Lightfoot Announces Open Streets Pilot Program With Outdoor Dining In 6 City Streets

WBBM Newsradio Staff
May 29, 2020 - 2:37 pm

    CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Mayor Lightfoot joined CDOT and BACP on Friday to announce the city’s Open Streets plan.

    "Since the COVID-19 crisis reached our city, we have made sure to be deliberate and intentional in every decision that we have made, and that continues still as we take our first steps into Phase Three of our reopening process. For us to be successful, for you to be successful as a city and resident of this city, we must all be smart and act in a thoughtful way that is mutually supportive and respectful of the needs of our public health and our city's economy..."

    In that same spirit, Mayor Lightfoot announced the city's new Open Streets program. The Mayor said the plan reimagines Chicago's roads in two key ways: first, to simply allow our residents as much space as possible to maintain the safe, physical distancing needed as they leave their homes and go about their daily lives. 

    "We all know how hard it is on busy sidewalks, and it simply makes this effort easier. Greater details about which streets will be used for that purpose will be coming in the next days as Commissioner Biagi and her team continue engaging with key stakeholders, elected officials and, most importantly, community members throughout Chicago."

    The Mayor said her administration believes in conversation, collaboration, and "we would see nothing less in announcing this new initiative." 

    The second aspect of the Open Streets program is to help the city's small businesses, particularly neighborhood restaurants, "so they have extra space they need to safely welcome customers and get their operations back on track as quickly and safely as possible."

    In the coming weeks, six pilot roads will be closed and restaurants will be allowed to move tables and chairs into streets and parking lots to accommodate their guests. The pilot streets will be located in key corridors across the city to provide much-needed relief to businesses of all size, Lightfoot said, all of which were selected based on location, proximity to local businesses and residents, and evaluation of the impact on traffic.

    The streets were also selected in coordination with the Illinois Restaurant Association, local chambers of commerce, and local aldermen. 

    "Let me specifically thank Alderman Reilly, Sawyer, Tunney, Rodriguez, Cardenas, Irvin, and Burnett for their partnership, feedback, and support of local restaurants and businesses," Lightfoot said. 

    "And I am pleased to announce today the six pilot streets include 75th Street from Calumet to Indiana in Chatham, Broadway from Belmont to Diversey Parkway in Lakeview, 26th Street from Central Park to Harding Avenue in Little Village, Rush Street from Oak Street to Cedar Street in the Rush/Division District, Taylor Street from Loomis to Ashland in Near West Side, and Randolph Street in the West Loop.

    "Based on the success of this initial pilot project, we hope that we will be able to expand to other potential areas of this city."

    In the meantime, businesses that want to participate can visit Chicago.gov starting June 1 to submit an application for the 2020 Expanded Outdoor Dining Program.

    "Additionally, as part of the city's ongoing efforts to help small businesses Commissioner Escareno and BACP is working with aldermen to determine how best to deliver efficient and straightforward permitting process. It is important that we show how outdoor dining can be done in a safe, orderly way. And done in a way that helps our businesses, while allowing our residents a little rest and relaxation in an incredibly stressful time," Lightfoot said. 

    "We cannot allow these open streets to turn into street festivals, and we will not. These are for seated dining only. Now let me be clear, if we cannot do these pilots safely, we will not be able to continue or expand these outdoor dining opportunities. But I feel confident that residents of this city and our great restaurateurs are gonna work hand in glove to make sure this opportunity is one that they can safely for their employees and safely for their customers."

    Lightfoot said the hope is that the program will offer new and lasting insight into how we live and experience our neighborhoods, in ways that "enhance our communities and strengthen our bonds with each other."

    CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi said she was excited to announce Our Streets, which is a program "to create a little more shared and safe space in our communities that makes it easier to maintain social distancing, while outside, give Chicagoans a safe and healthy way to reach their jobs and services, and helps restart critical parts of our economy, like our restaurant industry.

    "With 4,000 miles of streets, that's 4,000 miles of opportunity to help both our residents and our businesses that have faced unprecedented challenges from COVID-19."

    On Monday, June 1, the 2020 Expanded Outdoor Dining Permit application will be available online for restaurants in groups of three, SSAs and chambers of commerce to apply for temporary use of streets for outdoor dining. There will be online info sessions and more details coming out over the next few days, Biagi said.

    Shared streets "will allow residential streets for Chicagoans to be opened, while allowing vehicle traffic for local access only."

    Biagi said signs and barricades can be put up to turn streets into shared streets. 

    You can fill out a survey at Chicago.gov/COVIDmobility to say what you want to see happen in your neighborhood.

    Sam Toia from the Illinois Restaurant Association said "closing down streets to allow expanded dining in Chicago neighborhoods is thinking outside the box; this is what the Mayor and her team always do. Restaurants are a staple of every neighborhood in Chicago from Lakeview to Little Village to Chatham to the West Loop."

    This isn't a solution for every restaurant in Chicago, Toia said, but it is another "pragmatic and crucial step to recovery." He said sales are down 80 percent across the board at restaurants, "and no one is immune to what's going on out here. No one. We estimate that more than half of the city's 171,000 food service employees are currently laid off. We are not out of the woods yet; every business owner and customer needs to be respectful of each other."

    That means keeping each other safe through social distancing and smart choices, Toia said. 

    "We gotta do this right, so we can move into the next phase and start opening our indoor dining rooms...We gotta do it right, so please wear your mask at all times. When you're eating, you can take it off. But when you're not eating, make sure you have your mask on."