Montrose Beach plan

Architectural rendering of a proposed improvement plan for Montrose Beach. (Moss)

Anyone who has driven to Montrose Beach on a sun-dazzled weekend knows that finding a spot for one’s car, even with two giant lots and plenty of on-street spaces, can be an ordeal.

So it might be a little surprising to learn that the beach improvement plan envisioned by Chicago architect Matt Nardella involves getting rid of a whole lot of parking.

“There’s a lot of asphalt there that I think is unnecessary and could be used for other things,” he said.

His design, which has sparked a lively discussion on Streetsblog Chicago, a transportation-oriented website, came in the wake of a massive, illegal party at the beach earlier this month — a gathering that Ald. James Cappleman, 46th, said was enabled by the relatively plentiful parking nearby.

The beach is near Nardella’s office, and he is a frequent visitor. Cappleman’s comments, he said, prompted him to think about improvements.

In sketches he posted online, Nardella shows the two parking lots just west of the sand replaced by open land dedicated to a bird sanctuary. Street parking, now free, would be metered.


Other changes he suggests include adding  Divvy bike sharing stations, a boardwalk and a large parking area for bicycles.

The idea is to turn an auto-centric recreation area into one where cars are considerably more difficult to park. Nardella said that will transform Montrose Beach into a more sustainable and natural place.

"It would make the city less congested,” he said. “Having cars through that space, I don’t think was ever intended.”

Cappleman withheld comment on Nardella's plan, saying he wants to meet with the Chicago Park District to request a formal traffic study of the streets around Montrose Beach. Police, he said, have complained that the traffic gets so thick that it's hard to maneuver an ambulance when emergencies arise.

"The goal is, how do we make this safer?" he said.

Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said officials there had not reviewed Nardella's plan but appreciated the interest.

At the moment, this is just a thought experiment, but readers of Streetsblog Chicago gave it a thorough vetting, pointing out, for example, that many beachgoers have grills and other gear that would pose a mighty challenge to  transport via bus or bicycle.

Nardella said he is sympathetic — to a point.

“I lived in Southern California, and I know it’s difficult to get things there, but those beaches don’t have any parking at all,” he said. “People park in neighborhoods, or get there by other means.”

jkeilman@tribune.com
Twitter @JohnKeilman