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Argyle Shared Street

Landscape Performance Benefits

Environmental

  • Provides more than double the stormwater storage volume than required by the City with a storage capacity of 7,800 gallons.
  • Virtually eliminates the need for irrigation of the infiltration planters, saving an estimated 9,300 gallons of potable water during a typical peak watering month.

Social

  • Provides improved aesthetic, environmental, cultural, and/or accessible quality as compared to a typical Chicago street design according to 96% of 48 surveyed visitors.
  • Supports and enhances community events, as demonstrated by 72% of 103 surveyed Argyle Night Market participants in 2017 and 2018 reporting that the streetscape enhances their experience of the market.
  • Supports increased event attendance with attendees at the Argyle Night Market growing from 25,000 in 2016 (pre-construction) to 45,000 in 2018 (post-construction). The number of participants in the Argyle Lunar New Year Parade doubled between 2017 and 2018.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    site design group

  • Project Type

    Streetscape

  • Former Land Use

    Retrofit

  • Location

    W Argyle St. & N Sheridan Rd
    Chicago, Illinois 60640

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  • Climate Zone

    Humid continental

  • Size

    2.3 acres/3 city blocks

  • Budget

    $3,773,179

  • Completion Date

    2016

The 3-block Argyle Shared Street corridor in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois prioritizes pedestrians and creates a plaza-like space by putting sidewalks and the street at the same level. This first shared street in Chicago has a market feel reminiscent of Vietnamese markets and reflects the community’s primarily Southeast Asian heritage. Eliminating curbs and using an intentionally curved or chicane street design maximizes area that can be used as public space while decreasing traffic speeds to allow pedestrians, bicycles, and vehicles to share the right-of-way. By providing more outdoor restaurant seating and an improved pedestrian experience with wider sidewalks, the redesign created new opportunities for local businesses. Updated signage celebrates the area’s Asian community by building upon the existing identity of the corridor as “Asia on Argyle” while also directing pedestrians to the Chicago Transit Authority Argyle train station. The shared street provides a unique new typology for Chicago that is now being implemented in other areas of the city.

  •  34,530 sf of permeable curbless streetscape is composed of unit pavers and detectable warning surfaces that visually separate car traffic and parking from pedestrian-only areas. The entire surface area of the project is designated as pedestrian/multi-use.
  • The street was raised to the level of the sidewalk. The street has chicanes, or intentional curves in the road, to slow traffic. Bollards improve safety by defining the limits of intersections and pedestrian areas.
  • Sidewalks were widened to provide additional outdoor seating for restaurants, resulting in an increase in the number of restaurants with outdoor sidewalk seating from 2 pre-construction to 8 post-construction.
  • The sidewalks are composed of permeable pavers that drain stormwater beneath the subgrade, while the street space drains to the planter beds that serve as infiltration beds. Businesses often add their own plants to the planter beds. 
  • While pedestrian use is prioritized, 80 street parking spaces were retained along the sidewalk’s edge. The parking spaces are bordered by infiltration planters with a total area of 2,260 sf.
  • The infiltration planters feature 700 native plants representing 10 different species, including swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus), and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium).
  • Street furnishings, signage, and 20 bike racks along the street serve as community identifiers of Argyle Street and Uptown. They were designed with a similar color pattern and palette as the previously existing “Asia on Argyle” sign, recognizing the heritage of the neighborhood, which is often referred to as “Little Vietnam.”

Challenge

  • Prioritize pedestrian use and safety for users of all demographics while supporting access to and safe interaction between various modes of transportation.
  • Support the growth of local businesses by incentivizing business and property owner participation in investment programs, activating the space with events, and increasing capacity for outdoor restaurant seating.
  • Increase participation in community events and programs in cooperation with neighborhood organizations.
  • Mitigate the amount of stormwater runoff entering the City of Chicago sewer system to avoid contributing to combined sewer overflow events.

Argyle Street and Uptown were and still are an epicenter for entertainment in Chicago. The neighborhood is home to the historic landmark Essanay Studios, which opened in 1907 and produced silent films by performers like Charlie Chapman. Uptown is also home to the over 100-year-old Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, which was once frequented by Al Capone. The Aragon Ballroom and Riviera Theatre regularly host famous musicians drawing thousands of fans, and developers are working to reopen the defunct Uptown Theatre. The neighborhood’s residents have created a lively food and cultural scene to match the energy of the entertainment hub. Uptown has been home to a diverse range of immigrant populations throughout its history and it is considered one of Chicago’s five most diverse neighborhoods. Projects such as Argyle Shared Street grew out of this diversity to highlight an already rich Asian cultural context.

Recognizing an Uptown revival, businesses are investing in the neighborhood, and children of immigrant business owners are taking over their families’ businesses or starting their own. As a culturally distinct representation of Chicago’s Southeast Asian community, the Argyle Street Corridor on which the Argyle Shared Street is located is known as “Asia on Argyle,” and it has a variety of stakeholders dedicated to its cultural legacy. Of the community organizations responsible for the success of Argyle Shared Street, Axis Lab was founded by first- and second-generation immigrants and refugees who have a stake in the Argyle community. Organizations such as Uptown United, Alderman Harry Osterman’s 48th Ward, and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) have built community trust and granted funds to support business improvements, community programming, and large community events such as the Argyle Night Market and Lunar New Year Parade.  Partnerships between CDOT, the 48th Ward, and Axis Lab have hosted various event series to present the Argyle Shared Street as an opportunity for new growth and development along the corridor. The “Baseline” arts, food, and music markets and “Second Fridays” events have showcased the diversity of Chicago’s Uptown community, qualifying Argyle Shared Street as an asset that enhances the vibrancy of the neighborhood.

The city could have made improvements to the streescape for approximately $529,476 per block, which is $395,759 less than the Argyle Shared Street per block cost of $925,235 because of unit pavers and stormwater management enhancements. While costs associated with this street were higher than a typical street design, the stormwater features help to mitigate area flooding. 

  • Reconstruction of the streetscape lasted longer than local businesses had anticipated, and during the street closure some patrons may have taken their business elsewhere. A large percentage of those who patronized the Vietnamese businesses prior to reconstruction were not from the local area; they visited Argyle Street businesses as a destination for specialized goods, typically once per week. After reopening the street, some local businesses reported (in 2018) that their sales had not yet returned to pre-construction levels, and that they believed that their former suburban patrons had found other shopping destinations. As a result, some of the business owners were having a hard time finding the value in the updated street design when last surveyed. However, many businesses used the street construction opportunity to invest in reinventing themselves and making renovations. The businesses that took advantage of the street closure to improve their own facilities seemed to have an easier time bouncing back by timing their reopening with the street reopening.
  • A goal of the project was to provide accessible, pass-through city blocks. While the chicane and equal-level street-to-sidewalk design does work to slow traffic, it also causes congestion on the street. It is possible that because these blocks are a new street typology within the city, not all users understand where to cross the street when cars are present, and drivers may not understand where to park and how to operate within a pedestrian-filled area. Parked vehicles can sometimes be found on the sidewalk, which causes additional confusion and congestion for all users. The designers have used lessons learned from Argyle Shared Street to create another shared street in the city. They removed formal street parking to avoid confusion about where to park and limited vehicle spaces to short-term valet drop-off and event loading only. The design team also designated the new shared street as one-way only and heightened the planters that define the chicane to 18 in tall to provide increased visibility for snowplows during the winter.
  • Uptown is a complex and diverse neighborhood, home to many different groups of people. The location of Argyle Shared Street is an intersection of many of these diverse populations. It is often the first neighborhood of residence for many immigrants and refugees, who have opened small businesses in the area. Social activists, artists, and entertainers live and work in the area, as numerous theaters and event venues are located in Uptown. The location’s history of high crime rates, including many incidents related to gang activity, was of concern to city representatives. Site furniture, such as benches, was not included in this design at the request of the Alderman out of concerns over safety. Therefore, while focusing on pedestrian use and creating a plaza-like space for events were priorities, seating options in the public space are mostly unavailable.

Sidewalks: Unilock, Eco-Priora permeable pavers
Roadway: Unilock, Priora pavers
Lighting: DEO standard LED fixtures with Davit poles
Infiltration forebays: Unilock Eco-Priora Pavers
Concrete detectable pavers: Wausau, Tactile Warning and Domed Detectable Warning Pavers
Tree grates: Neenah Foundry
Waterproofing membrane: Carlisle Coatings, CCW-500R Reinforced Hot Applied, Liquid Membrane System
Trash receptacle: Victor Stanley, Ironsites Series S-42
Bicycle rack: City of Chicago standard
Bollard cap: Ideal Shield, Skyline
Bollard: Victor Stanley, Model W-127

Project Team

Client: Chicago Department of Transportation
Landscape Architect: site design group
Civil Engineer: Burns and McDonnell
Community Liaison: Uptown United & Business Partners
General Contractor: Speedy Gonzalez Landscaping
Paver Installation: LPS Pavement
Electrical: Horizon Contractors

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect acted as subconsultant to the prime consultant civil engineering firm for this project. The role of the landscape architect was to provide planting design and species selection, including infiltration planter design; paving pattern and material selection; and site furnishings including site identifier signage.

Case Study Prepared By

Research Fellow: Sarah Hanson, Adjunct Professor, Illinois Institute of Technology
Research Assistant: Matthew Callone, MLA Candidate, Illinois Institute of Technology
Firm Liaison: Brenda Kiesgen, Project Manager, site design group
Firm Liaison: Ellen Schmidt, Project Manager, site design group
August 2019

To cite:

Hanson, Sarah, and Matthew Callone. “Argyle Shared Street.” Landscape Performance Series. Landscape Architecture Foundation, 2019. https://doi.org/10.31353/cs1490

Topics

Stormwater management, Water conservation, Recreational & social value, Access & equity, Other social, Traffic calming, Permeable paving, Bioretention, Social equity, Revitalization, Complete streets

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