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Request for Project Proposals

The City of Chicago Department of Transportation seeks proposals for its “Chicago Alfresco” program from community organizations throughout Chicago interested in creating active community spaces that are anchored by outdoor dining and highlight community-focused placemaking, support community identity, and provide opportunities for public enjoyment. Chicago Alfresco is part of a broader City initiative to open streets and create places for dining, public life, community, arts, culture, walking and biking.

The City will be accepting project proposals from community organizations interested in incorporating outdoor dining and community activity in the public way. The Chicago Alfresco Design Guidelines, which are included as part of this Request for Project Proposals, encourage the thoughtful design of visually appealing community places that cultivate a sense of ownership, belonging, and safety through activation, physical transformation, community engagement, and economic development.



Eligible projects will demonstrate how outdoor dining can be used as a placemaking tool to activate public spaces and incorporate community activity. Local community organizations, such as chambers of commerce, Special Service Area providers, and other not-for-profit organizations are invited to submit project proposals. Project duration must be a minimum of six months and preference will be given to those that commit to activating the public way for up to three years.


Project Types

Proposals will be accepted for projects of a variety of types and scales. The Chicago Alfresco Design Guidelines show potential programming elements that can be incorporated in projects, including but not limited to, barriers, surface materials, furnishings, festoon lighting, and landscape materials.

  • Existing Plaza Programming - CDOT has approximately 50 plazas under its jurisdiction. Respondents can propose to activate these plazas with movable furnishings for outdoor dining and public use, as well as other types of installations.
  • Street / Alley Activations - Street and alley closures can provide additional dining and community gathering spaces. These will be dependent on the feasibility of the street / alley closure due to impacts on the traffic network. Preference will be given to projects that demonstrate community support for long-term or permanent closures of the proposed project location.
  • Curbside Use (platform and non-platform) – The use of parking spaces along the curbside of the street provide an opportunity to expand sidewalks and provide additional public outdoor space. Platform and non-platform solutions can provide additional space for outdoor dining and public seating. Projects can incorporate seating on sidewalks, but a Sidewalk Café permit would be required for dining service. The Chicago Alfresco Design Guidelines show design requirements for each curbside activation type, including barrier and safety element requirements. While respondents can provide a customized People Spot using the guidelines provided, a standard People Spot design is available for free from the City of Chicago at


Financial Assistance

The City is not providing financial assistance to selected respondents. Choose Chicago is accepting applications from chambers of commerce, Special Service Area Providers, and other not-for-profit organizations, which are in need of financial assistance solely for the purpose of implementing a Chicago Alfresco project pursuant to this Request for Project Proposals. If you are interested in applying for such financial guidance, please contact Choose Chicago directly at

Approval and Permitting Process

It is the responsibility of all selected respondents to comply with all applicable laws, including City permitting requirements. The City of Chicago will work with selected respondents to identify and obtain all necessary permits from the City of Chicago, including, but not limited to the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP). Below are some of the permitting requirements for retail food establishments included as part of the proposal:

  • All establishments directly providing table service or distributing food for curbside pick-up must have a valid Retail Food Establishment license through BACP.
  • All businesses selling alcoholic beverages for consumption must obtain an Outdoor Special Event Liquor License through BACP.
  • Businesses seeking to extend dining service onto the sidewalk must obtain all required Sidewalk Café and Extended Sidewalk Café permits through BACP. If tables and chairs placed on the sidewalk do not meet the requirements of a Sidewalk Café, Extended Sidewalk Café, or Extended Outdoor Dining permit, they shall remain open for public use and be used for curbside pick-up dining only.
  • Businesses seeking to extend dining service onto the street must meet all requirements under the Extended Outdoor Dining permit through CDOT, DCASE, and BACP. If tables and chairs placed on the street are not permitted through an Extended Outdoor Dining permit, they shall remain open for public use and be used for curbside pick-up dining only.
  • Projects must meet COVID-19 social distancing guidelines as established by CDPH.


Call for Projects Timeline
CDOT will accept applications at any time, however, the following timeline has been established to ensure a robust offering of installations in time for the outdoor dining season:

  • Application Release – 3/19/21
  • Virtual Webinar / Questions Due – 3/26/21 at 3PM CDT
  • Proposals Submission Deadline – 4/15/21 at 5PM CDT
  • Respondents Selected – approximately 4/30/21
  • Installation Groundbreaking – starting 6/1/2021 and ongoing

Virtual Webinar & Questions

A virtual webinar was held on 3/26/21 to answer any questions regarding the application. Questions can still be submitted via email to A recording of the webinar and the slideshow presentation can be found in the links below:

Chicago Alfresco Webinar Recording 

Chicago Alfresco Webinar Presentation 


Evaluation Criteria

  • Respondent meets local community organization eligibility.
  • Proposal demonstrates strong community support for the project and public benefit.
  • Project is located in a business district or commercial corridor, promotes economic development activity and / or has been part of a successful Expanded Outdoor Dining closure.
  • The project maintains an uninterrupted and unobstructed walkway for pedestrians on the sidewalk, adjacent to building facades, and meets all ADA requirements.
  • The project mitigates any impacts to emergency vehicles, bus services or traffic network. For example, projects shall not block bike lanes and may not be less than 30’ from any intersections. Street signage cannot be blocked and sightlines for pedestrians and vehicles cannot be impeded.
  • Project promotes programming and placemaking.
  • Project incorporates outdoor dining and community activity
  • Respondent must be a legal entity in good standing with the Illinois Secretary of State.
  • Respondent demonstrates its ability, including its financial ability, to implement, maintain, and manage the project.
  • Quality of maintenance, operations and staffing plan.
  • Planned pre- and post-implementation data collection activities.
  • Project demonstrates creativity, innovation and high-quality design that is functional and attractive.

Supporting Documents

Chicago Alfresco Application Form

Chicago Alfresco Design Guidelines

Chicago Alfresco Plaza List

Chicago Alfresco Plaza Information



The City of Chicago will review the proposals in accordance with the evaluation criteria described above.


The City reserves the right, at any time and in its sole and absolute discretion, to reject any or all submissions, or to withdraw this Request for Project Proposals without notice. In no event shall the City be liable to respondents for any cost or damages incurred by respondents, team members, consultants, or other interested parties in connection with the Request for Project Proposals process, including but not limited to any and all costs of preparing the application, architectural drawings and renderings or other submitted materials, and participation in any conferences, oral presentations or negotiations.


The City reserves the right to request clarification and/or additional information from the respondents during the evaluation and selection process. Any respondent that makes a material misrepresentation

will be eliminated from further consideration. The City reserves the right to disregard any informality in the submission.

All submitted materials are the property of the City.

The City’s selection of a proposal does not commit the City to action until the City enters into a use agreement with the selected respondent. In accordance with the City’s use agreement, the respondent will be required to comply with the City’s insurance requirements, including: Commercial General Liability - $1 million; Automobile Liability - $1 million; Worker’s Compensation and Employer’s Liability - $500,000; and Commercial and Automobile Liability Endorsements specifically stating endorsement of the City of Chicago.

Supporting Information Facts