Many of Chatham's most iconic destination restaurants and business are located along a three-block stretch of 75th Street. To promote and celebrate those establishments, a coordinated series of sidewalk pop-ups offering music, food, and beverage specials were held on July 20-22, 2017.

Despite the hot weather literally hundreds of neighborhood residents turned out, especially after the sun had set, to patronize 75th Street businesses and reconnect with old friends.This project was inspired by Alderman Sawyer's desire to nudge Chatham families to patronize the restaurants and businesses along 75th Street rather than spend their money outside the neighborhood in Hyde Park or on the north side. In its first weekend sales at the Brown Sugar restaurant increased by 43%. Midday Saturday afternoon the Alderman asked the Mayors Office to extend the permit through Labor Day 2017. Dining on the Five helped to nudge CDOT to develop expedited permit procedures for pop-ups. (Formal procedures for approving pop-ups are expected to be issued by CDOT in advance of the 2019 summer season.)

Dining on the Five proved so popular that the Greater Chatham Initiative took over the City of Chicago's leadership role and restaged Dining on the Five from July 8 through September 3rd, 2018. The event is now  self-sustaining with the expectation that it will continue and evolve in the years to come with growing business participation. A participatory art installation located on the fence around a vacant lot asked residents what this site should become in the future.

Chatham is blessed with a pride of place about the many leaders and success stories it can claim, among them the iconic businesses along 75th. Brown Sugar Bakery, Five Loaves Eatery, and Lem's BBQ, among others, are well-established destinations which collectively tell a powerful story about Chicago's African-American food and culture.

In order to meet Alderman's Sawyer expectation of quick results in revitalizing the 75th Street Corridor, the City of Chicago had to rethink its approach to commercial corridors, specifically how a tactical/pop-up approach could augment more conventional revitalization approaches such as design guidelines that yield benefits over years and decades rather than weeks and months. Also the process of permitting the parklets was very labor intensive because CDOT did not have policies or procedures in place to support shorter-term non-City authorized pop-ups.

Based on the success of Dining on the Five, creative placemaking appears to be a faster, better, cheaper approach to economic development than many of the other conventional approaches. Done correctly, it also holds the promise of being able to allow residents and businesses to initiate projects without having to wait for the City of Chicago to devote its finite planning resources to their community.

Client: Chicago 6th Ward

Location: Chatham, Chicago, IL

Year: 2017

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