Big Plans Afoot for Congress Parkway

One of the streets that welcome thousands of cars barreling into the Loop or fleeing for the suburbs each day is going to get a big makeover.

Construction is expected to start in the spring on a Congress Parkway screetscaping scheme that will transform the street between Wells and Michigan into a gateway to downtown Chicago.

Drawing from the CDOT presentation linked below of what Congress Parkway might look like

Drawing from the CDOT presentation linked below of what Congress Parkway might look like

Over a year ago we mentioned the plans to light the parkway with LED bollards. Now we know more about the project.

It includes adding trees to both sides of the street wherever possible, adding trees in the medians where they fit, and a dramatic lighting system. The lights would take the form of illuminated gateway markers as well as LED floodlights coloring the bordering buildings.

Drawing from the CDOT presentation linked below of what the Auditorium Building might look like

Drawing from the CDOT presentation linked below of what the Auditorium Building might look like

The current, rather hazardous, pedestrian crosswalks would have their stripes replaced by fake bricks, in an effort to make the area more pedestrian-friendly and to remind drivers that they’re no longer on I-290, and to slow down in this residential zone. In addition, there would be places in the median for pedestrians to wait for the next signal change if they’re not able to make it all the way across in 40 seconds (the new time to cross). In some places, the road is eight lanes wide.

Drawing of a potential accent piece for Congress Parkway

Drawing of a potential accent piece for Congress Parkway

Also in the plan:

  • A new Blue Line subway entrance at Dearborn Street
  • New crossing signals with countdown timers
  • New street furniture (newspaper machines, benches, etc…)
  • New median planters
  • Wider sidewalks, where possible
  • Reconfigured turning lanes (some added, some removed)
  • A crossing signal for the blind at Congress and Wells
  • Many more trees (Elm, Ginko, Oak, London Planetree, Honeylocust, Hackberry, Kentucky Coffeetree)
  • A barrier between the sidewalk and the street where it crosses under the Chicago Board of Trade
  • Trellises supporting climbing vines in areas too narrow for other landscaping

Page 27 of the CDOT presentation highlights two city-owned pieces of land — one on the northwest corner of Clark and Congress, and the other at the southeast corner of Congress and Plymouth. It then shows examples of public plazas. Does this mean that these surface parking lots could become something better, a la Pritzker Park (334 South State Street)? We’ll keep out fingers crossed.

You can read more about the plan here: Congress Parkway improvement project

Editor

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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