30 November 2010

Let's Take a Trip Down Fullerton Boulevard!

Ok, so it's actually an avenue, but then I wouldn't have been able to work a reference from 60s East LA garage-punkers Thee Midniters in the title. But it COULD be a boulevard...it COULD be a lot a things. This street is a topic of special interest to me personally, as I live just a couple blocks south of Fullerton in Logan Square. Here in my neighborhood, Fullerton has a 100-foot right-of-way, a remnant of it's history as one of the city's busiest streetcar lines. It's also a commercial dead zone. Up until 1949, a streetcar line ran as far west as Central Avenue, letting off passengers (and customers) every couple of blocks. Today it's a four-lane, high-speed automotive corridor (and one which is generally impossible to cross on foot). Between the Chicago River and the street's terminus at Grand Avenue (roughly six miles), vacant storefronts abound. East of Ashland Avenue, Fullerton narrows to Chicago's standard 66-foot width, and commercial activity picks up markedly.

Here's a classic example of how designing streets for cars first and everybody else second hurts businesses and communities. What was once a thriving retail corridor is now rather uninviting. There are pockets of commercial life, but there are often gaps of several blocks between businesses. It doesn't need to be this way. Fullerton possesses relatively wide sidewalks, perfect for sidewalk cafes and the like, but with cars careening by at 40mph it's not a very conducive public space. With a road diet paring down the road width from 100 to the standard 66 feet, there would be room enough for separated cycletracks and a light-rail or BRT line, without sacrificing a single oh-so-precious parking space.

Sections of the street are already captured by various TIF districts, but with so many commercial vacancies it can't be generating much revenue for the city. In my mind, development projects of this nature are exactly what TIF funds should be used for, large-scale investments in a neighborhood's future.

More to come on this in the future. These are the things that I dream about.

No comments:

Post a Comment