City Approves Car-Lite Belmont-Clark Development

View from across the corner of Clark and Belmont. Groundbreaking is set for this year, and occupancy is expected in 2016. Image: Hirsch Associates / BlitzLake Capital Partners.

View from across the corner of Clark and Belmont. Groundbreaking is set for this year, and occupancy is expected in 2016. Image: Hirsch Associates / BlitzLake Capital Partners.

After several iterations since first being proposed last October, plans for a new building at Clark and Belmont in Lakeview were approved by the city’s Plan Commission on Thursday.

Originally conceived as a ten-story building with 98 residential units, 56,000 square feet of retail, the building will now contain 90 residential units (a mix of studios, one, and two bedrooms) and 50,000 square feet of retail – just slightly less than the original design. The best part of the redesigned proposal is a drastically reduced number of parking spaces, from 120 to 39.

All 39 spaces are on the 2nd floor, accessed by a ramp off Clark St. Image:

All 39 spaces are on the 2nd floor, accessed by a ramp off Clark St. Image: Hirsch Associates / BlitzLake Capital Partners.

Situated just a block from the Belmont Red/Brown/Purple line station and at the intersection of two busy, all-day bus routes, the site can take advantage of the Transit-Oriented Development ordinance, which permits a 100% reduction of the commercial parking minimum and 50% reduction of the residential minimum. Previous design iterations did not take advantage of the ordinance: The first had 120 spaces, subsequently cut to 116, then 74, to the 39 spaces in the final design, which takes full advantage of the ordinance.

The developer, BlitzLake Capital Partners, confirmed that all of the spaces will initially be for residents only, and parking will be rented separately from the apartments. This means that tenants will have to pay market rate for a parking space, as opposed to having the cost included in rent; a member of the development team estimated the rent at $150 – $175 per month. Future arrangements could be made to sell the parking to other nearby residences or businesses, should tenants not rent all 39 spaces. The developer also confirmed that there will be one car-sharing automobile on-site.

When asked why the developer didn’t go all the way to zero, he stated that “no one felt comfortable” with zero spaces, and that 39 is a good “market” level. It is refreshing to hear the word “market,” as opposed to “required minimum,” when it comes to parking at new developments. Other recently proposed developments in Lakeview have been designed with the required minimum amount of spaces, or more – such as Addison Park on Clark’s 493 spaces across from Wrigley Field (where only 74 were required due to its proximity to the Red line), or the 290 spaces proposed at a Mariano’s grocery store on Broadway (the amount that zoning requires). The developer also stated that the city’s Plan Commission and CDOT expressed concerns about having zero parking spaces on the site.

This development will set another good precedent for other developers that may want to take advantage of the TOD ordinance. At a meeting last November, the developer stated that they could “not attract retail tenants” without 66 spaces of parking. Now, there will be one or more retail tenants without any parking. On a busy corner like this, where retailers have long thrived without parking, that makes intuitive sense.

Hopefully, the successive redesigns at this site lay the foundation for more car-lite, transit-oriented development in Lakeview and elsewhere along Chicago’s rails.