My latest post at Streetsblog Chicago is up:
The most important outcome to remember is that Kempf Plaza was once a simple residential street, moving a few cars and storing several private vehicles. Initially, there was opposition from merchants and residents alike. In retrospect, the opposition was hyperbolic. Today, the space is popular, and acts as the center of the neighborhood. To remove it today would cause an uproar — yet the result would be what some neighbors in the late 1970s wished for. This hindsight is important to remember whenever projects that reshape streets, and remove some room for cars (whether moving or parked) face opposition. With proper planning and care, they, too, can become the great neighborhood spaces that everyone in Chicago deserves.
I’ve written before that Giddings (formally Kempf) Plaza is probably one of the most successful public spaces in Chicago and its popularity, tranquility, and history make it an excellent example that other neighborhoods should follow.
Public spaces like this are important, but it’s perhaps even more important to ensure that they are planned well — too many other public plazas in Chicago have flopped without proper planning, and I’ve got the feeling that at least one I’ve seen planned will likely be unsuccessful (more on that later). We know car-free places like this can be successful, but it’s the unsuccessful ones that give rise to resistance of future ones.