Now the Jeff Park NIMBYs Are Fighting Arena’s P-Street Proposal

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Surburban-style development next to the Jeff Park Transit center degrades the pedestrian environment. Image: Google Maps

The Jefferson Park NIMBYs are at it again. First they went nuclear over the city’s proposal for a road diet with protected bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue, which would have reduced speeding and crashes, and created more people-friendly retail strips. Now they’re freaking out about 45th Ward Alderman John Arena’s proposed ordinance to designate a few blocks of Milwaukee and Lawrence as Pedestrian Streets.

At a recent meeting of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association, members voted unanimously to oppose the ordinance, according to a DNAinfo report. They argued that, by encouraging dense, pedestrian-friendly, car-lite development, the P-Street designation would make it harder to park cars in the neighborhood.

Arena has proposed creating P-Streets on Milwaukee from Giddings to Higgins, and on Lawrence from Laramie to Long. Located just south of the Jefferson Park Transit Center, served by CTA buses and trains, and Metra commuter rail, this X-shaped district is the heart of the local business district.

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The proposed Jefferson Park P-Streets.

The P- Street designation is intended to preserve the existing walkability of business districts, by banning future car-centric development. It blocks the creation of big box stores, gas stations, drive-throughs and other businesses that cater to motorists, by forbidding the creation of new driveways.

The designation requires that the whole façade of new buildings 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 or a side street.

Since it’s easier to get around without a car in areas where walking is safe and pleasant, the city does not require new developments on P-Streets near transit stops to provide the usual number of parking spaces. Under the 2013 transit-oriented development ordinance, new residential buildings within 600 feet of a transit stop only have to provide one spot for every two housing units, instead of the typical 1:1 ratio. If the building is also on a P-Street, it can be up to 1,200 feet from the station and still get the parking discount. New stores with less than 10,000 square feet of floor space also get a break on parking.

The lower parking requirements are the main sticking point for the neighborhood association, according to Judy Skotzko, the association’s president. She argued that they would create a parking crunch, which would make it harder for local merchants to attract customers.

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An empty storefront on Milwaukee in Jeff Park. Image: Google Maps

In fact, the opposite is true. By preserving the traditional urban shopping district in downtown Jefferson Park, and making sure that future development is ped-friendly, the P-Street designation will help make the retail strip more attractive to shoppers. That’s especially true for those walking to and from the transit center.

Meanwhile, the designation would encourage developers to build housing near the Blue Line and Metra, without requiring them to provide more parking spaces than residents would actually use, which would help keep prices affordable. These condos and apartments, located a short, pleasant walk from trains, would attract buyers and renters who are less likely to own cars.

The new residents would also be more likely to patronize shops within the P-district, creating a virtuous cycle. That would be a shot in the arm for local merchants in a neighborhood with an excess of empty storefronts. 45th Ward chief of staff Owen Brugh has noted that the P-Street designation has been helpful in the Six Corners area near Irving Park/Cicero/Milwaukee, which is seeing an economic upturn.

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Sportif Importer, a five-minute walk from the transit center, is flanked by empty lots. Image: Google Maps

The P-Street designation would pave the way for the development of two empty lots east of Milwaukee on Lawrence, adjacent to the Sportif Importer bike shop. They’re currently used for overflow parking during concerts at the Copernicus Center across the street. Currently, there are no plans for the land, but Arena has said he’d support a relatively dense condo development there, of a “reasonable height,” DNA reported.

Some Jefferson Park residents may be accustomed to driving for most of their trips, and the neighborhood association members may find it difficult to believe that anyone would move into the neighborhood and not bring a car. However, if the P-Street goes through, living car-free near the transit center and a vibrant, walkable business district would become an appealing option for many people. Without the designation, we’re likely to see more suburban-style development, or no development at all, in Jeff Park.

  • what_eva

    Can we start de-annexing these morons and let them be the suburbs they apparently want to be?

  • R.A. Stewart

    A little off topic, but then again maybe not so much, as it all ties in with the quality of community life: Looking at these pictures, I’m struck again by how damn spirit-suckingly ugly so much of this city is, and of course so much of the suburbs. (I say “this city” but there are very few American cities of which the same couldn’t be said.) I’m reminded of Mencken’s comment on so many American towns, “They hate beauty as they hate truth.” Or the observation whose author I regrettably can’t find, to the effect that the U.S. really isn’t materialistic, because no really materialistic society would have such a cheesy material culture. Oh well, I digress, but I think somehow this pervasive, seemingly deliberate ugliness is of a piece with the resistance to making a community where people might use transit, walk, bike, or get around any way at all other than driving.

  • BlueFairlane

    Beauty–or ugliness–is in the eye of the beholder. Really, you can take random photos of individual pieces of cities to say any city anywhere is ugly. Look at this picture Steven posted on his flickr account of Amsterdam, for instance. That looks pretty ugly to me. Go through his Amsterdam pictures, and you see some ugly and some pretty. You’ll find the same thing going through pictures of Chicago.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbondsv/14013527021/in/set-72157644030557938

  • oooBooo

    Hilarious!
    When a neighborhood wants road dieting and ped streets then it’s government should listen to the people who live there first and foremost… when the people who live there don’t want it, they are a bunch of obstructionist NIMBY’s that don’t know what’s best for them.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Sure. And who will make up the tax dollars?

  • alexfrancisburchard

    it costs more to serve suburban areas than urban ones, so we will be better off without them.

  • what_eva

    Yeah, because Jefferson Park is a huge tax revenue generator compared to, oh, say, the Loop. I’d hazard to guess that more money is spent there than is taken in.

  • BlueFairlane

    Yep, that’s what we need. Let’s divide ourselves up into even more tiny subdivisions. Split Chicago into smaller and smaller independent communities, so we can be more like St. Louis.

  • I particularly liked this part of Amsterdam, or at least I liked the building I took this photo from. It seemed to be what Chicago and the federal housing authorities would have built had they the sense to provide families who lived their with amenities and connections to the wider city-at-large.

    The architecture of this particular building is pretty par for the course of Dutch design. This building is within two blocks of a subway, tram, and bus routes (on a retail street), and has a first-level car park, and protected bike lane and canal running behind it. It couldn’t be less connected to the city – except for its distance to the main attractions.

  • BlueFairlane

    Which goes to show how subjective notions of “beauty” of “ugliness” are. To me, this structure and all the other buildings you see epitomize that soulless, blocky style that reminds me of medical office parks built in the ’70s. The structure closest to you (I’m assuming it’s part of the same building) looks a lot like a Holiday Inn where we used to stay in Clearwater, Florida when I was 10. I like that it’s so available to the city, but I don’t find the style at all appealing.

    But that’s why it’s good for cities to be diverse. You probably wouldn’t like the aesthetic I prefer. Fortunately, Chicago and places like it have something for us both.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Thats why downtown is TIF heaven.

    What costs more? Police, fire, ambulance, schools, sewers.

    Ahh I get it roads. If only we didn’t have those pesky roads. But if you built the density you want in Jeff Park you would still need roads. Otherwise how will pick up the trash, deliver the beer, or anything else.

    Putting P street designation may be good in some areas, but for the area east of Milwaukee on Lawrence, maybe not. And if thr P street designation doesnt draw the development or if developers use it to knock down the buildings that do give the area its charm to build larger buildings but little other attractions why would I want to live there?

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    When people who don’t live there want to impose their views on the people who live there…

  • JPark Resident

    I live in Jefferson Park and am strongly in favor of the p-street designation…though I’m not politically tuned in enough to know how to effectively support it. I don’t drive, and we use my boyfriend’s car only to get to the grocery store. It could be a great, walkable neighborhood if we let it.

  • JeffParkNIMBY

    Yes, “everyone” who lives there doesn’t want it. I’m sure that’s precicely correct. At least you are not ignoring others’ opinions.

  • JeffParkNIMBY

    In summary, 10 people that went to that meeting don’t want it because it will cause traffic but they won’t drive to it because there’s no parking and therefore there won’t be any traffic. I get it now.

  • JeffParkNIMBY

    Also, good thing there’s not two train stations and 7 bus lines full of nearby customers.

  • Velocipedian

    Deliver the beer with cargo bikes.

  • Sonia Mozek

    I don’t understand people that live in Chicago, yet have suburban mentalities. If you want to drive around in your giant SUVs to the ugly characterless strip mall, and back to your house with your giant wooded fenced back yard, then move to the suburbs. Some of the reasons we love living in chicago for it’s urban ways. Walk ability, public transportation, sidewalks, open back yards where you know your neighbors, not fear them, and storefronts that are accesable from the side walk. Not giant trash filled parking lots and uniformed tacky 80’s strip malls. If parking is that big of a deal ( even though we should be walking riding or using public trans) then take a look at libertyville and their set up. Still have store fronts but parking in the back or a free parking garage

  • tooter turtle

    There are many neighborhoods in Chicago that have the potential to be great liveable places, but IMO Jefferson Park is too far gone down the low density auto-centric path to be worth fighting about at this point. I’d let it go.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    You don’t understand that people live in Chicago for thousands of different reasons. Certainly, most are here because they like the urbanism. But many are just here for the job, or because they are young and single and they like the lifestyle or they like being near the lake or are here because we can have a car -and- public transportation. Lots of great choices I’ve been here over 30 years. Walkabilty has never been an issue. I can walk across a curb cut and dont live in dire fear. One of the great aspects of living here is you can go a half mile distance in any direction and find something different.

    Go ahead and make all the P streets you want. But also understand P streets, may not work everywhere. In this city single solutions may have a temporary feel good effect, but the after effects years down the line may not enhance the neighborhood any better than no P street designation was made as developers may not bring the development.

    My understanding of the P street designation was to keep intact as a form of downzoning certain commercial areas that were not already cluttered with curb cuts and parking lots. In the case of Jefferson Park, you’re not going to get Logan Square by any stretch of imagination north of Lawrence on Milwaukee and east of Milwaukee on Lawrence. South and west, possibly. Will you get enough density in housing in the area to support small businesses? That’s an area of a lot of single family two flats as compared to the apartment blocks you have in Logan Square.

    I imagine there are quite a few people would like to continue to live in Logan Square but are being priced out. They look at Jefferson Park as an alternative, but don’t like what they see. No cutsey kids shops and fancy cocktail lounges. And blaming strip malls and CVS stores is an easy way of

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    expressing you anger at not being able to have the lifestyle you want at the price you want to pay. Livability. Its what you make it. So move to Jefferson Park. Make a commitment to stay 20 or 25 years. Join your block club, get involved in neighborhood politics and fight for what you want. And please dont expect it to happen overnight. 30 years ago Logan Square wasnt the same as it is now. It took years and a lot of businesses went in and out of business to make it what it is today.

    Lastly I just found out the little diner that was south of the square on Logan is now gone and some fancy restaurant is going in the same space. I suppose that’s a sign og progress, but liveabily? I’m not so sure.

  • Professor Wagstaff

    Kind of like the Yogi Berra quote about a popular restaurant; “No one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”

  • Professor Wagstaff

    As much as I didn’t want to agree with you, after reading your post, I do agree. Not every neighborhood has to be the next Logan Square or Bucktown. We’ve been here for almost 4 years, and nearly every person we’ve met in the neighborhood had been here for over 15 years, some as many as 60. So there must be a reason they’re staying. Maybe they like it as it is, or don’t have an issue with the fact that there aren’t any new twee little donut stores, or used record shops, opening up.
    When we were looking for homes in the area, our realtor said that many of his colleagues consider Jefferson Park the “part of Chicago with more ways to get to it than there are things to do once you arrive.”

  • rohmen

    A big part of why the suburban-style neighborhoods exist in Chicago is the strict residency requirement teachers, firefighters, city workers and police are forced to deal with.

    You end up with people/families who likely would prefer to move to a more suburban environment, but literally can’t because they work in some capacity for the City–hence neighborhoods like JP, Galewood, Norwood Park, Morgan Park, etc form.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    The neighborhoods mentioned also are post WWII neighborhoods. People had money and the desire to live outside the central core of the city. Yes, many of them are city workers. Understand that people had almost 15 years of deprivation (the Great Depression and then the WWII). And the GI bill allowed for financing of homes people never dreamed they could own.

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