Upgrades for Northcenter Town Square and Low Line Move Forward

By Patrick Butler

A second community meeting on the Town Square redesign will be held at 6:30 p.m. May 9 at the Coonley School gym, 4046 N. Leavitt St.

The PORT Urbanism design team will unveil three proposals for the square based on community comments collected from surveys and the March 29 kickoff meeting sponsored by the Northcenter Chamber of Commerce and the Northcenter Neighborhood Association at the St. Benedict High School gym, 3941 N. Bell.

Concerns voiced at that meeting ranged from how to make the plaza more dog friendly without turning it into a dog park to whether to replace the current concrete surface with grass.

One resident asked PORT landscape designer Andrew Moddrell to find a lighting solution somewhere between too dim and too glaring.

Another wants the park designed to accommodate as many different types of people as possible – ranging from toddlers to senior citizens.

Others want the Town Square to be “more of a place where you can hang out.” Perhaps “with tables and chairs that won’t walk away and aren’t exactly like sofas or beds,” Moddrell wondered.

He also wants help from anyone who can furnish information about a plaque on the site honoring World War II service men and women dedicated in a Nov. 11, 1941 ceremony less than a month before the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that put the U.S. in an even bigger World War.

A day before the March 28 Town Square meeting, neighbors living around the planned “Low Line” running under the Brown Line CTA tracks between Paulina and Southport were exchanging their own ideas with the same Andrew Moddrell who is also working with the Town Square residents.

A 2011 Master Plan drawn up by the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce calls for a half-mile solar-lit walkway between Southport and Paulina with food carts, “pop up” shops, public art murals, dog-friendly oases, and a seating area, Moddrell told a roomful of neighbors at the Lincoln/Belmont Library, 1639 W. Melrose Ave.

For the past four years, there has been a farmers’ market under the CTA tracks near the Southport Avenue Brown Line station, said Lake View Chamber community development manager Dillon Goodman.

At the moment, Goodman added, part of that space is a part parking lot overrun with weeds, gravel and garbage cans the planners hope to replace with turf.

The idea behind spiffing up the area is to help spur new development along commercial corridors like Lincoln and Ashland avenues.

Last year, Moddrell said, the original farmers’ market strip was converted into a paved plaza with planters and some seating. Such improvements not only stimulate the local economy, but can actually create a safer environment, Moddrell said.

According to Moddrell and Goodman, it’s not a new idea. Two years ago, the three-mile 606 biking and hiking trail along an abandoned railroad route running through the Bucktown, Wicker Park, Humboldt and Logan Square neighborhoods.

And in nearby Uptown, community organizations have been pressing for something like it near the CTA Red Line’s Wilson Avenue station.

For updates on the Low Line project, e-mail http://eepurl.com/cD3KFj).

Neighborhood residents who can’t make the upcoming meeting are urged to take the Town Square survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ncts2017.

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