Goal: Revitalize Commercial Corridors - Recommendation 3: Develop a “Main Street” Experience along 35th Street

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35th Street runs through the center of McKinley Park and connects Archer and Ashland avenues. While the corridor is designed to accommodate pedestrian-oriented development, residents and business owners are concerned with the high vacancy and turnover rate of businesses along the corridor. This corridor remains central to the community’s identity and there is a strong desire from residents to revive a portion of the corridor as a main street district. The community envisions 35th Street, from Hoyne Avenue to Ashland Avenue, as a potential main street corridor with gathering spaces to socialize, work, and shop. Residents would like to see small-scale commercial uses that meet daily needs like dry cleaners and restaurants with outdoor café-style seating. Through physical improvements, and coordinated placemaking and programming, 35th Street can become a main street destination that showcases the neighborhood’s character and diversity.

Pursue pedestrian street designation from Hoyne Avenue east to Ashland Avenue 

The city’s pedestrian street (P-Street) designation is used to identify pedestrian-oriented shopping districts and streets throughout the city. P-Streets establish a set of regulations that preserve and enhance the character of these shopping districts by prohibiting auto-oriented land uses, such as curb cuts, driveways, parking lots, and other features more typically found in suburban commercial areas, while encouraging dense development.

35th Street, with its mixture of small independently owned shops and restaurants with apartments above, fit the P-Street character. CDOT and DPD should consider P-Street zoning designation for 35th Street, from Hoyne Avenue east to Ashland Avenue, to protect and promote the existing pedestrian-oriented environment.

Activate ground-floor spaces with active uses

The 35th Street corridor has a number of parcels designated for mixed-use (residential above ground-floor retail). However, due to the high turnover in small businesses, many of the ground floors are used for residential. Building off the P-Street designation, pursuing active ground-floor uses that are not limited to retail could help revive the corridor into a vibrant and walkable destination. There is already an abundance of commercial retail on Archer Avenue, which offers opportunities to explore options for providing other needed services and amenities for residents. Other uses can help meet community needs while providing the kind of continuous façades that make a street welcoming for people walking. Possible uses can range from civic facilities to institutional uses, such as childcare, health clinics, social services, or arts/theater/museum spaces.

Attractive and inviting ground-floor spaces are integral to shaping the pedestrian experience in a community. MPDC should engage the community to work with developers to consider a variety of innovative possibilities for ground-floor use, and apply best practice strategies that utilize attractive, flexible design guidelines that can accommodate a range of uses. Additionally, MPDC should work with property owners to invite existing local businesses and entrepreneurs to open pop-up shops as temporary uses that activate empty storefronts in visible locations.

Alternatively, MPDC can work with property owners to fill windows with works by local artists. Engaged property owners with temporary vacancies may be open to displaying work by local artists while their space remains vacant, providing an opportunity for artists to showcase their work. MPDC’s new arts and culture committee could serve as the coordinator of an art windows program, acting as a liaison between artists and property owners to coordinate access, installation, and relocation of artwork when the vacant space finds a tenant.

Reinforce the sense of place through beautification improvements

McKinley Park already benefits from vibrant parks, but it also has many other places in the public realm — such as sidewalks, streets, and vacant lots — that can serve functions similar to traditional public spaces through innovative and resourceful “placemaking” and beautification efforts. Well-designed spaces for community amenities not only improve the streetscape, but can also cultivate a distinct sense of place, enliven public life, and provide places outside of the home and work for residents to convene and enjoy their communities.

Placemaking is an approach to enlivening neighborhoods by making their public spaces enjoyable, vibrant, and inviting. Placemaking strategies can result in creating a “place brand,” a unique experience that a visitor will remember and attribute to this area. By shaping the public realm in the image of a community, placemaking deepens the social and cultural connections between people and the physical spaces of their neighborhood. Public art and various interactive activities can all result in creating a place brand, as well as helping unsafe areas get more activity and “eyes on the street.”

An easy-to-implement, temporary placemaking strategy to improve streetscapes is to paint decorative, potentially branded crosswalks at major intersections throughout 35th Street. Colorful designs can have a traffic calming effect on roadways, and create more comfort for pedestrians. This also creates an opportunity for local artists to take part in community improvements. In addition to installing pedestrian-level lighting, banners, and landscaping, community stakeholders should explore the conversion of underutilized sections of 35th Street. As recommended in strategy 5.2c, CDOT’s Make Way for People initiative could be one way to create new public spaces. Community stakeholders should work with the 12th Ward alderman and CDOT to identify areas for public space through the people spots and people alleys. These projects will enable temporary installations for outdoor seating, dining, and performances.

Photo gallery from "Marshfield Courts Gets Face-Lift with Help from Local Artist," publlished August 8, 2019, in the McKinley Park News:

In July 2019, Marshfield Courts received a face-lift thanks to the efforts of local volunteers and McKinley Park neighborhood artist Juan Chavez. The city-owned lot located at 1642 W. 35th Street has been abandoned as long as residents can remember. The neighborhood plan recommends preserving this lot as a public space for year-round community programs and activities. MPDC’s new arts and culture alliance and beautification committees should work together to ensure the upkeep and programming of this space. CDOT’s People Plaza is a resource available to support these initiatives to ensure the vibrancy of this city-owned space.

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