Sheffield Neighbors contest Kenmore closure

Posted on November 27, 2012

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Block of Kenmore Avenue that would close for “Kenmore Green” project.

November 6, 2012

LINCOLN PARK – The Sheffield Neighborhood Association (SNA) board of directors voted Wednesday evening to oppose DePaul’s “Kenmore Green” project that would involve closing the 2300 block of Kenmore Avenue.

The project will create green space, or open area, for the University. According to a draft of the University master plan, the project “internalizes the University’s foot traffic flow and unites the campus.” It would allow students to travel between buildings without walking into traffic.

Over 100 Sheffield residents attended a meeting in early October to voice their concerns. According to the SNA board, 90 percent of residents were opposed to the idea. Eric Mariani, a SNA board member, said, “If we are SNA the voice of the people, and most of the people have opposed, I’m inclined to be with the people.”

Former SNA board president and current board member Laury Lewis was in this majority. “There is no neighborhood benefit,” he said. Lewis said the major concerns involved increased traffic and the removal of 47 parking spaces. Pedestrian and automobile traffic on neighboring streets is significant and residents worry that the closure of this area will reroute existing traffic, Lewis said.

Ted Wrobleski, a SNA board member, said, “When it comes down to it, DePaul wants to close the street but they haven’t offered the neighborhood anything. Is it a sufficient benefit to DePaul?”

Former SNA board member and Sheffield resident Judith Casey wrote a letter to Alderman Waguespack asking him to recognize how this will compromise pedestrian safety and impact local businesses. According to Casey, “The entire 2300 block of Sheffield already is jammed with pedestrians including DePaul students, faculty, and staff and El commuters; cyclists; trucks loading at Dominick’s; drivers entering and existing DePaul’s Sheffield garage; and buses and visitors at the DePaul athletic center.”

DePaul hired KLOA, Inc., a traffic planning company, to assess the traffic conditions in the area. According to the SNA, when Kenmore was closed for one month in May, KLOA found that traffic increased by 15 percent. It increased 30 percent during morning peak hours.

KLOA and residents tried to find solutions to major concerns. One of KLOA’s suggestions was to add traffic signals to mitigate traffic at the intersection of Belden and Sheffield. The SNA board said the Chicago Department of Transportation was opposed to this idea because it would adversely affect pedestrian traffic because three traffic lights in a row would cause vehicles to speed up.

Another idea suggested by the board and Sheffield residents included 24-hour permit parking to give residents greater access to existing spots. Casey wrote that this option would adversely affect local businesses, as customers are more prone to parking for free in street spaces.

The 10 percent that did not oppose the project during the October meeting understood the value of DePaul’s campus to neighborhood. According to the SNA board, DePaul’s expansion has raised existing home values. Amongst the 10 percent was former Alderman Marty Oberman who said he thought DePaul’s benefit from the project would outweigh additional traffic issues, according to the SNA November newsletter.

The SNA Board voted 10-1, with one abstention. The Board will send their opinion to Alderman Waguespack who will make a decision on DePaul’s proposal.

Paul Sajovec, Alderman Waguespack’s Chief of Staff, said, “Does DePaul benefit enough from this to make it worthwhile?”

He said the alderman’s office is not in a rush to come to a decision about the proposal, and that this might be a “fresh opportunity to take a look at the type of things neighbors are concerned about each day.”

With traffic and parking already being an issue, Sajovec said that community organizations should come together to “take a holistic look at the situation to make things work more efficiently” and “look at whole framework of parking restrictions in that area.”

Sajovec said the alderman’s office is assessing temporary and long-term implications of project. The SNA Board said they hope DePaul will continue to work with the neighborhood to mitigate this project’s effects.

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