Today the City of Chicago announced a new initiative called “Chicago Alfresco” which expands the city’s prior “outdoor dining program” and aims to increase “outdoor dining area and the opportunity for businesses and community organizations to design creative long-term outdoor spaces.” Importantly, the program includes grants of up to $25,000 for local community organizations to “create [e] longer-term active community spaces that support outdoor dining or highlight community-focused placemaking, support community identity, and provide opportunities for public enjoyment.” The City’s examples of appropriate projects include “activating” (a) existing public plazas with furnishings for outdoor dining; and (b) street, curb, and alley space for dining and community gathering spaces.
First round of approvals are set for April 30, 2021. Also, there is a webinar (registration required) is set for March 26 at 3 p.m. to answer questions.
To me, this is a welcome bit of good news for Chicago. These efforts certainly would have been welcome in advance of the pandemic but to combine two lazy clichés into one mega-lazy-cliché-pun “with 2020 in our hindsight, this is better late than never.” Here’s hoping that, in addition to beautiful our City’s public spaces, this initiative helps the many hospitality, restaurant, and bar businesses so grievously injured by the pandemic get started on a recovery in anticipation of Summer 2021.