Local businesses near People Spots—parking spaces transformed into mini-parks—see up to 80 percent increase in foot traffic, 20 percent increase in sales
Contact: Mandy Burrell Booth, Metropolitan Planning Council, 312.863.6018 o 773.640.1206 m, firstname.lastname@example.org
For a video and graphics to accompany this news, please visit metroplanning.org/peoplespots.
(Chicago) ... Three summers have passed since Chicago became one of the first U.S. cities to repurpose on-street parking spots as seasonal “parklets” for people, not cars. New research from the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) shows these “People Spots” generate foot traffic and increase sales for local businesses and neighborhoods.
The City of Chicago installs People Spots on one or a few on-street parking spaces for a period of several months over the summer. Spots have seating and planters, and are wheelchair-accessible, all designed to encourage users to linger. Local businesses pay for and maintain the spots. Since 2012, the City has installed nine People Spots in neighborhoods across the city.
“The study results demonstrate the power of returning a small amount of street space to people,” said Chrissy Mancini Nichols, director of research and evaluation, Metropolitan Planning Council. “The findings show People Spots not only are well used by pedestrians but can be a powerful economic tool for neighborhood businesses.”
In July and August 2014, MPC and Sam Schwartz Engineering recorded activity at each People Spot on an average weekday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Researchers also interviewed more than 100 people and some 40 local business owners and business associations affiliated with the Spots. Key findings include:
Business owners overwhelmingly agreed that People Spots promote economic activity. Some 81 percent said the Spots are better for business, and 80 percent agreed that the People Spot brought more foot traffic and customers to the street. At Heritage Bicycles, 2959 N. Lincoln Ave., owner Michael Salvatore said the People Spot out front is “absolutely better for business.” He has found that customers visit Heritage Bicycles while hanging out in the People Spot, calling it “Instagram Heaven,” which also helps to promote his business on social media.
Some businesses found that the People Spot contributed to a 10 to 20 percent increase in sales. Dane Redaway, manager of the Akira clothing store in Andersonville, said the Spot outside his store at 5228 N. Clark St. is “like a town square” that’s better for business because “people sit and stare at the storefront windows.” Even if they do not patronize the business that day, he thinks they may be more likely to return.
Business owners said People Spots help drive further investment. Heather Way, executive director of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce and Special Service Area #27, found that the community’s two People Spots, on Lincoln and Southport avenues, “prompted us to look and reevaluate all that we were doing … to up our game in other places.” Salvatore at Heritage Bicycles realized people sitting in the Spot, “would look directly at my storefront, so I invested in subway tiles on the front of the store, so it would look nice.”
Among local businesses and People Spot users, 93 percent said the vibe of the street is more positive since the People Spot opened. Many business associations tie the People Spots into overall marketing campaigns for their retail corridor. For instance, Christyn S. Henson of Quad Communities Development Corporation organized a jazz night at the People Spot in Bronzeville in 2012; in 2013, the organization hosted “Bronzeville Nights,” an evening of arts, culture and entertainment, in the People Spot on 47th Street.
Among People Spot users, 73 percent of those surveyed said that if it wasn’t for the little park, they’d be at home. Many respondents said it helps “make the street feel safer because it extends the sidewalk. When it’s not there, [cars] park in the crosswalk.” For some communities, like Andersonville, that do not have a dedicated park, the People Spot has become an important place for people to relax, gather and just stop and take in their surroundings.
The Chicago Dept. of Transportation is working to expand the People Spot initiative; for more information, visit the City’s Make Way for People website.
For MPC’s complete study, including infographics, visit metroplanning.org/peoplespots.
For 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area’s toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work.