Lincoln Avenue and Giddings Plaza: Chicago, Illinois

Planning Excellence

Lincoln Avenue — and its well-known Giddings Plaza — has been a popular destination for Chicagoans for over three decades, proof that some planning success stories take years to mature before showing their true value.

Chicago planners were ahead of their time by giving Lincoln Avenue a "road diet," reconfiguring portions of the street for pedestrians and reducing the number of lanes available to cars. This strategy was bold in the car-centric 1970s, and risky considering how few comparable case studies existed at the time.

Dozens of vendors and thousands of patrons partake in the annual Apple Fest celebration at the beginning of fall, featuring everything from candy apples to scarves and hats. Photo courtesy Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber.

In the late 1970s, planners reduced the six-block stretch of Lincoln Avenue between Montrose Avenue and Lawrence Avenue to just one lane moving in each direction. Sidewalks were widened to redirect traffic away from a six-way intersection and accommodate more people walking and biking. These adjustments have paid dividends in the decades since as the avenue has kept its vibrancy and unique character amid regional economic shifts precisely because of its bustling pedestrian activity.

After the addition of Giddings Plaza in the late 1990s, Lincoln Avenue became the undisputed main street of the Lincoln Square neighborhood. The avenue's locally owned, eclectic shops and ornamental gateways are an Instagram favorite. The area now features several Divvy bikeshare stations, and the nearby Western L Station has become a node for many major bus routes.

Lawrence Avenue recently adopted its own road diet complete with bike lanes and more pedestrian-friendly, aesthetically pleasing sidewalks. These changes have led to explosive development on Lawrence, tying together the neighboring communities of Lincoln Square and Ravenswood.

A crowd gathers to enjoy Giddings Plaza’s annual tree lighting ceremony every holiday season. Photo courtesy Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber.

Defining Characteristics and Features

  • Giddings Plaza hosts an annual summer concert series featuring local Chicago musicians.
  • The Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce and other community groups use Lincoln Avenue and Giddings Plaza as staging areas for community events, including the Square Roots music festival, Maifest, German American Fest, Apple Fest, and more.
  • The Western L Station houses a slab of the Berlin Wall in the Berlin Wall Monument, a reminder of the area's German heritage.
  • Krause Music Store, built in 1922, was the last work of famed architect Louis Sullivan. It was declared a Chicago Landmark in 1977.
  • The Abraham Lincoln statue at the intersection of Lincoln and Lawrence Avenues previously sat on a roadway median. The statue notably depicts the 16th president without his famous beard.
  • During the holiday season a giant holiday tree is installed on top of the Giddings Plaza fountain. The annual tree lighting occurs on Small Business Saturday, the unofficial start of Lincoln Square's holiday shopping season.

By the Numbers

  • 25 diverse restaurants and cafes are found along Lincoln Avenue
  • 17 specialty retail stores offer wares to shoppers
  • 2 annual German cultural fests — Maifest at the start of summer and German-American Fest at the end
  • 30,000-plus visitors gather each July for the Square Roots Chicago craft beer and music festival, a partnership between the local chamber of commerce and the Old Town School of Folk Music
  • 20,000-plus people eat, drink, and celebrate all things apple during the annual Apple Fest in autumn

Designated Area

Lincoln Avenue's primary commercial corridor stretches six-tenths of a mile south from Giddings Plaza, located roughly at Lincoln Avenue's intersection with Lawrence and Western Avenues, to the corner of Welles Park at Montrose Avenue.

Giddings Plaza hosts an annual summer concert series, one of the neighborhood's favorite free summer events. Photo courtesy Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber.