She has not been successful in obtaining a new bank account so EVA is sticking with Banco Popular. In regard to the post office box, Nicole Semple agreed to attempt to retrieve mail from old box at Carroll Street station. She will also ask about having mail forwarded to new post box. If unsuccessful, she will e-mail Greg Nagel who will bring up issue with Alderman Moreno.

Unfavorable businesses in area: Some members suggested that there are some new and proposed businesses in the EVA neighborhood that are unfavorable. Scott Rappe will speak with Jamie Simon from the Chamber and Aaron Bilton will speak with Phil McFarland about the issue.

Membership list: After several new memberships were received at the BBQ, Dana Palmer has agreed to update the membership list. After doing so, will send out letters and e-mails to those members who are not up to date asking for them to renew. As for annual renewal, Aaron Bilton stated there is already a general renewal date being December of every year.

Meeting adjourned at 7:56 p.m.

EVA takes off Labor Day: Next meeting Sept. 7

East Village Association membership meetings are scheduled on Sept. 7 and Oct. 4 to accommodate the Labor Day holiday.

All membership meetings are at 7 p.m. in the Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott. Here is the tentative schedule:

Sept. 7: Jamie Simone of Wicker Park Bucktown Special Service Area 33 and Karin Sommer of the Metropolitan Planning Council present the about-to-be-released report on Polish Triangle renovation. (This meeting was previously rescheduled to a different date.)

Oct. 4 LaSalle II Magnet School Principal Suzanne Velasquez-Sheehy; vintage window restorer Dan Nehm.