A Huge Garage Doesn’t Belong on a Thriving Pedestrian Shopping Street

The proposed development, anchored by a Mariano’s, would pump more car traffic into the neighborhood, delaying transit and making streets less walkable and bikeable.

A parking lot at 3030 N Broadway in Lakeview, formerly the site of a Dominick’s grocery store, could soon be the home of a new development with a Mariano’s supermarket, an Xport Fitness health club, and four small retail tenants. This stretch of Broadway, designated as a Pedestrian Street by the city, is currently very walkable. The Active Transportation Alliance recognized this and included the street in its list of 20 Chicago thoroughfares that should be considered for pedestrianization. In the surrounding census tracts, 30 to 50 percent of the households don’t own cars.

Despite the car-lite nature of the neighborhood, Mariano’s is planning to build 280 parking spaces for the site. I was told this was the number required by the city’s zoning ordinance, but Mariano’s can request a zoning variance from local alderman Tom Tunney. So far they’ve chosen not to do so.

Dan Farrell, vice president of retail estate at Mariano’s, told DNAinfo that even though this location is easy to get to without a car, the supermarket and gym need “ample” parking. However, offering large amounts of free parking encourages people to drive, which fuels the demand for more parking and makes conditions worse for transit, biking, and walking.

Maureen Martino, director of the East Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, told me Mariano’s stores have already been well-received in several Chicago neighborhoods, but acknowledged that this particular location in a dense, residential area presents special challenges. “But parking is important and the zoning code mandate for 280 spaces should be followed,” she said.

Broadway in East Lakeview is a P-street and fits the criteria of a great street to walk on. Photo: Google Maps

Whether or not Mariano’s and the chamber feel the amount of parking is necessary, should the city go through with it, which would ensure that more car traffic will be generated? At issue is not only the walkability of the neighborhood, but also the effectiveness of transit: more cars on Broadway would slow down CTA buses, making transit a less convenient option. At a time when two other nearby developments will be constructing nearly 550 new parking spaces in Lakeview, permitting hundreds more spaces in the neighborhood would be poor planning.

Fortunately, this is the initial design for the development, so there’s room for improvement. Bennett Lawson at Alderman Tunney’s office confirmed that nearby residents have expressed concern about the high amount of parking, and these comments have been passed along to the developer. Because this is a planned development, it will have to pass approval from both the city’s planning and transportation departments, which may request that less parking be built. If the excessive number of spaces remains an issue, there should be future community meetings where you can voice your opinion on the subject.