Logan Square Developer Would Rather Choose How Much Parking to Build

2211 N Milwaukee TOD
PMG’s proposed mixed-use building will provide half the normally required car parking because it’s near a CTA station. Image: PMG via Curbed

A site that’s currently a staging area for Your New Blue ‘L’ station renovation may soon be home to a transit-oriented mixed-use building. Property Markets Group has proposed a new apartment building for Logan Square that will provide half the normally required car parking, bringing needed housing with less congestion.

Parking minimums for this and most residential proposals in Chicago require one parking space per unit, plaguing neighborhoods with more traffic and developers with unsold space. However, a TOD ordinance enacted a year ago allows residential developers like Noah Gottlieb of PMG to build up to 50 percent fewer car parking spaces if the building is located near a train station.

Without a Pedestrian Street designation, developers would have to find an empty parcel within 600 feet of a train station. The PMG residence’s main entrance, though, is just over 700 feet away from the California Blue Line station, and Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno implemented a Pedestrian Street here last year. It covers multiple empty parcels and increases the distance to 1,200 feet a development can be from a train station and still be eligible for the benefits.

PMG has proposed a six-story mid-rise building at 2211 N Milwaukee Avenue, adjacent to the Chase Bank-anchored strip mall and across from the Madison Public House restaurant, which opened in the spring. The building would have 120 units with 60 car parking spaces (and seven more for the ground-floor retail). Seventy percent of the units would be studios, junior one-bedrooms, and one-bedroom apartments.

Since the TOD ordinance requires that a bike parking space replace every normally required car parking space, PMG will be doing that, and then some. Gottlieb said they’re proposing 216 bike parking spaces because PMG does all of its parking calculations “on the projected amount of people, not units.”

Gottlieb also wants to do away with parking minimums, adding that the developer should decide how much parking to build. He explained that the motivation to build less parking at this development is because it’s “in line with the marketplace.” He continued:

There’re a lot of antiquated zoning rules in regard to parking. Especially in Logan Square, very few people drive to work in the young renter demographic, they’re using public transportation, and biking and walking. We anticipate very little demand for our parking spots. 

Parking minimums are one of those antiquated rules. They were originally intended to ensure that everyone who wants to drive finds a place to park at their destination, regardless of that place’s transit accessibility, but instead they ended up encouraging more people to drive. Developers don’t need a zoning mandate to ensure their tenants or customers have a way to access their homes and shops: They’ll do that all on their own. Parking minimums also drive up the costs of construction, which are passed on to tenants when parking is bundled with rent.

We can head off complaints of “density means traffic” and “more units brings more traffic congestion” right now. The population of Logan Square in the area bounded by Western, Fullerton, California, and Armitage, has declined by 17.3 percent from 2000 to 2010 even while the number of housing units increased by 3.2 percent. The number of cars (and amount of traffic) is dictated by the number of places to park, and Logan Square is a place that’s proud to be walkable and bikeable.

Gottlieb said this will be his first development under the TOD ordinance and suggested that the ordinance be expanded to more zoning districts, and that the city consider bus service and walking distance to downtown in determining what makes a transit-accessible location.

“Just as many people take the bus as the train,” Gottlieb said, “but buses don’t count for the ordinance.” Actually, 57 percent of weekday trips are by bus, although bus ridership has been on a sharp decline since 2010, likely because of rising multi-day pass prices.

Another factor Gottlieb thinks the zoning ordinance should consider is walking distance to downtown. He reasoned that putting a building a 10 minute walk from downtown should be looked at similarly to the one that’s built further away but is still 10 minutes away from downtown by train.

Benett Haller, director of urban design and planning at the Department of Planning and Development, said he’s excited that the private market is trying to create a better environment around train stations by building less parking. “It’s a market-driven fact,” he said, “that developers cannot sell or market all of the parking spaces in a residential development.” Haller also said his department is getting pressure from developers in certain parts of the city to reduce their parking requirements when they’re far from a train station. PMG is now one more company in a growing group of developers availing themselves of the city’s nascent TOD ordinance, to result in less parking and congestion.

  • Alex Oconnor

    It’s too bad we are stuck with the blight building Chody development in Edgewater a mere 500 ft from 365/24/7 transit.

    I wish they could be stopped.

  • Brandon

    This is great!

  • Ray

    “Parking minimums for this and most residential proposals in Chicago require one parking space per unit, plaguing neighborhoods with more traffic and developers with unsold space.”

    This is a strong assertion Steven, but I don’t think the literature supports this view yet. There’s really only anecdotal evidence that such zoning causes more traffic.

  • Kevin M

    I think Steven’s trying to have it both ways, when actually…

    When you lower and/or bury the cost of private automobile ownership and simultaneously provide physical space, you *either* A) induce the likelihood of car ownership and therefore increase traffic congestion or B) see little change in the streets but find higher housing costs (due to cost of required parking build-out) and developers being stuck with (parking) property they can’t sell.

  • trufe

    why cant it be both? not every person living in the building will make the same choices.
    so in a 200 unit building, just as a simplified example, you could cause 100 new cars being brought to the neighborhood, and stick the developer with 100 empty spots

  • Kevin M

    In your example, is the developer really “stuck” with 100 spots if they’ve already sold 50% of their stock? If the market demand was enough to see the purchase of the first 100, it is highly unlikely to stop there.

  • trufe

    why? if a given market supports the sale of x widgets, why would you assume it would also support the sale of x+y widgets?

  • Kevin M

    First, to answer your question: I can’t assume such–you’re correct.

    What we’re really talking about here is car ownership among prospective Lakeview condo owners. If it is high, then the developer would likely sell them separate from the condos (at a premium, to profit further). If it car ownership (aka private parking demand) is low, the developer would likely roll the cost of the spaces in with each unit, thereby forcing the condo purchaser to buy/own a space that they won’t likely use for car storage (but may use for private goods). In either case, I don’t see the developer getting stuck with parking spaces they can’t sell. It does, however, increase the cost of their project–which eats in to their profit margin on the condos.

    I can’t see a developer retaining ownership of the parking spaces if parking demand was known to be low in the area of this development. They wouldn’t put themselves in that position; though they are bound by the parking ordinance, I believe it is their choice whether to roll-in the parking spaces or sell them individually.

  • Velocipedian

    In addition to getting rid of parking spaces (i.e. wasted real estate), the developers should also provide a proportionate amount of shared cargo bikes per resident for grocery shopping, child transport and going on a hot date.

  • trufe

    ok, but what is the difference?

    if there is not enough demand to support the required parking minimum, there is really no difference between getting “stuck” with less net revenue due to actually unsold parking spaces or getting “stuck” with less net revenue due to fewer/less profitable sales of unit/parking package options that are not in demand.

    in either case the parking minimum could result in both of what you termed A and B above – they are not mutually exclusive

  • tg113

    that’s a nice development.

  • FG

    So has there been any actual research, not anecdotal, on whether unbundling parking spaces from units actually is because people don’t want parking or have cars or if it is because they simply don’t want to pay for an “owned” parking space and will park on the street?

    My feeling is the reduction in parking spaces is due to affordability of housing – the prices are fairly high on new construction (mainly talking about for sale housing rather than rental, but it applies there too) and once the parking is unbundled from unit sale people don’t feel a need to or cannot afford to pay an additional,say 20k or more for a space. Hence they stay unsold and developers want to reduce parking so increase their margins. Not because they want to actually create TOD or because there is no need for parking but simply to cut costs, as developers do.

  • Karyn N

    The disingenuous–at best–assertions by Mr. Gottlieb and Mr. Haller are shameful. One must wonder where they found their facts, aside from pulling them directly from their backsides As a long-time developer myself, my team doesn’t necessarily like or agree with parking minimums either. They can and should be adjusted in many cases to reflect market and neighborhood realities. But to say that there should be no minimums and that developers should choose is absurd and a dangerous approach to city planning. It shows us that Mr. Gottlieb and PMG have no interest in creating any value for the city or community, just for themselves. This is the kind of appraoch and attitude that gives developers a bad name.

    Whatever you think of the proposed development design put for by Mr. Gottlieb and PMG, developers and operators like PMG and many others always seek to maximize rents. There are multiple software options that actively monitor markets to do this. So rents will almost always be optimized, and rents cannot be more than people will pay for similar properties. The costs of parking or other amenities, then, cannot be passed on to tenants in the form of higher rents as Mr. Gottlieb pretends. Parking is paid for separately from rent, and individually, by tenants. Those parking construction costs simply reduce PMG’s profits, and likely Mr. Gottlieb’s bonus. Not one penny of those reduced costs for not having to provide parking will be passed on to tenants in the form of lower rents. Not one. This is how development works in general. So Mr. Gottlieb either has no business in the role he has, or he and PMG are deliberately being less than honest with the city and community. To be sure, all developers, myself included, prefer lower costs. But that doesn’t mean we get to pass on critical costs and burdens to the community and infrastructure. There’s a balance. And the zero-parking proposal is seriously unbalanced.

    Transit-oriented development is a worthy goal. I’m glad to see so many neighborhoods encouraging it. But one need not spend much time exploring neighborhoods to know that people value and need parking. They just don’t necessarily value them at the absurdly high rates Mr. Gottlieb and Mr. Haller would apparently like to charge. Even if tenants don’t lease all of them, there’s always someone that wants and needs parking, and will be willing to pay a reasonable (or slightly unreasonable) rate. And we can bet good money that both gentlemen drive their cars to work and/or meetings. Most of us don’t have the luxury of all of our destinations–work, meetings, shopping, etc.–being easily and efficiently accessible by public transit. Especially with Chicago weather.

    I love living in the city and being able to take public transportation. But like many others, someone in my house absolutely needs a car. It could be that a meeting is far away, the schedule is tight, the kids need to get somewhere, I have to transport things, the snow/rain, etc. Normal things in life and work. So while the 1:1 ratio for units to parking spaces might be excessive, some reasonable parking is usually necessary, especially if there is more than one working adult in the unit/household. I applaud efforts to create more bike storage, to build in more walkable areas, to provide steeply discounted transit passes to tenants, etc. But that doesn’t mean we developers are exempt from the realities of urban and work life of our tenants. Not everyone can bike to work/errands and not every day–especially during a Chicago winter. Mr. Gottlieb’s and PMG’s utterly contemptuous, condescending, take-only/give-nothing approach used to garner only laughter from the local and permitting community–and often a quick exit from employment with any employer of character. Let’s hope that the community doesn’t reward Mr. Gottlieb and PMG for such deceptions and bad behavior. We do need development in this city, but good, smart, thoughtful development rather than the lazy kind that only adds to the burdens of our infrastructure rather than enhancing it. We need and deserve better than Mr. Gottlieb and PMG seem willing to offer.

  • What’s the problem if Mr. Gottlieb provided zero parking spaces?

  • caitlin

    There is limited parking in this densely populated neighborhood already… to have that stock now taxed more by people who will be (knowingly or not) displacing long-term residents… would be obnoxious

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