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Author: Jenna Jones
Title: 75th Street Boardwalk
Category: Justice & equity
Description: This film documents the 75th Street Boardwalk, a unique, short-term placemaking and tactical urbanism project that activates the public right-of-way by replacing on-street parking spaces with safe outdoor dining and gathering opportunities for Black-owned businesses and the community. The project was a collaboration with city agencies, design professionals across Chicago, and a nonprofit community organization that works to invest in South Side communities. This project arose in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sean Reed, and many others and the civil unrest in 2020. It was the product of a gathering of like-minded landscape architects, planners, architects, and design professionals. Their mission was to give back and make a difference on the South Side of Chicago by helping businesses and restaurants re-open safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Through meeting with civic leaders, the 75th Street Corridor in Chicago's Chatham community was selected for its potential and location within a historically disinvested neighborhood. Chatham has an active and engaged community, and through collaboration with them, this project would have the potential to help numerous existing businesses. The 75th Street Boardwalk was inspired by creative tactical urbanism and placemaking projects throughout the world. It is organized as a series of modules that create outdoor rooms designed to benefit the community while also serving the adjacent businesses' needs. The modules include five key themes: Eat, Play, Shop, Relax, and Exercise. Each module is unique, ranging from seating areas to fitness, games, dining, and more. The Boardwalk is built of repurposed plywood that was used to board up Chicago businesses in 2020. The project connected Black contractors with Black youth in the community to empower them by teaching them carpentry and construction skills. Local residents, business owners, and community leaders were deeply involved in all stages of the project – from the initial meet-and-greet to the construction of the Boardwalk itself. Through grassroots outreach, more than 50 volunteers gathered to paint the Boardwalk bright green. The design team also worked with local artists to paint murals and signage along the face of the Boardwalk to help with wayfinding and identity. One of the most notable aspects of the Boardwalk is that it was completed in a mere 12-week timeframe. The project took place within a tremendously short turnaround time, from the project ideation, community organizing, fundraising, and permitting to the final construction and subsequent opening. All in all, this unique project demonstrates the immense benefits of collaboration, community engagement, and tactical urbanism in supporting local businesses and strengthening a sense of place.