After flyers circulated around the homes, condos and apartments surrounding Palmer Square Park, officials from the City of Chicago’s Department of Special Events, the 14th district and the 32nd ward office hosted an informative meeting regarding the recently announced night market. The meeting was held at St. Sylvester Church at the northeast corner of Sacramento and Palmer on Thursday, May 23 at 6:30 pm.
A little background: The Special Events committee approached the 32nd ward Alderman Scott Waguespack with the intent of starting two night markets in the city. Many potential locations were discussed and the special events committee decided on Palmer Square Park as one of the two locations. The alderman’s office is approached often for park usage, but it typically refuses all events that aren’t previously established.
A Farmer’s Market First
The purpose of the night market is to be a family and community-oriented farmer’s market, as well as to support the arts and business community in the neighborhood. As it stands, participants include 10 farmers, five restaurants and five vendors from I AM Logan Square. The night market will close down the intended market area two hours before and one hour after event hours, from 5-9 pm.
At the meeting, the Special Events committee and the 32nd ward did not present a detailed plan for the market beyond this point. Residents were expecting a draw-up on logistics—specifically where the market will be, where all the vendors would set up, solutions to potential parking and traffic issues. Additionally, lawn care, amplified sound and alcohol were key concerns for supporters and dissenters. Officials heard from a number of residents prior to the community meeting.
Although stating that there were no plans on paper to distribute, Alderman Waguespack relieved one of the major concerns: “We’re not going to be on the grass,” he said.
Officials did say there will be security, barricades and trash receptacles that they’ll provide and supervise, and reiterated that they were planning a farmer’s market, not a festival.
Some of the residents expressed their disappointment in lack of communication on the part of officials, pointing out that the meeting was held after a press release announced the night market, preventing them from weighing the burdens and benefits before any announcements or decisions were made.
Another hot topic was the location. Although it is not yet finalized, the night market planners were leaning toward the southeast corner of the park, in front of St. Sylvester school.
Because officials did not announce an exact location, residents provided a few suggestions, including the site of the Sunday Farmers Market on Logan Boulevard. However, Elizabeth Gomez with the 32nd Ward office explained that two markets at the same point twice a week is too much of a burden on residents immediately surrounding that particular location.
Other proposed locations were the parking area directly outside of St. Sylvester Church, Darwin School parking lot, Logan Square Transportation Hub, the vacant land about 100 feet south of Cozy Corner and the parking lot at St. Sylvester school.
By the end of the meeting, the parking lot at St. Sylvester was the dart that stuck closest to the wall, though nothing has been finalized. A good number of residents were visibly frustrated that there is no concrete plan with the market approaching quickly.
“I feel ignored and trampled,” says Steve Hier, who attended the meeting. One resident argued that residential taxes are paid for residential purposes, not for commercial endeavors such as the night market.
Karen Biazar, also an attendee, urged officials to commit to a proper location.
As for music at the night market, a representative from Saki said there is no intention of high decibel, big breakdown projects. He asked residents to envision a “low-key” bluegrass band. He noted that additionally, on some evenings, there will be very limited music due to Romeo and Juliet performances from the Hypocrites, a local theater group.
A Sore Subject
With no concrete plans, officials could only offer a covenant to the residents who were dead set on a bond. To be fair to officials, who received some passionate, unrelenting strong words from a few residents, the source of some of the anger and frustration is undoubtedly previous Palmer Square closures—specifically, People’s Gas construction work on the southwest corner of the park.
The company’s construction disturbed that corner and promised to spend money to fix and improve the area. Originally, the company said there would be an initial fix and an improvement to follow. It seems they are between these two phases. Repeated calls to People’s Gas have frustrated some residents. All they’ve been able to yield is that the company plans to improve the land after Tour de Fat.
Another incident was recent filming of the NBC show Chicago Fire, which shut down nearly half of the street parking surrounding the park from 10 am to 3 pm. There’s an unconfirmed understanding that the scenes in the show were for a garage nearby the park.
Although the community meeting served its purpose, much was left unstated. Questions still remain, especially regarding truck parking around the park, congestion on Sacramento/Humboldt and traffic safety.
Where do you stand on the night market at Palmer Square Park?