Another road paved with good intentions...

October 15, 2010


(photo by Lee Bey)

I took a look at 63rd and Halsted recently.

The new Kennedy King College triumphantly occupies the eastern side of the intersection. But it was the northwestern half of the intersection--and the blocks behind it--that caught my eye. There, you'll find the remnants of the old Englewood Concourse Shopping Center, a bit of late 1960s urban planning that attempted to save the 63rd and Halsted shopping district by making it look and feel like a suburban mall.

In hindsight, it was a spectacularly bad idea. Under the plan, more than 200 homes surrounding the intersection were demolished for surface parking lots, such as the now-empty one in the top photo. The city built ring roads that took auto traffic away from the intersection, thus allowing only buses and pedestrians on Halsted and 63rd. The sidewalks were widened and turned into covered walkways. The new plazas, kiosks, clocktowers, etc were an applique of modernity awkwardly pasted into a circa 1900 commercial district.

Turning the shopping district into an island surrounding by parking only hastened its slide. Major retailers like Sears and Wieboldt's were gone within a few years. The city had the good sense in the late 1990s to try correcting the problem with the new college and retail (that has not yet materialized) for the northwest quadrant shown in this post.

The lonely, battered pedestrian canopy--there were orange-ish bubble skylights in each of those four openings--the weedy parking lots, the concourse streets that lead nowhere serve as a reminder that in the urban planning game, the road to hell isn't the only ill-fated thoroughfare that has bee paved with good intentions.


(photo by Lee Bey)


(photo by Lee Bey)