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'Parklet' Replaces 2 Parking Spaces In Andersonville

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Andersonville neighborhood is home to Chicago's first "people spot," with a miniature park is taking the place of two parking spaces on Clark Street.

Moss Architecture and Studio Murmur were the co-designers of the city's first "parklet," at Clark Street and Farragut Avenue. It features bright blue built-in benches for seating, as well as an herb garden, native Illinois plants, bike parking, and a planted hill to lounge on.

The parklet is part of a push by two organizations – eco-Andersonville and the Andersonville Development Corporation – to make the neighborhood green in more ways than one. In particular, the groups note that most people who come to Andersonville are not driving.

"The trends are changing: the majority of people coming to Andersonville these days are not traveling by car, they are coming on foot, bicycle or the CTA," said Brian Bonnano of the Andersonville Development Corporation.

The parklet, which is located directly in front of the Akira boutique at 5228 N. Clark St., will provide an oasis in the midst of the heavily-trafficked thoroughfare.

"This project and future ones like it, are long-term investments for Andersonville," Bonnano said. "We know a parklet cannot offer all of the amenities of a full scale park, but we believe it can give people a place to take in the neighborhood, meet a friend, read a book, or even for a moment forget they are surrounded by brick and concrete."

The parklet is clad with panels made from recycled milk jugs. The native perennials that are planted in the space come from nearby Gethsemane Garden Supply.

"People spots" are one of four categories of "fun spots" the City of Chicago is seeking to create all around town. They will be in use during the spring, summer and early fall.

Another "people spot" is planned for Lincoln Avenue between the intersections with Southport and Wellington avenues and with Lakewood Avenue and George Street – in cooperation with the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce; and at and 47th Street at Greenwood and Champlain avenues, in conjunction with the Quad Communities Development Corporation.

The second model, "people streets," are streets that would be closed off for pedestrian use. They would be created from wide streets that could be narrowed, dead-end streets that are unnecessary, or streets that neighbors would like to cut off.

The third idea, "people plazas," are existing outdoor plazas and malls that could be "activated" into spaces for farmers markets and other public sales.

The fourth model, "people alleys," calls for transforming alleys into public plazas with tables and chairs for live music or art shows, during the evening hours when the alleys are not needed for garbage collection and deliveries.

Community groups and private companies have been creating similar "fun spots" on their own for years. For example, last September, Moss Architecture – the same firm behind the Andersonville parklet – turned several parking spaces on Southport Avenue near Cornelia Avenue into a makeshift "park," for an event called PARK(ing) Day.

"We pay the parking meter for the day, and roll out a park," Moss Design principal architect Matt Nardella said last September. The group set up plants in the park, and featured live music and bike repair.

The Andersonville parklet is supported financially by the Andersonville Development Corporation, as well as a Kickstarter campaign.

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