Some Chicago businesses are converting storefront parking spots into “people spots,” or micro parks where people can gather. These “parkettes” help drive up foot traffic, increase sales and foster community pride.

The Chicago government started allowing businesses to create these parkettes a few years ago. According to City Lab, nine have since emerged within the city – two in Andersonville, four in Lake View, two in Bronzeville and one in the downtown loop. Recently Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council evaluated the business impact of the parkettes by recording activity and interviewing users and retailers.

People spots, according to the report, offer a threefold benefit.


First, the spots drive business. Some businesses found a people spot caused a 10 to 20 percent increase in sales, while 80 percent of business owners said their people spot brought in more foot traffic.

“Build it and they will come,” Becca Girsch, owner of the She One clothing boutique across from the Southport Ave. people spot, told the planning council. “Every time I look at the spot, people of different ages are enjoying it. It has taken on its own life. The community has made it its own.”

Second, the spots encourage communities to take pride in their appearance by encouraging pedestrians to slow down and take a fresh look at the shopping and dining opportunities in their neighborhoods.

Maria Rodriguez, owner of El Nuevo Mexicano, located directly in front of the Clark St. people spot, said, "The People Spot has called more attention to our restaurant. The bright colors, the artwork and plantings have made Clark Street a lot cozier in front of my restaurant." By making the streetscape more attractive and inviting, people spots foster interest in local businesses.

Third, the spots encourage economic development. Maureen Martino, executive director of Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, saw the potential to use the spots to activate a stretch of Clark Street that needed a boost in foot traffic. The Chamber wanted “to activate the street because it’s a challenging location. [The People Spot will] increase pedestrian counts and shine a light on local businesses,” she told the council.

The businesses themselves paid for the design and maintenance of the parkettes, while the city supervised construction through its Make Way for People initiative, according to City Lab. 

For more information on people spots, watch the video below.
 

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