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Wicker Park pushes for transit-oriented development

UPDATED – A four-year effort by community and business groups around Wicker Park in favor of mixed-use, transit-oriented development at a major intersection seems to be paying off.

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Chicagoland’s favorite places

What Makes Your Place Great? That’s the name of a contest inviting area residents to reveal their favorite undiscovered public spaces. It’s part of a larger project promoting “placemaking” and the importance of lively neighborhoods and inviting public spaces.

Sponsored by the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the contest invites residents to submit a photo or video of their favorite local place along with a brief description of what it means to them and how it contributes to their community.

Prizes include passes to area cultural institutions – and winners’ spots may end up on a special CAF tour this fall.

Bush Community Garden of Hope

It’s the second year of the contest.Last year 8,000 people voted online for 51 entrants.

Among the 2009 winners was the Bush community garden in South Chicago (Newstips covered the garden’s first season in 2004).

Beyond showcasing special places, the goal is “to help people understand what goes into creating and sustaining great places in communities and how those places contribute to a healthy region,” said Mandy Burrell Booth of MPC.

“Sure, great places are fun to visit,” she said. “But they also can make communities more economically vibrant, connect neighbors, reduce stress, improve safety, and keep people healthier by giving them someplace they can walk to.”

Through its Placemaking Chicago initiative, MPC is training planners from local agencies. “In some ways, placemaking turns traditional community planning on its head,” said Burrell. “Instead of starting with a budget item or a project list, it starts with people’s vision for their places.”

In 2007, MPC and the Project for Public Spaces published a Guide to Neighborhood Placemaking in Chicago. It includes a step-by-step guide, a list of local resources, and seven case studies, ranging from the Bloomingdale Trail to the drum circle at the 63rd Street beach.

The group is also partnering with the Wicker Park Bucktown Special Service Area to “activate” the Polish Triangle, where Division, Milwaukee, and Ashland meet.

Last year they held an online survey and a two-day open house, where residents could help develop ideas for the space.  Currently WPB is sponsoring a public art project for local artists to present their ideas, which will be installed in vacant storefronts in the area.

Photo by Maureen Kelleher from NCP, Southeast Chicago goes from steel to green.

New architecture tours

The Chicago Architecture Foundation – which sponsors 85 different architecture tours, by bus, train, river boat, and foot – has announced several new neighborhood tours.

New tours highlight the eclectic architecture and Victorian mansions of Wicker Park; the cultural influences of immigrants from Eastern Europe and Mexico in Pilsen; and the beautiful mansions of Beverly, a landmark district, now presented in a two-part walking tour (here’s the schedule for part two).

There’s a revamped walking architectural tour of Lincoln Park Zoo, a new one-hour lunchtime tour of Symphony Center, and plans for a tour of the Loop on the L. CAF’s river cruise tour begins May 1; tickets are on sale now.



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