West Randolph-Fulton Market Plan Generates More (Mixed) Reviews

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Kah-blam!

That was, more or less, the noise I heard as I hit a ginormous pothole on Lake Street. I was headed to an open house hosted by the City of Chicago. The subject was the long-range plan for the West Randolph-Fulton Market District.

A denture-rattling pothole was an interesting takeaway from the gathering, during which I heard a few residents grouse about issues they’d like to see resolved.

One gentleman I saw at the meeting at Studio 1520 wasn’t shy about nabbing the hors d’oeuvre or sharing his feelings about the City’s plans.

“The infrastructure needs to be addressed,” he opined. “The sewer system on Fulton Market hasn’t been updated since the Johnson administration. [pause] And I mean Andrew Johnson.”

Ouch.

This is the type of feedback city planners listened to. But, that was the point, after all: to hear what residents thought about the proposed plans to create a certified historic district, create guidelines for future development, and yes, finally do something about the crumbling pavement.

Like sausage-making and politics, urban planning ain’t necessarily pretty. The process to remake the West Randolph-Fulton Market district from its former life (food processing/distribution) to the its future won’t always be smooth. There are still a bunch of forklifts on weekdays carrying chicken and pork carcasses mere feet from where Grant Achatz and Dave Beran create precious urchin emulsions at Next. The Google folks who will soon inhabit 1K Fulton may not know there was a cold storage facility in their building long before Sterling Bay gutted and rehabbed it.

But city planners and West Loopers care about such things. Those two groups came together for another open house tonight at 1520 West Fulton Market to exchange ideas and discuss what the district should look and feel like years from now.

Some businesspeople and residents were skeptical of the city’s efforts. Others just wanted to offer input and help create a livable area. Much of tonight’s feedback from residents was certainly productive. They frequently mentioned the idea of continuing the “food theme,” which certainly fits within the food distribution legacy of Fulton Market and Restaurant Row on West Randolph.

“Make it walkable and bike friendly,” was the suggestion made by still other residents. And this: “It’s no Disneyland. Keep the mixed-use character of the zone. That’s what makes it unique and why creative people are interested in it.”

Whatever the West Randolph-Fulton Market plan evolves into, it’s clear that residents of the West Loop are keenly interested in the outcome—and more than willing to share their thoughts. It is, after all, a work in progress.

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Bill Motchan

Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at bill@ChicagoArchitecture.org.

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