See the possibilities: The Polish Triangle


Conceptual rendering shows possible signage, two water walls, seating and overhead structure

Revitalization planning for the parcel of land bound by Milwaukee, Ashland and Division took major strides forward during 2017 as a result of the Polish Triangle Coalition's work which began in 2010. 

Everyone is invited to "experience" the proposal in a 360 degree view. Viewers may place their mouse on the image. Holding down the left mouse button, drag the mouse downward. The viewer will begin to see the overhead structure and the sky. Drag the mouse upward to see the ground. 


This rendering shows the possibility there will be for simultaneous uses

Key Features
Some of the proposed features in these conceptual renderings are:

  • Expanding the footprint of the space on the Milwaukee and Division sides
  • Maintaining the existing trees, allowing them to grow through holes in the overhead structure
  • Materials that are low on maintenance.
  • Multiple space areas that can be used for different uses simultaneously
  • Covering the CTA exit with a structure that includes space for a vendor
  • Overhead structures that provide for plantings, lighting and wiring for sound
  • Signage for directions, local places, history and train schedule
  • Seating
  • Three walls of water to replace fountain, but Nelson Algren "ring" remains
  • A table structure that allows bike riders to wheel up and use their bike seat as the table "seat"

It will be necessary to provide long-term maintenance coverage for the site, particularly because some of the potential maintenance would fall outside the scope of the City's maintenance capabilities.


With a wall of water on the right, the shelter over the train entrance is shown ahead where the vendor will be located

The land is owned by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) with the underground controlled by the Chicago Transportation Authority (CTA). The open space was created in 1951 when buildings erected in the 1800s were demolished and the "L" tunnel was dug. Being the hub of a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) area, the space is increasingly surrounded by residences in addition to shopping, dining, service and entertainment businesses. 

Coined the "Polish Triangle," it was the heart of the "Polish downtown" beginning in the late 1800s. As historian Richard Kujawa points out, "Division was the commercial street for the butcher, hardware, grocery and other businesses with very few residences, while Milwaukee Avenue had more people living above first floor businesses." Zagoda, the Polish newspaper was on the northeast corner of Division and Milwaukee. 

In the era of author Nelson Algren and photographer Art Shay (late 1940s, early 1950s), they saw all aspects of humanity in Chicago. Algren referred to Division Street as the Polish Broadway. Chicago's City Council officially designated the triangle-shaped parcel of land the "Polish Triangle" at the end of 2013. 

There have been periodic efforts to physically change the space, making it more than a pass through by rail, bus and taxi riders. The gateway to four communities: Wicker Park, East Village, Noble Square and Pulaski Park, it is also the destination for many O'Hare international and domestic travelers. 

In 2002-03, the Nelson Algren Committee (NAC) worked with then Alderman Jesse Granato to get recognition for the famous author and former Wicker Park resident. The result was the fountain that sits mid-site today. 

The SSA #33's (Wicker Park and Bucktown) Master Plan of 2008 included possible changes for the site. Then the Metropolitan Planning Commission extended the Master Plan concepts with Placemaking at the Polish Triangle in 2010. In 2015 PTC conducted an online survey for the general public to express their interests in the triangle. There were 1257 responses. 

In 2017, using the results of all the previous work, PTC chose an architectural firm, Bugaj Architects, 1223 N. Milwaukee Ave., to conceptualize what could be created as a self-sustaining environment that meets the needs of the current and future space users. 

PTC's experimentation with activity on the site and food vending over the last five years provided documented proof of the need for different simultaneous uses. Presence on the site also confirmed the reasons behind the detrimental overabundance of pigeons. 

Working with three PTC Board members, Bugaj produced conceptual renderings to assist in visioning a revitalized space. Those Board members then presented the renderings to the rest of the Board and 2nd Ward Alderman, Brian Hopkins. One meeting with two representatives of CDOT was followed by a meeting with CDOT's representatives and seven CTA representatives. 

Meetings with City Departments
In those meetings, it was learned that the CTA will be doing underground work and putting "caps" on the Blue Line entrances in the next couple of years. PTC believes that this could provide an opportunity to construct a proof-of-concept for a modified form of the Bugaj CTA access points design. Bugaj has expressed interest in creating those drawings. 

CTA representatives also stated that in 2025 they are planning to make all Blue Line stations ADA compliant, though they have no funding identified at this point. Currently those plans include bringing an escalator up in the middle of the Triangle. 

While the CTA architect did indicate that it could be possible to move the escalator location from the middle of the Triangle, the timeline for the CTA 2025 project seems to be doubtful. Based on the current City economics, Federal funding would definitely be required. 

Project support
PTC members along with the NAC believe that community efforts can move revitalization of the site closer if they can help direct public money to the project sooner. It has been established by PTC and confirmed by City representatives that a fund will be required to provide for ongoing maintenance of the site. 

The Vice Consul General to Poland, Piotr Semeniuk, who attended the October PTC Board meeting is very supportive of the revitalization proposals and pointed out that renovation efforts can fit in with the 100th anniversary of Poland's independence this year. 

Next Steps
The Board is currently pursuing:

  • Schematic drawings of the Triangle's underground space
  • Estimate for construction
  • Government officials relative to funds
  • Working with Bugaj for proof-of-concept proposal for CTA "caps"
  • Planning a public meeting to review project
  • Promoting the plans to the City in general 

PTC Invite
"We are planning to have summer programming for the sixth year, but we need to add people to our Board," says Mieko Joy Yoshida, PTC President. To learn more about how you can participate in this important, exciting project, fill in our form on the PTC website."

Renderings are done by Bugaj Arcitects



Polish Triangle

Happy to see that work is being done. Just a thought, rather than black and white signage, why not make it red and white to reflect the "Polish" triangle. the history should contain the names of some famous people who travelled through the area to include Nobel literature Winner, Henryk Sienkiewicz, who when visiting in 1876 stated that the Polish language would disappear from Chicago in a generation. Others include Shakespearean actress Helena Modrzejewska, as well as hundreds of thousands lesser known people who helped put their stamp on the area.

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