Chicago Alfresco program partnering with 15 community organizations for outdoor dining

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Fifteen neighborhoods will participate in the first round of the Chicago Alfresco program, the city's initiative to open certain streets for dining, walking and biking.

Last year, the city gave special permits so bars and restaurants could set up tables on closed streets or parking lots. Now, the city is issuing grants to help create more permanent outdoor spaces for eating, arts, and community events.

Chicago neighborhoods have different ideas of Chicago Al Fresco. In Humboldt Park, along Paseo Boricua, it's also about art and culture.

"Savor delicious Puerto Rican food, you will have an opportunity to buy products by Puerto Rican people, and you can see all the murals and the history," said Nadya Henriquez Lowry, Puerto Rican Cultural Center.

Artists will paint five murals on Division Street. One of them, Cristian Roldan-Aponte, already has work in the community.

"It's going to be impacting people's experience: how people come to the neighborhood, how do they feel about it, how do they engage with it," Roldan-Aponte said.

Overall, Chicago Al Fresco is providing 2.3 million dollars in grants, which will be split among 15 neighborhood organizations. The East Lakeview Chamber of Commerce is planning upgrades.

"Can we put some decorative fencing, can we do some planters, can we make this look a little better than what we have been in the past," said Maureen Martino, executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce.

Al Fresco dining will close Broadway from Belmont to Wellington two weekends a month. You might even hear a few tunes.

"We are looking to partner with some Chicago area artists because they have been out of work like everyone else," Martino added.

While some residents have traffic concerns about closing the road, others are thrilled to dine alfresco, mingle with friends, and take a stroll.

"I know traffic is terrible around that time, but at the end of the day, I think it's a really cool thing that they offer," Lakeview resident Tommy Mai said.

"We love it," Lakeview resident Michael Bleb said. "We don't drive much, and I know traffic is a concern for a lot of residents, but for us, we have an almost 2-year-old who loves to run up and down the street. We like to see it. We think it's good for the businesses."

The 15 community organizations partnering with the city are:

- Austin Chamber of Commerce (W Madison St. and W Chicago Ave.)
- Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council (W 47th St. & S Honore St.)
- Greater Chatham Initiative (E 75th St., E 79th St. & E 71st St.)

- Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce (N Broadway St.)
- Little Village Community Foundation (Perez Plaza)
- Logan Square Chamber of Commerce (Woodard Plaza)
- Morgan Park Beverly Hills (103rd St. & Wood St.)
- Northwest Side CDC (W Fullerton Ave. & W Grand Ave.)
- Puerto Rican Cultural Center (W Division St.)

- Rogers Park Business Alliance (W Jarvis Ave. & N Glenwood Ave.)
- South Shore Chamber of Commerce (E 71st St.)
- South Chicago Parents & Friends (S Commercial Ave.)
- Uptown United (W Argyle St.)
-West Ridge Chamber of Commerce (W Devon Ave.)
- Woodlawn Chamber of Commerce (E 62nd St. and S Ingleside Ave.)
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