New Law Could Pre-Empt Parking Lots Along Albany Park’s Main Streets

A proposal to build a suburban-style Walgreens at the busy corner of Lawrence and Kimball avenues in Albany Park, across from the Brown Line’s terminus, has sparked a proposal to introduce Pedestrian Street designations to the lively, diverse neighborhood.

The most recent available rendering from Centrum Properties.

33rd Ward Alderman Deb Mell has expressed her disapproval of the design, requesting a more walkable store more in keeping with the neighborhood. Mell has stalled construction by asking CDOT not to issue permits for the parking lot’s new curb cuts, and has also requested that Walgreens and the developer meet with her and her staff to come to a better design for the neighborhood. So far, Walgreens has not agreed.

In the meantime, Alderman Mell’s office has asked CDOT to study and provide recommendations for a Pedestrian Street, or P-street, designation along several corridors in the ward. A P-street designation would not only prevent this particular development from building new driveways, but would also require all new buildings along these corridors to have pedestrian-friendly street frontages.

The new designation could encompass Lawrence Avenue from Central Park Avenue to the river, Kedzie Avenue from Lawrence to Montrose Avenue, and Montrose Avenue from Kimball Avenue to the river. The designation on Lawrence could continue west, outside of the 33rd Ward.

The P-street ordinance requires that the entire façade of a building along a P-street be adjacent to the sidewalk. At least 60% of the façade must contain windows that look into the interior, and the main entrance must face the P-street. While parking minimums are not drastically different, any off-street parking must be completely hidden from the P-street, and access to parking must be from an alley.

The new Walgreens at Clark/Broadway/Diversey sits along a P-street. Photo by author.

In effect, the P-street ordinance prohibits exactly the type of development that Centrum wants to build for Walgreens. Additionally, the P-street designation would prohibit other types of non-pedestrian friendly developments: It requires developers to conform to pedestrian-scale designs, and prohibits several uses never conducive to walkability, like strip malls, drive-throughs, car dealerships, gas stations, car washes, and storage facilities.

The P-street ordinance is intended to preserve the existing pedestrian nature of commercial districts. Currently, most development along the proposed P-streets already conforms to the design standards: a front façade completely abutting the sidewalk, large display windows, and parking in the rear (if at all). A P-street designation would ensure that the 3-story mixed-use building currently at Lawrence and Kimball can’t be torn down to make way for a single-story Walgreens with a corner parking lot, and that other similar buildings also cannot be torn down for lower-density, auto-oriented developments uncharacteristic of the neighborhood.

Albany Park Neighbors, a local neighborhood group, has expressed their desire for a more walkable development at Kimball and Lawrence by issuing a set of concerns related to pedestrian and bicycle safety, as well as site-specific recommendations (PDF). Shylo Bisnett, the group’s leader, told me via email that Albany Park Neighbors is “supportive of P-street designations for applicable portions of Albany Park,” and hopes that all three aldermen representing portions of Albany Park – Deb Mell (33rd), Rey Colón (35th), and Margaret Laurino (39th) – can work together and address the entire community’s transportation needs.

CDOT is studying Lawrence, Kimball, and Montrose this week, and should have recommendations for P-street locations shortly. The P-street designations must then be reviewed by the Department of Planning, undergo a public hearing, then be voted upon by City Council. At the earliest, the new designations could become law in two months.

  • JacobEPeters

    I have read the articles, and as I pointed out above, an in depth analysis of this retail corridor will show that you are hamstringing yourself by trying to shoehorn a parking lot onto this site.

    In my professional opinion, I would encourage Walgreens to think of 4 different approaches if they are dead set on this corner.

    1.Build out the ground floor of the existing building and forego parking at this location. Land owner can redevelop the upper floors of this “Albank Plaza Office Center” and adjacent parking lot into residential uses with one thin retail frontage on the ground floor of the parking lot site.

    2. Demolish the building and parking lot, replacing it with a 5 story mixed use development with Walgreens on the ground floor and deliveries off the alley that empties onto Kimball.

    3. Wait for the strip mall that Popeyes and Subway occupy to become available and build what I suggest in option 2.

    4. Approach Albank about partnering to redevelop their site into a mixed use development, with a Walgreens on the corner, with an Albank storefront occupying the Lawrence frontage with offices above. Drive through ATMs and a drive through Pharmacy sharing the same curb cut off Kimball (since Kimball would not be a P-Street), along with parking on the ground floor of an apartment building occupying what is currently just a parking lot. Albank already has offices on the upper floor of the building Walgreens wants to tear down, use that as temporary office space during the construction of this replacement development.

    Partnering with a developer to make these plans work could lead to a much more lucrative development for both the land owner and Walgreens. Albany Park is already desirable, and without residential development rents will continue to rise, pricing out the families that make this one of the most diverse zip codes in North America.

  • The existing building has a parking lot, on the west side of the building (away from Kimball, mid-block, sharing a driveway with the next development over’s parking lot). They could rebuild with the parking in that location and have no problem at all with any of the neighbors, but they’re strongly unwilling to.

    I went to the community meeting, and the Walgreens guy was utterly dismissive of the “economic viability” (with no further information given, even when he was pressed on it) of a store built out to the Kimball/Lawrence corner with the parking lot where the existing building has its parking lot.

  • After the community meeting I looked into it, and almost all the Walgreens locations built in the past five years are built on a basically identical set of plans (with variations based on size). Walgreens appears to be trying to get away from varied site plans to cookie-cutter matching stores with exactly the same setup lot to lot.

    They’ve also been doing gangbusters business within the city limits in building a ‘new’ store a block away from an old (often more pedestrian-friendly, though in an aged building with problems) store and closing the old one.

  • Alex Oconnor

    Spot zoning is a change in zoning applied to a small area. Spot zoning is unlawful when the change violates a zoning pattern that is homogenous, compact, and uniform. Bossman v. Village of Riverton, 291 Ill.App.3d 769, 775, 225 Ill.Dec. 742, 684 N.E.2d 427 (1997). However, not every reclassification of a single tract of land is void. The test for determining unlawful spot zoning is whether the change is in harmony with a comprehensive plan for use of property in the locality. Goffinet, 65 Ill.2d at 54, 2 Ill.Dec. 275, 357 N.E.2d 442. To invalidate the zoning ordinances a plaintiff is required to present clear and convincing evidence that the amendments to the zoning ordinances violated a comprehensive plan for use of the property in the locality.

    A change here would be in harmony with the North Broadway plan; a finding of spot zoning or the corollary or reverse spot zoning is unlikely.

  • Alex Oconnor

    “When property taxes go up, vacancies go up.”

    This is not demonstrably true at all. In fact it often is quite the opposite. Commercial vacancies are far more dependent on a large bundle of external factors. Marginal differences in property taxes play a role at the margins. No matter what your supply-side delusions tell you.

  • Alex Oconnor

    You are incorrect again in your assertion :

    “Specifically rezoning a piece of property, without the owner consent, on the brink of redevelopment, unless all nearby property was rezoned, could be construed as spot zoning. Which is illegal.” —

    In fact spot zoning or reverse spot zoning are not “ipso facto” or per se illegal.

  • oooBooo

    Are you sure it belongs to that building? That lot does not appear to be part of the property given the walgreens image in the article. It’s also signed ‘private parking’.

  • tg113

    good for the alderman for speaking out about suburbanizing the city. you can’t build this height. you have to scale back. not too tall on the corners. yuch. ide like the city to have character. there are people that get upset about building heights and still holding on to that we don’t want to be like new work mentality. guess what. we are a city. like new york. and there is nothing wrong with new york. i’m from chicago. i don’t want chicago to be like new york. i want it to have it’s own character. but some height and variety in the neighborhoods would be nice instead of monotonous two story buildings lining the streets. people don’t like to live or visit neighborhoods with no variety. it shows that the people in that area are narrow minded. who wants to visit narrow minded.

  • In this particular case, 1 doesn’t work because the building’s structure precludes significant modification (without rebuilding the whole thing — at which point, a teardown/rebuild is cheaper and better. 4 wouldn’t work because AlBank already has a full location across the street, so they don’t need a storefront here too.

  • If you look on Google streetview/overhead, the driveway serves two lanes of parking. The eastmost line of parking spaces belongs to the corner building, and includes both customer and employee parking for all three stories of the building.

  • oooBooo

    Is it part of the property? The parking lot appears to be where a building once stood and now serves as a rental parking lot for near by businesses, zip car, etc. Historic aerials shows what looks like a building there in 1962 and before but the resolution is horrible.

  • JacobEPeters

    4 would be the redevelopment of that Albank site into a mixed use development in order to reduce curb cuts by allowing two uses that need parking to share the same curb cuts.

    1 explains exactly why a pedestrian street designation is needed. When existing building typologies are infeasible financially for a developer to rehab for another use. Then that might not be the best site for that particular land use. Another site is therefore inherently cheaper and better to the community than losing multiple floors of commercial and office space.

  • More than half of the existing parking area is covered by the footprint of the building Walgreens wants to build — whether or not it was two lots originally, it is definitely part of the current land deal.

    At the community meeting, Walgreens and the guy from the developer were both positive that the existing parking area is part of the lot they are redeveloping; the building they want to build is about the same size as the building they’re replacing, they just want to shove it back to the west lot-line and put the parking on the corner.

  • oooBooo

    Found a proper description of the site here: http://www.33rdward.org/sites/www.33rdward.org/files/assets/Presentation%20Package.pdf It includes the entire lot.

    The chosen rendering really makes the proposed lot look a lot larger than shown in the presentation at 33rdward.org.

  • Jim Mitchell

    I looked up the properties on the Cook County Assessor’s website and confirmed ownership both there and at the Cook County Recorder of Deeds website. Those records indicate that the parking lot area to the west of the building consists of two lots (street addresses 3411 and 3417 W. Lawrence). Cook County Assessor and Recorder of Deeds records confirm both of those lots are owned by Albany Bank (in trust). The Assessor’s records show same trust (No. 11-2026) owns the Payless/office building(s) on the corner (3401 W. Lawrence), as well as the Huddle House building and parking area behind the Huddle House, although it’s not clear from the pictures whether that lot is part of Walgreen’s plan.
    In any event, the parking lots are legally distinct from the lot on which the Payless building sits, but they have common ownership. Also, the concept picture included in the article above looks like they are planning to occupy both the 3411 and 3417 parking lots.

  • The Walgreens development only goes to the Alley and does not include the Huddle House building.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    The North Broadway plan is NOT a formal plan for rezoning Broadway. Every few years, the local alderman does this a feel good tactic the the general public. I’ve lived in Edgewater for many years and have been to plan meetings. I believe Osterman has said he will consider rezoning parcels based on proposals made to his office.

    My point above was, if a business wants to use a parcel of land within the current zoning allowed, and all of a sudden people go, whoa we don’t like that kind of business use, the alderman just can’t rezone the property or nearby property to prevent that use -unless- it can be shown that the rezoning was already in progress before the proposal was made.

    A more apt case to site is Cosmopolitan National Bank of Chicago v. City of Chicago, 27 Ill. 2d 578, 190 N.E.2d 352 (1963). “In that case, the plaintiffs were landowners who challenged the constitutionality of an entire amendatory ordinance that rezoned the plaintiffs’ property so as to preclude its use as a funeral parlor. In affirming the circuit court, the supreme court applied the substantial relationship standard and found that the zoning change was unreasonable and discriminatory as applied to the plaintiffs’ property. Cosmopolitan National Bank, 27 Ill. 2d at 585.”

    In Cosmopolitan National Bank, the supreme court expressly characterized the plaintiffs’ action as “fundamentally one to have the entire amendatory ordinance *** declared void.” Cosmopolitan National Bank, 27 Ill. 2d at 582. In essence, the parties challenging the legislation in Duggan andCosmopolitan National Bank sought invalidation of the entire ordinances at issue/ In both of those cases, the supreme court applied the substantial relationship test. Our supreme court has stated that “[e]very owner has a right to use his property in his own way and for his own purposes, subject only to the restraint necessary to secure the common welfare. This is both a liberty and a property right.”Northern Trust Co. v. City of Chicago, 4 Ill. 2d 432, 437, 123 N.E.2d 330 (1954), citing Village of La Grange v. Leitch, 377 Ill. 99, 35 N.E.2d 346 (1941). Furthermore, “it is a well-established principle that one who buys land has a right to rely upon the classification which existed at the time the purchase was made, and upon the rule of law that the classification will not be changed unless the change is required for the public good.”Cosmopolitan National Bank, 27 Ill. 2d at 584. Given the importance placed upon the rights associated with the ownership of property, and the supreme court’s previous application of the substantial relationship test in zoning cases, we hold that in a facial challenge to the constitutionality of a zoning ordinance the applicable level of scrutiny is whether the legislation bears a substantial relationship to the public health, safety and welfare or whether it is arbitrary, irrational and capricious.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Arguing over the Walgreens at Clark/Diversey is rather silly. Walgreens has had a store at that location, (previously on the NE Corner of Broadway/Diversey) since I’ve been in Chicago for the last 30 years. That store was very old so it probably was there 40+ years. So Walgreens knows its market in that area and when it relocated across the street, it knew because of population density alone it didn’t need parking P street or no P street.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    See my reply to Alex below.

  • Alex Oconnor

    Here is the part you missed…”we hold that in a facial challenge to the constitutionality of a zoning ordinance the applicable level of scrutiny is whether the legislation bears a substantial relationship to the public health, safety and welfare or whether it is arbitrary, irrational and capricious.”

    Which in fact would fact support a possible change; and stand in direct contravention to your previous assertion that so-called spot zoning is illegal. It is not.

  • Jim Mitchell

    It’s perhaps worth observing that even though many Illinois cases have confusingly used that “substantial relationship” language, the Illinois Supreme Court has been pretty clear that the actual standard to apply in a zoning challenge is “rational basis,” which is the very lowest level of scrutiny; so Alex is probably correct. Illinois courts that apply this rule are going to be extremely deferential to the municipality rather than the developer.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    I stand on my last posting. In order to make a rezoning of Broadway to a P street designation legally stand if challenged, you would need to provide significant competent authority to show the change in zoning would affect the health safety welfare. That means just because you have a feeling curb cuts and driveways are dangerous and pedestrians are at risk, you would need to show (in the area where the rezoning is proposed) that pedestrians are regularly being hit, injured or killed. Otherwise, the case can be made that the proposal to change is arbitrary, irrational and capricious.

  • Jim Mitchell

    Not really, although I suppose Walgreen’s might try to make that case if it ever got that far (not that it would, because no doubt they would just abandon the site if it were rezoned like this). The rational basis review being applied in Illinois zoning challenge cases is extremely deferential to the municipality. Almost any reason provided by the City is enough to satisfy the court that the ordinance was not arbitrary and capricious. I know it *sounds* like the Supreme Court is asking for more with that “substantial” language, but it really isn’t. The City could of course include the kind of study you describe in support of an ordinance, but it would not have to. If I am wrong and you can cite cases where the sort of study you are describing was found necessary (or its lack was considered dispositive evidence of arbitrary/capricious ordinance), then I’ll eat crow.

  • Alex Oconnor

    Yes.

  • Alex Oconnor

    Yes again

  • Alex Oconnor

    You can “stand by” it all you want. That does not change the fact that your initial assertion that so-called spot zoning is illegal. It is not.

    Nor does it change the fact that you quoted legal authority that in fact undermines your conclusion.

    “Stand by” it all you like.

  • Jim Mitchell

    Just to add some substance, if you want to see the Illinois Supreme Court’s detailed examination of the proper standard to apply in due process challenges to zoning ordinances, have a look at this case from 2008 (relevant discussion begins on p.7): http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2008/June/105096.pdf

  • Jim Mitchell

    www, it’s also important to look at the facts of Cosmopolitan to understand why the Court ruled against the City in that instance. The City was attempting to bar the development of a funeral home on a block already zoned for commercial, not residential, uses. The Court indicates in its opinion that there were already *two gas stations* on the same block. Most importantly, the Court indicates that the City could offer *no rational reason whatsoever* why what it was proposing to do protected the public or why the proposed funeral home was any sort of public threat. (The best the City could do was to cite inapposite cases where it was allowed to bar funeral homes in *residential* areas, which the Court says is really not the same thing.) Applying a rational basis analysis, the Court in Cosmopolitan pretty well had to rule against the City on this one.

    The issue then is that the Cosmopolitan case tells us the rule of law that will be applied, but it does *not* provide an example of an argument that might have won for the City (because the City did not offer one and it is not the Court’s business to think one up for them). I think the City would have a much stronger argument at Kimball/Lawrence regarding its preference for not putting curb cuts and parking right up next to an intersection, as that sort of design would seem to invite lousy/quick/unpredictable driving, blocking of traffic, and endangering of pedestrians on the sidewalk more than if you put the cuts a few hundred feet further away from the intersection. I am not a party to this, but my 25-cent bet goes with the City being able to meet the rational basis review standard if it decided to go the zoning ordinance route and Walgreen’s decided to challenge the City in court.

  • I can’t imagine a dumber place to put a Morton Grove style Walgreens then across from a busy Rapid Transit station.
    The Walgreens on Diversey is one example but the one on Clark in Andersonville is yet another. Corporate chains do not have to be cookie-cutter, it is just cheaper and easier to do so. When the community demands better and the math still works even a big chain like Walgreens can accommodate.

    Way to go Ald. Mell, its too bad her friend and colleague Ald. Cappleman (46)not only approved a double-drive thru across from a transit station (Wilson) he actually seems excited about it and the tater tots with Cherry-ade it will bring.

    Screw urban planning when we can get a cheap corporate sock-hop themed fast food place.

  • Would you know off-hand how much of Lawrence is already a P street?
    I believe it is P-St. from Broadway to Sheridan not sure.
    And shouldn’t the P street extend to Pulaski…or at least the Admiral Theater…don’t act like you don’t know where that is…har har!

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    I’m not an atty. But here’s what I do know. Zoning is seldom static. And land use is always evolving. Hence, while it is certain the perogitve of cities to control land use, it also a benefit to the city to grant variences and exceptions to zoning, especially when that growth and development can benefit the city thru increased callection of taxes and land use attractive and beneficial to its citizens. Litigation of zoning is costly. In the Hindsdale case, the city thru comprehensive zoning ordinance prohibited specific uses in certain zoning categories. I don’t have a problem with that.

    I think the issue is whether land use and zoning can be changed by the city during a development process simply because some people don’t like that particular use. That’s where the term capriciousness may be engendered. If the city did not see fit to change the zoning before the issue of land usebcame up, why is it then nessary to make new law, except now the city is seen as making an arbitrary decision.

    And that is the crux of most spot zoning suits. Because the cost is high, cities consider spot zoning very carefully. And developers don’t necessarily challenge again because of cost. Will the city of Chicago specifically change the zoning on the Pizer lots to prohibit a strip mall? It could, but it also knows it could result in years of litigation, knowing well that only a few years before a compressive community wide zoning ordinance did not specifically prohibit such use.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    So if you take the Hinsdale case where the issue of the zoning ordinance prohibits banks, and a developer comes in and proposes a tatoo parlor (which is not disallowed) and suddenly the city of Hindsdale now wants no tatoo parlors, could the case be made that their actions would now be considered arbitrary and capricious, because under their community wide ordinance they could have prohited tatoo parlors just as they did banks.

  • Jim Mitchell

    www, I agree with your practical analysis of this scenario (I even said as much in one of my posts). It’s extremely unlikely a zoning ordinance will be passed to prohibit this proposed use, but if it were, it’s also unlikely that Walgreen’s would challenge it, for all the reasons you cite. I was just trying to give a nudge with respect to the way these things might get analyzed by a court if that unlikely event were to occur. I cited the Hinsdale case not because I thought the facts were comparable, but because it provides a very complete analysis of the rule of law in Illinois for challenging zoning ordinances on equal protection grounds. A hypothetical was proposed; divergent analyses were put forth; I chimed in. I don’t have a dog in this hunt, and I am not trying to “win the Internet.” Thanks for your thoughtful input here.

  • Jim Mitchell

    I don’t know (I can think of some folks who probably would), but I think the answer would have to depend on whether they can show a rational reason why tattoo parlors are harmful, etc. They might not have realized the problem previously. Governments like individuals are permitted to learn and grow. They are not required to enforce against all things at the same time, else be deemed to have waived their right to enforce against some newly recognized problem. A court is not likely to second-guess that. If it were otherwise, the law would never develop, and great injustices could be perpetuated indefinitely.

    Failure to identify a particular use as problematic at some arbitrary point in the past does not make it “arbitrary and capricious” when the City suddenly sees the light about that use in a way it had not before (knowledge grows and evolves). Again, cities make what in retrospect are clear mistakes and need a means to correct them if they can show (minimal) justification for those changes.

    Thanks for your thoughtful posts on this issue, www.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Well I admit being an amateur zoning nut having beat back two attempts by outside groups to landmark then downzone my home.

  • Jim Mitchell

    Good for you.

  • The P street designation was suspended on Broadway in Uptown so a billboard could go up on the old Borders building.

    That is some on-the-spot-one-stop-n-shop zoning.

    What is zoning but a suggestion to discretion…..?

  • You can see a map on the city’s website: https://data.cityofchicago.org/Transportation/Pedestrian-Streets/w3m8-5y6d

    Lawrence only has a P-Street from Winthrop to Malden which includes Broadway but not Sheridan.

  • The example is also there to show that Walgreens is an adaptive company and can build stores without them building parking, or adjusting to other situations.

    Walgreens has no shown that in this situation and the community, including the alderman, is demanding a certain adaptation.

  • oooBooo

    Why would a business need to build parking when it already exists?

  • I don’t know, ask Walgreens.

  • oooBooo

    Meanwhile you want to make their business decisions for them.

    PS: they chose not to build parking where it already existed.

  • No. The parkingless Walgreens is that way because the P-Street regulation made building parking difficult, and neighbors told Walgreens they didn’t want it. The Albany Park Walgreens at Kimball wants to be built with parking attached despite four other Walgreens locations with huge parking lots a very short drive away, and massive foot-traffic on that corner.

    Walgreens ALWAYS wants to build parking, because Walgreens’ numbers guys tell them parking always grows sales. This is demonstrably untrue, but they believe it.

  • oooBooo

    They moved into an existing building with existing parking mere feet away.
    You are presenting conjecture.