Interestingly, some of the city’s outlying wards are leading the way when it comes to creating pedestrian-friendly business districts. Last week, I reported how 33rd Ward Alderman Deb Mell has proposed an ordinance that would designate three Albany Park retail strips as Pedestrian Streets. Earlier this week, 45th Ward Alderman John Arena sent a letter to constituents announcing that he has filed an ordinance to do the same thing on two streets in Jefferson Park.
The P-Street designation is intended to preserve the existing walkability of business districts and foster future ped-friendly development. It blocks the creation of big box stores, gas station, drive-throughs and other businesses that cater to motorists by forbidding the creation of new driveways.
The designation requires that the whole building façade be adjacent to the sidewalk. The main entrance must be located on the P-Street, and at least 60 percent of the façade between four and ten feet above the sidewalk must be windows. Any off-street parking must be located behind the building and accessed from the alley.
Arena wants to create P-Streets on Milwaukee from Giddings to Higgins, and on Lawrence from Laramie to Long. Located just south of the Jefferson Park Transit Center, this X-shaped district is the heart of the local retail area.
“The designation does not change the street or the sidewalk,” the alderman wrote. “It also does not change the zoning on any lot. Instead, the designation seeks to protect the existing urban shopping district and prevent developments such as strip malls.”
“We’re looking to preserve the traditional urban shopping district in downtown Jefferson Park,” 45th Ward chief of staff Owen Brugh told me. “The P-Street designation has been very helpful in the Six Corners area [Irving Park/Cicero/Milwaukee], which is finally starting to take off. We want communities that are walkable and livable, where you don’t have to dodge cars coming out of parking lots all the time.”
He noted that if a CVS pharmacy at Lawrence and Milwaukee had been built on a P-Street, it would would not have a driveway, it would have more windows, the parking would be in back, and the building would be next to the sidewalk. “As it is, it’s a suburban-style layout that would fit right in in Schaumburg,” he said. “It’s out of place in a traditional urban shopping district.”
Brugh said feedback from constituents has been positive, once residents have wrapped their heads around what the P-Street designation means. “Initially, there were concerns that it would change existing businesses, but now people understand that it only imposes requirements on new buildings.
Arena is hosting a public meeting to discuss the P-Street proposal on Thursday, September 4, at 6 p.m. at the Jefferson Park Public Library, 5363 West Lawrence.