The proposed Lawrence Avenue Streetscape has cleared an early hurdle to becoming reality: In a note to constituents, 47th Ward Ald. Ameya Pawar announced TIF task force approval for the project.
Elements of the streetscape, which include wider sidewalks and a full bike lane, will extend from Clark Street to the Chicago River, with the goal of expanding the pedestrian-friendly, economically-vibrant environment of Lincoln Square to nearby Lawrence. Now that TIF funds have been made available, a more comprehensive planning process will begin, including a number of public meetings to be announced. Construction, which will take place in two phases, is likely to start by Fall 2012.
The alderman’s office plans to work closely with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Department of Housing and Economic Development (DHED) to ensure the streetscape accomplishes more than a superficial facelift: green infrastructure, smarter traffic signal technology and storm water management (in the form of permeable pavers, planters, etc.) are items Pawar expects the streetscape to incorporate.
On numerous occasions, Pawar has linked the Lawrence Avenue Streetscape to the enhancement of neighborhood schools, stating that economic development gravitates toward quality schools, not the opposite. To that end, he also announced a letter of support for $2 million in TIF funding for Amundsen High School and Chappell and McPherson Elementaries, which is awaiting approval.
At the same time, Pawar has allocated $50,000 of his aldermanic “menu” funding to Audubon Elementary for a playlot (aldermen annually receive approximately $1 million in taxpayer funds to spend at their discretion on infrastructure improvements within their wards), and $62,000 to Ravenswood Elementary. Over the next two years, he has pledged another $200,000 in menu funds to Bell, Coonley, Waters and Courtenay Elementaries.