When does a community meeting not feel like a community meeting?
When the decisions are already made.
That was the case last Thursday at Furama Restaurant in Uptown, where 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman held two meetings to explain the work schedule for the transformation of Argyle Street. As this project is already in the bid process, Thursday’s meeting was informational only; the point/counterpoint meetings were held long ago and this project is ready to move forward.
Alderman Osterman took the floor and explained a few particulars of the Argyle Shared Street Project, which should be complete by the end of the year.
One block at a time, Argyle will be completely reshaped, starting at Broadway to the west and moving east to Sheridan. All businesses will be contacted 72 hours in advance of work in front of their locations. Utility work will require intermittent gas and water shut-off, though businesses will be able to stay open during construction. The ward will set up an office on site to maintain an open line of communication with affected businesses and residents: no secrets and no surprises.
Joe Felicicchia of Peoples Gas presented his schedule first. Beginning January 19, Peoples Gas will begin replacing the current cast-iron, low-pressure main with a new medium-pressure, polyethylene main. Gas service will be interrupted for four to five hours at a time but, again, never as a surprise to affected areas. Peoples Gas will contact businesses and make plans to find the least disruptive times for gas service interrupt. Mr. Felicicchia expects his company’s portion of the project to be finished in six to eight weeks.
Quentin Clark took the floor next to explain how the Chicago Water Department would proceed. Starting no sooner than February 23, the city will install 1,300 feet of new water main with minimal service interruption—affected businesses will know of scheduled work ahead of time.
Finally, Hannah Higgins of CDOT explained the final phase of the project. After the utility work is complete, the city will work to turn the Argyle Street we used to know into a brand new shared street. Loading zones would stay intact so as to affect Argyle businesses as little as possible; contractors would find other areas for parking to limit what is sure to be a minor parking crisis; and all work should be finished prior to year’s end.
With the floor open, there were a few restaurant owners who asked for reassurance that the city would keep their establishments in the loop throughout the project. There were also the usual comments about parking shortages, but all in all, this meeting was exactly as billed: an informational gathering, not a forum for opinions and suggestions. This project is ready to commence. As an Uptown resident, I can’t wait to see the finished result.