Wicker Park master plan calls for wider Polish Triangle sidewalk

A drawing in the WPB master plan envisions a wider Milwaukee Avenue sidewalk.

An updated Wicker Park master plan calls for sidewalk cafes to "reclaim space for bikers and pedestrians" at the Polish Triangle.

In a 163-page document unveiled in November, the Wicker Park Bucktown retail-service district SSA 33 proposes "shared street" strategies to increase foot traffic at the Division, Ashland and Milwaukee intersection. Its wish list includes ideas aired in a May community workshop, including widening the Milwaukee Avenue sidewalk and converting parking spaces to "parklets" for community use.

The report says wider sidewalks "would have a big impact on the potential for streetlife and commercial vitality" and make for shorter street crossings at Division and Ashland. The report does not say how to widen the sidewalk, but a sketch in the report suggests that parking would be eliminated.

Urban planners frequently note West Town's scarce and neglected open space — including the city's Near Northwest Side Plan that the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill drafted in 2002. The Metropolitan Planning Council's 2010 Placemaking at the Polish Triangle report recommended information kiosks, fountain enhancements and better CTA station access at the plaza. Yet progress has been slow.

The East Village Association and other community groups formed the Polish Triangle Coalition in 2011 to organize summer events and spur infrastructure changes. This year the group split from Friends of the Parks, continued Tuesday summer events and lobbied for a food vendor. A food truck signed on but could not secure electrial access.

Street widening would be the Chicago Department of Transportation's responsibility. The WPB master plan does not propose that the service district fund the street project, but says SSA 33 should "[c]oordinate with CDOT, Active Transportation Alliance and Polish Triangle Coalition to secure funding." Neither the alliance nor the coalition are funding agencies. The plan also advocates more events at the plaza through coordination with the Triangle group.

The plan proposes the SSA's role is to "guide development" along Division Street and Ashland, Damen, Milwaukee and North avenues, working with the East Village Association, Wicker Park Committee, Bucktown Community Organization and local aldermen "to review guidelines." The SSA would also "educate [the] development community" on the guidelines. Jessica Wobbekind, SSA progrma manager, said the district's commission would review the plan this month, and a presentation to EVA might be possible early next year.

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