The city that works is also crazy
if you want to run a street cafe, you're in luck!
06/19/2009 11:28 AM
This morning I did my favorite bi-weekly activity in the neighborhood: Roy’s meeting.
Roy Svenson, our erstwhile banker from Chicago Community Bank in the Dearborn Station hosts a group of neighborhood movers and shakers every other Friday morning at the ungodly hour of 7:15 AM.
But you can toddle on over in a t-shirt and pajama bottoms anytime you want before 8:30 or so--with a nice coffee and muffin from Mediterra or Caribou or home, to catch up on the latest news from your neighbors who have been invited to be in this group of small business people living and working in Dearborn Park, Printers Row and thereabouts. Among the members with professions such as therapist, realtor, coach, business service of various varieties, financial planner, photographer, dance teacher, handywoman, dentist and many others, there is one gadfly-dilettante: me.
I love to hear what everyone is doing. In the last few years, I have heard a lot of interesting facts about IRS rules, the pangs of being a small business person and I have met and gotten to know the great-grandson--who works for Paychex--of an old friend of my dad’s. I love it. It’s enriching and fun. I also get to see my neighborhood girlfriends, many of whom are in Roy’s group--which is officially called the South Loop Referral Group.
This morning, Gail Merritt, who has volunteered to run the neighborhood Alliance for a Greener South Loop, told us a great story. She is spearheading the restoration of a very small park where Federal Street stops at Polk Street to form a cul de sac at South Park Terrace in Dearborn Park. What has happened, she explains, is that this little patch of green--which has served the neighborhood well in recent years as everything from a respite to the place for a gorgeous community Christmas tree to a short-lived home for a big ATM--was built on top of a portion of the street that happens to have a rain sewer. Through the years, water has drained through the grass and has eroded the soil, creating a sink hole and the eventual demise of the little patch.
Gail, in her glory, has spearheaded a project to construct a proper little neighborhood park on the land, with the drain properly capped so that the little yard can be preserved.
But here’s the really interesting part: Gail’s group needs a permit to do the work. OK, that makes sense. She needs to apply with the Chicago Department of Transportation because the land is actually on a city street, although it is no longer used as one. That makes sense, too. But guess what kind of a permit the City insists she needs? One that allows her to run an outdoor street café--with all the attendant requirements and fees (which Gail says she figures the alderman would make sure are waived).
Yes, that’s what the City is telling a neighborhood stalwart who wants to do some good in the ‘hood. Although all she wants to do is reinforce a small patch of land, and pack in some dirt and plantings, the City wants to treat her like she will be serving burgers, tapas and burritos under umbrellas.
Anyone for dirt cakes? Dandelion tea? Worm strudel?