Make Way for People

p17 people spots_reference_Nancy Stone Chicago Tribune-tile

Photo by Nelson/Nygaard, Flickr

The Chicago Department of Transportation’s (Chicago DOT) Make Way for People initiative aims to leverage placemaking to create new public spaces that cultivate community and culture in Chicago’s neighborhoods. Make Way for People incorporates four program areas:

  • People Spots - People Spots function like San Francisco’s Parklets, to expand sidewalks and create
    additional space for outdoor seating by adding temporary platforms adjacent to sidewalks, typically within
    existing parking lanes.
  • People Streets - People Streets convert “excess” roadway (such as dead end streets or cul-de-sacs) into
    year-round hardscape public spaces using temporary measures like paint and street furniture.
  • People Plazas - People Plazas activate existing Chicago DOT malls, plazas, and triangles by introducing
    new programming or retail opportunities with public and private partners.
  • People Alleys - People Alleys enable the use of alleys for artwalks, seating, and other small scale events
    that support placemaking and economic and community development.

For each of these space types, the Chicago DOT has entered into use agreements with community partners, a framework which is enabled through the Make Way for People ordinance. The use agreement details vary by site, but partners are responsible for all programming and specialized maintenance costs. Typical partners include local businesses or Special Service Area service providers (which function much like BIDs or CBDs in San Francisco).

At the same time, the City is actively working to establish a larger public/private partnership with a single company or organization to activate, maintain and, if necessary, upgrade 49 plazas throughout the City. The partner would be responsible for collaborating with community organizations already programming these spaces, as well as developing new programming that is in line with the community’s vision. The City will require the partner to provide a minimum of free community programs, equally distributed across plazas in neighborhoods of all income levels. In this way, the City hopes that maintenance and programming resources will be more equally distributed across Make Way for People spaces throughout the city. To support these activities, the partner has the opportunity to generate revenue in the plazas through vending/retail and carefully regulated advertising and sponsorship agreements. This partnership model is in part enabled by a 2011 Municipal Marketing ordinance, which allows for revenue generation in support of the larger goal of enabling innovation in the public way. The partnership agreement will be structured to incentivize the private partner to enhance public benefit: the more free programming and community engagement they provide, the higher percentage of earned revenues they are able to keep. At the time of print, the City had not yet publicly announced a confirmed private partner for citywide plaza management. San Francisco should continue to monitor this program to determine the value of adopting a similar model.

Primary Model Type

Public/Private Partnerships


Chicago, IL


Chicago Department of Transportation, and local businesses/organizations. May soon include large private company.

Budget Range

Cost to set-up: $

Manager resource level: Varies