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.

  • oooBooo

    FYI: there are at least two public parking garages within feet of that Clark/Broadway/Diversey Walgreens.

  • duppie

    They are paid-parking garages.

  • oooBooo

    obviously, unless walgreens worked a deal with them, but either way, so what?

  • mhls

    That’s the point. They didn’t tear down a building at a busy ped corner to build a surface lot or curb cuts for a lot. The lot should be located in the back, below/above grade with the minimum number of curb cuts and street level/facing retail.

    It’s private property, but the design has a huge impact on people who walk by and the general appeal of the corridor, which is critical for its overlall vitality.

  • jared.kachelmeyer

    If you want to park and visit a Walgreens I believe that the Walgreens at Diversey and Halsted has parking. Obviously enough foot traffic in this area to not need a parking lot.

  • Alex Oconnor

    I wish Harry Osterman could do something similar along Broadway to stop Chody from setting back Broadway & Edgewater three decades with their proposed suburban style car depository …all of course a mere few hundred feet away from a 24/7/365 redline stop.

    So So maddening…..Broadway has made strides….Chody aims to set it back.

  • Alex Oconnor

    Both that strip center (Walgreens / KFC….ick) and the one kitty corner (Dunkin….double nasty) north of the fire station need to go asap.

    I met the guy who built I believe it was the Dunkin strip center (but it may have been the KFC next to Walgreens)….at Cary’s on Devon….he was so proud of his building that and the Dunkin at Kimball & Peterson…another turd

  • duppie

    So what?
    Customers pay for parking. So they are required to think about their decisions: Driving at a cost, or walking/biking for free. Choose whichever fits your personal need: Convenience or saving money.

    The Albany park proposal on the other hand did nothing to force customers to think about how they go to the store.

  • kastigar

    I hope Streetblog will keep us updated on the progress of this P-street
    ordinance for Kimball and Lawrence, particularly the time and date of the public hearing.

  • JZ

    This would be great!

    What do y’all think of Kimball and Kedzie becoming one-way streets, Kimball going north and Kedzie going south from the Kennedy to Lincoln. This would allow for better traffic flow, protected cycle lanes, and a streetcar line in the future.

  • JacobEPeters

    indeed, I have a lot of friends and family that still live in the Albany Park area

  • Aaron C

    As weird as this sounds, I’m pretty sure I’ve met that guy before too (if it’s the same guy). The guy I know did design a lot of strip malls, but his crown jewels were his work on the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee and the plaza and Cheesecake Factory at the John Hancock Center.

    But, I also do 100% agree that higher density is the answer to these older city strip malls.

  • JacobEPeters

    it also isn’t across the street from a CTA station with 3,700+ daily riders

  • JacobEPeters

    two way streets are better for business, and the existence of two relatively major two way streets so close to each other means they carry a lot of traffic in tandem without either becoming a speedway.

  • Chitownlizard

    There are also several Walgreens near the Kimball/Lawrence intersection that already have ample parking, e.g. Montrose/Kedzie, Lawrence/Pulaski…

  • We will!

  • Alana Hanson

    Unfortunately, many people already treat Kimball (at least between Irving Park and Wilson) as a speedway, despite it being a residential street in this part of town. Traffic calming measures (more stop signs/lights and narrower lanes) on Kedzie seem to push speeders over to Kimball, which in this area has few stops and crosswalks that are easily ignored. Kimball’s speed limit is 20 mph, but you’d never guess that based on how fast people drive on it.

  • JacobEPeters

    Is it really 20? I always thought it was 30. If that’s the case, I might have been one of those speeders, and I apologize for that.

  • Alana Hanson

    It’s 20 based on the signs between and around Montrose and Irving, at least. I honestly didn’t know either until recently, and I live there. The signage could be better.

    ETA: Now that I know, I’ve encountered Kimball’s other problem: other drivers engaging in really reckless behavior if you prevent their desire to speed (honking, yelling, swerving and passing on the right, to name a few).

  • JacobEPeters

    I grew up there and had no idea. Imagine how bad it would be if it was one way and they could just swerve into the left lane and lay on the accelerator.

  • No Ur Fax

    lol a streetcar. Money would be better spent used as firewood.

  • Alana Hanson

    Agreed. A one-way on Kimball would be a nightmare unless they significantly narrowed the car lanes or instituted some of the measures they have over on Kedzie.

  • They’re too far apart for that to work conveniently for most people.

  • As a driver whose confidence is not utterly bulletproof (I’m 38 and have only been driving for about 9 years, I didn’t learn as a teenager who thought I was invincible), it is incredibly stressful to have someone creep up my trunk and honk at me and weave around and swear yelling out the window … because I was following the relevant traffic law … or because I declined to take a ‘more adventurous’ option when there was an equally legal ‘more cautious’ option.

    It makes my heartbeat race and causes jumpy flinches for blocks afterwards, which doesn’t help me drive safely.

  • oooBooo

    The suitibility of the pre-existing buildings to market need is irrelevant to my point, which is parking exists.

    It is private property and the design is critical for the success or failure of the store, thus Walgreens has or should have studied what its customers want in each situation. Either we can choose to respect private property or not. We can have a free society or not.

    To entertain your tangent: In one case the existing building is not suitable, in another it is. The Borders building is relatively modern and could be reconfigured with a new interior. The Albany park building is cobbled together from three separate structures and cannot be. (see previous articles) The Albany park building has no existing parking for customers. The Borders building did. The differences go on and on. There’s no valid comparison between the two from a business decision standpoint.

  • oooBooo

    Irrelevant. Parking exists at the location portrayed as if it had none.

  • oooBooo

    The point is that there is market provided parking there serving the area.

    If a store doesn’t align itself with your social engineering goals, don’t shop there. However you can be assured that Walgreens has done its research on what the customers it is aiming to serve want. If they haven’t they deserve to lose money on the store.

    Simple as that.

  • oooBooo

    Irrelevant. It is portrayed in the article as if there isn’t parking. There is.

  • Guest

    you portray yourself as if you understand what free parking means, you don’t

  • JacobEPeters

    the image doesn’t mention parking, because the issue is pedestrian street designations, which means that the building holds the corner. So, your obsession parking location is in fact…irrelevant. Because parking is allowed in a P street, on the back or side of a building, such as on Kimball north of the building. Across from a CTA station just doesn’t warrant parking front and center, because it is not the most important means of accessing this store.

  • duppie

    I said it before…You would be much happier in Houston. No pesky zoning laws. No “social engineering”. NP-street designations. Just every man for themselves.

  • oooBooo

    F-

  • Gentlemen, please keep the discourse respectful. Comments that don’t meet our moderation guidelines will be deleted. Thanks.

  • oooBooo

    This article is the latest in a series. The P-street designation is specifically to force a desire for no parking for this property as per previous articles in the series. This article states that the designation means the existing building can’t be torn down. That means no parking of any kind can be created on the property. The existing building also can’t be reconfigured as needed.There is not a pre-existing public parking garage or other public accommodation here like in the example. The example is therefore invalid. The business and economic equations are entirely different. To portray it as similar is just wrong.

  • oooBooo

    All I am doing is pointing out the obvious flaws and misrepresentations in the article and other arguments, which is what I usually do here. It has nothing to do with me at all.

  • JacobEPeters

    Deb Mell has said that she is fine with a Walgreens with parking, just not another parking lot on the corner of an important intersection across from a CTA station. P-Street designation is not a landmarking designation. That building could be torn down and replaced with a 5 story mixed use building like the one just down Kimball. It could even have a Walgreens on the ground floor of the development. The reason that image was used is likely because it is an example of a Walgreens on a designated P-Street. Every site is different, but showing what kind of Walgreens can be built within the same design constraints is entirely relevant. As it has been posted in multiple places, there are 2 Walgreens within a mile that are car oriented, having the one next to a CTA terminus be people oriented doesn’t seem like an affront to commerce.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    I’d be careful about irrationally advocating the P street designation. Your desire for density near transit, down zoning to a P street may create the expectation from neighborhood organizations that the street won’t be densified with taller buildings. You want a six story TOD in a designated P street, but look at most P streets and they are mostly two, three story. Secondly, taxes. When property taxes go up, vacancies go up. Eventually neighbors get tired of vacancies. Would you rather have a vacant building or a Walgreens? That Walgreens seems like abetter prospect, especally if your not living in a hot Lakeview, Bucktown, Andersonville neighborhood.

  • JacobEPeters

    Yes, every site is different, but showing another Walgreens in a P-Street designated area is entirely relevant. You can’t always show an example that is exactly the same. Nowhere are the two sites implied as being identical, nowhere is their context being equated as identical.

    You are clamoring to let the developer build what they have at Lawrence and Pulaski, Montrose and Kedzie, or Kedzie and Irving Park. Yet none of these sites are relevant, because none of them are across from a CTA terminus. The lack of applicability of an existing design goes both ways, no one is arguing to tear down every Walgreens with a parking lot. Merely for Walgreens to be more contextual with their developments so that they contribute to the corridor, rather than degrade it.

  • JacobEPeters

    This is a false choice and you know it. Lawrence is a thriving retail strip, from rug stores to shoe stores, to restaurants, pool halls and beyond. You don’t have to be a hot neighborhood to have a high retail occupancy rate. P-Street designation does not prohibit development, it merely requires the development to contribute to the pedestrian oriented corridor rather than degrade it. Those contributions can be one story tall or 10 stories tall, depending on the zoning.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    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. Rezoning the entire area, could make what is now legally conforming zoning into nonconforming zoning and does drive up insurance costs on properties. Going against neighborhood people who vote, ends your career, hence Osterman won’t do anything but tweeks to the design.

  • oooBooo

    Ok, so it can be torn down and rebuilt the same way, that portion of the article would be better if it had explicitly stated that. However, the problem remains the same. The example has nearby off-street public parking, this location does not, and replacing with a similar building won’t change that. The presence of the garages is very relevant to the example because they change the business decision.

    For the rest you are simply arguing you know drugstore customers better than Walgreens. A business is built to serve customers. If the parking lot did not return more than it cost and not required by law, why would it be built?

  • JacobEPeters

    As an architect, I know that my client often is working based off of a set of generalized needs. Rarely is market analysis done of a particular location to vet whether every need in their corporate booklet is applicable to a given site. If analysis had been done in depth of both the neighborhood and the shopping patterns of customers along this corridor, it would be found that the other nearby Walgreens still serve the automobile needs of the market, and this location would be frequented overwhelmingly by people on foot. Either commuters, neighborhood shoppers, students from Roosevelt and Von Steuben (my alma mater) and workers from all of the nearby businesses.

    I grew up in this neighborhood, and it is already very well served from a car standpoint by the existing Walgreens locations. Any competent market analysis would show that there is more to be gained from a pedestrian oriented Walgreens which maximizes as much as the site as possible for merchandise, rather than frittering away your precious land catering to drivers who actively avoid Lawrence due to the congestion on it during most parts of the day.

    This busy street is not one that anyone in the neighborhood chooses to drive down if they have a choice. Everyone who is using their land for parking along Lawrence is flushing rentable square footage down the drain.

  • oooBooo

    Then mentioning the two public parking garages would have been the honest thing to do. Simply acting like it is a thriving business without parking nearby is misleading.

    I am not clamoring for anything here but sound arguments (from principles) and honest writing. I presented a fact that was missing from the article and it gets this big reaction. That shouldn’t happen in a normal environment if it were just an oversight in an imperfect world.

    What Walgreens does is what generates the most profitable store. What generates the most profitable store is what serves customers the best.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    You are mostly right. Except, if you look at Broadway in Edgewater, when it was downzoned, an expectation (right or wrong) was created to limit building heights. Next highest/ best use is a strip mall which conforms to the current zoning.

    If a plan is put forward on a P street, for development, like a TOD when the expectation is less density there will be pushback from neighbors just like in Edgewater. And politicans who want to be re elected don’t make the best decisions.

    And taxes and use are tied together. Because taxes are rolled into the cost of commercial leases.

  • JacobEPeters

    “The new Walgreens at Clark/Broadway/Diversey sits along a P-street”

    The caption says nothing about parking, since it is a story about zoning restrictions.

    Here are the references to parking from the article above.

    “Mell has stalled construction by asking CDOT not to issue permits for the parking lot’s new curb cuts,”

    “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 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.”

    Neither of these implies that the reason for the P-Street designation is because parking is provided, it is how the parking is being provided. Your comment about parking garages was irrelevant to the point of the article, because both of those parking garages are part of mixed use developments with retail holding the corner.

    The title is accurate in that the problem with parking lots is not their existence it is their location. No part of this article tells any different story than that.

  • oooBooo

    Sounds like you should be pitching your services to Walgreens, not me.

  • JacobEPeters

    Very good points regarding how restrictions can hamper redevelopment, but we are seeing that the most desirable neighborhoods in the city are those with walkable retail corridors. So I think it is more important to consider the health of your retail corridor before advocating for a P-Street. Since a strong retail corridor like Lawrence will attract the attention of chains, and chains often want to build parking as a default. But a lack of parking won’t lead to an empty storefront, it will lead to a business that fits the land use occupying the storefront in a healthy retail market. Whereas on streets with high vacancies, there are usually empty lots which can accommodate the needs of a car oriented Walgreens.

    From my understanding Broadway through Edgewater did not qualify for P-Street designation, so the issue is the community desire for TOD, but neighbors opposition to alley curb cuts across the alley from them. Which means that you either get high density development with no parking or low density development with lots of street frontage parking, since there is no P-Streets to stop such development from being built. Which is why Osterman has his hands tied regarding the redevelopment of the former funeral home property on Broadway in Edgewater.

  • JacobEPeters

    Believe me, I pitch them to my buddy who works at corporate all the time. And that is why I have little faith that the decisions coming down from on high are actually influenced by conditions on the ground.

  • oooBooo

    If it is irrelevant why has my mere mentioning of an additional fact caused such a reaction? It’s very relevant, which is why you and others have reacted to it. But I digress… to your content above:

    Try to draw up this property with a store with the same amount of retail space (a second door cuts into that), a parking lot of ideally the same number of spaces, that meets all applicable requirements including those of the proposed designation and has the same cost to build and operate.

    If you have read the series of articles, you’d know that won’t work. If you can make it work, you need to pitch your services to Walgreens and make some good money for yourself.