Fullerton Avenue gets a face lift near campus

Reconstruction to Fullerton Avenue would add more bike lanes and renovate existing side walks. Construction is set to be completed by November 2016.  (Jack Higgins / The DePaulia)
Reconstruction to Fullerton Avenue would add more bike lanes and renovate existing side walks. Construction is set to be completed by November 2016. (Jack Higgins / The DePaulia)

Fullerton Avenue is being resurfaced and beautified between its intersections with Ashland and Racine Avenues  from the end of April until November as a part of Chicago’s Complete Streets project.

DePaul students commuting to class in the Lincoln Park campus should expect to experience delays during the construction as well as a lack of parking space on the stretch. The crews will work on one side of the street at a time, and existing bike lanes and parking spots will be used as a makeshift lane for the redirected traffic.

The plan, which was confirmed two years ago by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is to update Fullerton Avenues’ streetscape. This means the construction will not be limited to just the street, but will also include resurfacing the sidewalks, which will be beneficial to pedestrians.

“We want to make it more pedestrian friendly and more aesthetically pleasing,” CDOT officials said in a statement. “We will also be adding a few bike lanes where there weren’t any before.”

One of the main concerns of the project is pedestrian safety. Upon completion in November, the street will be smaller in width than before resurfacing began. The driving lanes will be reduced from 12 feet,  and a half inches to 11 feet and the parking lane will be reduced from eight feet to seven feet.

“I think (downsizing the lanes) is a great idea,” said Eric Holst of Facets Cinematheque, located at the first point of construction on Fullerton Avenue between Ashland and Greenview avenues. “People have a tendency to make a two-lane street into a four-lane street (by driving in the bike and parking lanes) which is a safety hazard. I’ve seen quite a few side mirrors taken out as ‘casualties’”.

The excess two and a half feet will be used to extend the sidewalk to 10 feet, and “bump-outs” will be added at all the crosswalks to help improve safety. The new sidewalk will also be receiving new energy-efficient streetlights, trees and updated accommodations for disabled Chicagoans.

The Fullerton Avenue construction has been met with mixed reviews from local businesses operating on the stretch. Many owners believe the construction will hurt business due to lack of parking space and a cramped sidewalk.

“It’s backwards in a sense,” Kyle Charmelo, bar manager at The Arrogant Frog Bar said. “I’ve in this area my entire life, and (the street and sidewalk) have always been bad. They just announced more construction on Lincoln Avenue, and now backed-up traffic on Fullerton heading east will run into traffic on Lincoln. I just don’t understand why they chose now to do this.”

The construction on Fullerton Avenue coincides with the demolition of the Children’s Memorial Hospital building in Lincoln Park as well as the construction of the Lincoln Centre south of the Lincoln and Fullerton avenues intersection. Those two projects coupled with DePaul’s construction of the new School of Music building could lead to major traffic jams at the already traffic-heavy intersection of Lincoln, Fullerton and Halsted avenues.

Local businesses are also concerned that the construction could negatively impact business profits.

“It’s deterring,” Charmelo said. “I’ve seen businesses with the wooden board walkway to the door, and I know I don’t want to walk on that. I mean understand the seasonal constraints and that it’s necessary.”

The construction on the street began last Friday when crews began to redirect traffic and cut into the street on the south side of Fullerton Avenue near Ashland Avenue. The crews will then work their way east to Racine Avenue and then work their way back west on the north side of Fullerton Avenue.

“It will hurt business for sure,” said Lissette Munoz, employee at The Warehouse Bar & Pizzeria Chicago. “Yesterday we would’ve had (the garage door) open, but we couldn’t because of the dust of the construction.”

However, all businesses interviewed agreed the project was a necessity and they eagerly awaited the completion. They believe the improved look and safety will eventauly draw more customers to their establishments.

“The sidewalks were dangerous before the construction began,” Nick Lightning, bartender at The Warehouse said. “I’ve seen people slip and fall into street in the winter.”

“I’m okay with sacrificing for the greater good,” Imran Nasir of Strings Attached Sporting Goods said. “It’s like they did with North Avenue, in the end it’s better for everybody.”