Efforts to renovate West Devon Avenue are set to be underway in the next few years, including improvements to several Loyola crosswalks and bike lanes, as well as the opportunity for a mural at the CTA underpass on Sheridan Rd.
The Elevate Devon Corridor Plan is completed and outlines to remodel West Devon Avenue from North Ravenswood Avenue to North Kenmore Avenue. The plan is a combined effort of Loyola University Chicago, Rogers Park Business Alliance, Edgewater Chamber of Commerce and input from residents and students.
The project features short-term changes which will be implemented in the next few years and long-term changes which may take more than six years to be completed. These include the construction of safer roads for pedestrians, increasing the diversity of businesses and adding design elements like murals and lighting, according to the plan.
Short-term changes include adding banners, signs, information kiosks and public art, as well as painting crossings and installing temporary parklets.
The more extensive changes are more long-term, requiring upwards of six years. These actions involve carrying out more community engagement to collect data, and collaborating with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).
Cecilia Rodriguez, the director of neighborhood initiatives for Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus, was part of the staff committee for the project. The committee met biweekly with consultants, members of the Rogers Park Business Alliance and members of the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce, according to Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said the aim of the plan is to develop the Devon corridor, especially since many people use it as a means of getting to the university.
“We felt that it was important to have a cohesive plan for the businesses, for the arts—just to make it welcoming and enlightening for those that are using Devon,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said another goal of the plan is to improve business signage, facade improvements and wayfinding for improved accessibility and navigation of the Devon corridor since many people drive by and miss the businesses on Devon because there are no markings or signs.
During the planning design process, the developers collected input from local businesses, residents and Loyola students about changes they wished to see along Devon through focus groups, interviews, polls, pop-up events and social media, according to the plan.
Rodriguez said they held two events in the Damen Student Center on Loyola’s campus to collect input from students.
The plan leaders also created a Steering Committee, including student ambassadors from Loyola, local businesses and community members to ensure the plan closely aligns with community priorities.
The community outreach initiatives led to the outlining of five themes for the project including a focus on safety, lighting and signs, color, nature and reinforcing identity, according to the plan.
Rodriguez said the developers hope to implement public artwork and bring in more color with mosaics and colorful sidewalks and crosswalks. They also plan to host more programs and events to draw people to the corridor.
“When you are going west on Devon, they already have their identity there,” Rodriguez said. “They celebrate a lot of the color theme. They celebrate a lot of the businesses. We’re thinking of bringing some of those ideas over to our corridor.”
Loyola University Chicago, Rogers Park Business Alliance, and Edgewater Chamber of Commerce have also laid out several corridor strategies in the plan. One of the strategies, titled Arts & Culture, emphasizes the desire to celebrate diversity through the installation of public art, while supporting local artists and working with local businesses, according to the plan.
Business activation is another strategy of the Elevate Devon Corridor Plan. The plan outlines ideas for increasing the social media presence of existing businesses and developing marketing campaigns to attract new businesses. The plan also proposes the development of a Diverse Business Development Program to support the development of businesses with Black, women, LGBTQ+ and people of color owners.
The project displays a strong focus on increasing safety for pedestrians through improved crosswalks, more defined bike lanes and remodeling bus stops to include shelters and seating areas.
They intend to work with CDOT to study pedestrian crossing safety at the Devon, North and West Sheridan roads and North Broadway intersection, according to the plan.
The plan is divided into four frameworks of about four blocks each. Framework 4 goes from Broadway to North Kenmore Avenue, including high-traffic areas for Loyola students. This section of the project includes the implementation of decorative pavement and crosswalks, redefined bike lanes as well as opportunities for a mural and lighting.
This framework was based strongly on the desires of students and residents who expressed the need for safety improvements at crosswalks and for bicyclists, according to Rodriguez.
Special Service Area (SSA) #26 and Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) will allow the project to receive funding from the City of Chicago. They also aim to gain financial support by working with wards to allocate funding toward specific projects along Devon, according to the plan.
Rodriguez said they hope to find funding through the SSA and BIDs as well as from the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce, the Rogers Park Business Alliance, Tax Increment Financing money and grants. She also said it is likely Loyola will become a stakeholder in the project.
Despite the design and concept for the plan being released, they are still awaiting CDOT to “release the proposal for construction of the final concept,” as stated in the plan. There is also no estimated completion date, according to Rodriguez, because long-term changes are dependent on funding and may be disrupted by other city projects.
Rodriguez said the committee is set to meet in the first week of March to discuss programming and branding and to decide who will be the key stakeholders in the project. During this meeting, the first steps of the plan will be decided and implementation of the plan will begin.
Rodriguez said she hopes the project will draw more people to the Devon corridor to walk and enjoy the local businesses.
Featured image by Aidan Cahill | The Phoenix