Some East Lakeview neighbors are unhappy with a proposed retail complex along Broadway, just north of Wellington, that would house a large Mariano’s supermarket on its lower floors and an Xsport Fitness on its upper floors. The five-story building will have retail space with a large driveway and loading area on the ground floor, the supermarket mostly on the second floor, two levels of parking, and the fitness center on the top floor.
Many of the neighbors’ criticisms center on the building’s bulk, and the number of parking spaces — both of which largely result from the city’s zoning ordinance, which requires plentiful parking even in car-light neighborhoods like East Lakeview. Over half of the building’s area will be devoted to storing and moving cars and trucks, but the 279 car parking spaces proposed are just five percent more than zoning requires for a commercial development of this size.
A traffic analysis [PDF], performed by local firm KLOA, predicts that many people would drive to the development (which seems natural if they know that they can easily park there), and that slightly longer delays at intersections would result. KLOA does note in its analysis that trips to the development will be lower than average, because people will combine trips – going to work out, and then going grocery shopping afterwards – and because many local residents will arrive on bike, foot, or by transit. Today, this stretch of Broadway sees fairly light car traffic: Even at rush hour yesterday, it was easy to cross the street mid-block.
Project architect Joe Antunovich says that the solution for increased traffic is not to reduce parking — but rather to stripe more space for cars on the street (squeezing out room that bikes currently use to maneuver), and to add a new stoplight just 210 feet away from an existing one at Wellington. Antunovich further said that the 36-Broadway bus route causes traffic congestion when people are trying to board. He placed more blame on the bus, which carries dozens of passengers, than the single-occupancy vehicles driving down Broadway — many of whom block traffic on Broadway by making left turns from the center lane.
Alderman Tom Tunney is going along with the proposal. Although he says that the city, as a whole, is moving away from auto-centric development, he says that bike lanes elsewhere are counter-balanced by adding car traffic in this part of Lakeview, a place where half of households don’t own a car.
Previously, the site housed a smaller Dominick’s grocery store with a surface parking lot, but the store burned down in 2005. A scan of multiple satellite photos of the site shows that at many times during the day, fewer than 50 car parking spaces in Dominick’s parking lot were occupied.
A 2012 proposal by a different development team had a larger Mariano’s store, 113 rental apartments in place of the Xsport, and 212 parking spaces, since residences require fewer parking spaces than commercial space. At 70,870 square feet, the Mariano’s in the current plan would still be one of the city’s largest supermarkets — just slightly smaller than the Whole Foods Market on Kingsbury Street.
The site’s location along Broadway, which is a designated Pedestrian Street under the zoning ordinance, poses another difficulty for the developer as that designation prohibits driveways. Alderman Tunney may have to remove the P-Street designation for this block so that the development can receive permits for its proposed driveway.