It's been a long road, but the Fullerton Streetscape Project is finally coming to fruition.
The Chicago Department of Transportation and Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd) will hold a Nov. 29 open house featuring a short presentation and before-and-after displays of the planned changes to Fullerton Avenue between Southport and Ashland avenues.
"There's been a recognition for at least five years that some improvement on this stretch of Fullerton would be appropriate," said Paul Sajovec, Ald. Waguespack's chief of staff. "We want the public to get a look at what they've been working on before moving ahead to getting finalized plans."
Project design plans, which have been worked on for the past year, call for new sidewalks and street lights; trees wherever possible; improved crosswalks and some curb bump-outs.
Get more Lincoln Park stories like these delivered right to your inbox or smartphone with our free newsletter. Fast signup here.
The alderman wants to make sure community members will be happy with project plans and have the chance to contribute to them, Sajovec said.
"The key for us is for people to get their comments in that can actually influence what is or isn't done. The last thing you want to do is spend the money and end up with something people aren't happy with," he said. " ... We want to make sure what's being proposed is going to be viewed by the business community as a real positive for them, and not present anything they would view in a negative light."
Project leaders want existing buildings to remain the main focus on the street, with improvements—such as wider sidewalks—that will be able to accommodate cafes, Sajovec said.
"(The project will) really allow the businesses and the buildings to frame the character of the block, rather than trying to impose a character from the outside," he said.
While there is no official timeline for the project, part of the reason the meeting is taking place before the end of the calendar year is in hopes that it will be able to start sometime in 2013, according to Sajovec.
"Until they see what kind of feedback they get, it's hard to nail down a timeline," Sajovec said, adding that the project's budget has yet to be finalized.
"Back in 2010 they were talking a project budget of $2.3 million," he said. "That's a very, very rough estimate. It's not anything that's been bid out. Costs change over time."
Funding will come from both federal and state sources, Sajovec said.
Other groups that have been involved in the planning stages of the project include DePaul University, neighborhood community groups and the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce.
Padraic Swanton, director of marketing and communication for the LPCC, said the organization is looking forward to the project breaking ground.
"The Chamber has been a long supporter of that initiative," Swanton said. "We've been involved with the alderman and vested members of the community over the last year-and-a-half or so. It will improve the shopping and dining experience (in that area)."
Swanton said the imminent streetscape will create a "Western gateway across the neighborhood."
"Businesses are all fired up, the community is excited, it should be a win, win, win, win, win," Swanton said.
The upcoming open house will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Lincoln Park Library, 1150 W. Fullerton.