33rd Ward P-Streets Pass; Noon-O-Kabab Moving to Car-centric New Digs

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Noon-O-Kabab’s current pedestrian and transit-friendly  location. Image: Google Streetview

Albany Park just took a step towards a more walkable future. Last week, City Council passed an ordinance to officially zone stretches of Montrose, Lawrence, and Kedzie in the neighborhood as Pedestrian Streets, or P-Streets.

“This lets developers know what kind of vision we have regarding movement around the ward,” said 33rd Ward Alderman Deb Mell. On June 25, she introduced the ordinance to create P-Streets on Montrose from California to Kimball, Lawrence from Sacramento to Central Park, and Kedzie from Montrose to Lawrence. “We want to prioritize pedestrians, bikes, transit, and then cars, in order to improve safety and reduce congestion.”

Mell said the ward’s transportation advisory committee came up with the idea for the P-Streets after Walgreens proposed building a suburban-style drugstore across the street from the Kimball Brown Line stop. The designation will prevent this kind of car-centric development in the future.

The ordinance forbids the creation of new driveways, and requires that new building façades be adjacent to the sidewalk. Buildings’ main entrance must be located on the P-Street, and most 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 an alley or side street.

Meanwhile, developers who build on P-Streets near transit stops can get an “administrative adjustment” exempting them from providing any commercial parking spaces. In effect, the designation ensures that future developments will be pedestrian-friendly, and blocks the creation of drive-throughs, strip malls, car dealerships, gas stations, car washes and other businesses that cater to drivers.

The ordinance passed City Council with no opposition. “I’ve heard from a lot of people in the ward who are really happy about this,” Mell said. That’s in sharp contrast to the nearby 45th Ward, where the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association unanimously voted to oppose a P-Street ordinance introduced by Alderman John Arena. That ordinance also passed the council earlier this month.

Interestingly, Mell originally planned to schedule a zoning committee hearing on her ordinance in early September, but she pushed the hearing back a few weeks to accommodate a local eatery’s plans to move into a car-centric new location. Noon-O-Kabab, a popular Persian restaurant at 4661 North Kedzie, is planning to relocate across the street to the former location of a Kentucky Fried Chicken with a drive-through.

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Noon-O-Kabab’s new location will have over 30 off-street parking spaces. Image: Google Streetview

Mell said Noon-O-Kabab owner Mir Nagahvi submitted his plans for the new restaurant to her office at the same time her staff was working on the P-Street proposal. “We postponed the hearing for him, out of an abundance of caution,” she said. “We just wanted to give him an opportunity to show us his plans. The KFC has been vacant for years. The fact that he bought it and is putting in a nice restaurant is an asset for the community.”

Currently, Noon-O-Kabab occupies a storefront with no off-street parking, although the sidewalk on Leland has been narrowed to make room for diagonal parking spaces. A couple of doors south, the restaurant operates a second kitchen used for catering, take-out, and delivery orders.

Consolidating all of the operations into a single building will significantly cut costs, and the new spot will allow the restaurant to expand from about 80 seats to over 130, Naghavi told me. He plans to open an Iranian imports store in the current restaurant location. He may rent the second storefront to a national chain, such as a café, or else sell that property.

The current Noon-O-Kabab location is just north of the Kedzie Brown Line station, and it’s also accessible via the Kimball and Lawrence buses, so it’s easy for many Chicagoans to get there without a car. The new location, at the northeast corner of Kedzie and Leland, is also transit-friendly, but it will also have dozens of off-street parking spaces.

Currently, there are 35 parking spots at the site, Naghavi said. He will be rehabbing the existing KFC building and expanding it somewhat, which will eliminate two or three spaces. While the current building façade does sit close to the sidewalk, the parking lot and driveways occupy much of the lot line. However, it’s not clear that the P-Street ordinance would have affected Noon-O-Kabab’s plans, since the project is largely a rehab, rather than new construction.

While it’s great that a beloved local eatery is expanding into an abandoned fast food joint, it’s a bummer that the new, car-centric location will encourage more people to bring automobiles into the neighborhood. Dozens of parking spaces certainly aren’t needed for a successful expansion. Reza’s, a bustling Persian restaurant three miles northeast at 5255 North Clark in Andersonville, has space for about 300 diners. Its parking lot only holds 20 cars but it’s rarely full, according to a staffer.

On the bright side, Naghavi is honoring Mell’s request to eliminate one of the three existing curb cuts, located on Leland. The other two driveways on Kedzie will remain. Naghavi hopes to start construction in two months, and open the new restaurant in six.

  • Jared Kachelmeyer

    The nearest N/S bus is on Kimball, not Kedzie.

  • Annie F. Adams

    The P-Street designation is great news & just what that area needs! “…in order to improve safety and reduce congestion.” Excellent job Alderman Deb Mell. Good news about Noon-O-Kabab expanding into the previously depressing KFC space. I moved from Albany Park because I felt trapped on the grid. Walking was ugly & people yelled things at me. Crossing streets (esp. at those big 6 way intersections) could be harsh & frogger like. Parking was hard to come by. Driving (esp. on weekends) was sitting in a long line of cars in traffic. I wanted to bike more but felt it wasn’t safe or smart. What finally crossed the line for me was a person throwing a bottle at me because I was trying to get home from work. They were parked in the bike lane on Elston. I gently tapped their car to let them know I was squeezing next to them in the bike lane. About 5 min. later I heard them behind me. That was it. I was done. It is a great very diverse neighborhood with an awesome hardware & grocery store. This has the potential to be transformative! Go Ald. Mell! Go!

  • JS

    It’s disappointing to see you criticize this small business’s move. Yes, the new site has pre-existing parking and yes the lot could have better use of space, but no where do you mention that the owner is moving there specifically because of the parking or that the owner thinks the parking is a requirement for their business.

    It seems like the owners have a successful business and needed more space and the best, most convenient space available just happens to come with parking. I doubt the business has the funds for a complete redevelopment of the site to remove all the parking.

    Why not be happy that a local business is expanding across the street into a vacant building instead of complaining that its not removing parking that it didn’t even build. And what would be the preferred alternative? No business move into the KFC location and let it sit empty until the entire site is redeveloped or the restaurant stays in its cramped quarters until it finds a larger space in the same neighborhood that doesn’t come with parking…

  • Luis S

    I’m sorry about your experience but I don’t think that incidents like the one you describe are only related to the neighborhood. As a bicycle commuter I have had issues pretty much all over the city. Many people see bike lanes as temporary parking.

  • Good catch, thanks. Article is edited accordingly.

  • Annie F. Adams

    Luis S I agree. I was commuting daily to DT. I think it was that it happened close to my home. When it happened my neighbors/friends were 10+ adult cyclists, 5 cars, 5 households (8 owned shared property). All but 1 has sold or still rents & have moved to different places.

    They as well didn’t understand why that 1 incident was the one that caused me to say, I am “outta here!” I am going to pay higher rent for a smaller apartment & move back closer to the Lakefront Recreational Trail.

    Could be because I am a lady (my husband refuses to bike commute in this city). But it also is why I have always found the hate-click-bating-anti-bike Trib employee to be so un-helpful, dangerous to the public & encouraging of reckless/lawless car behavior toward cyclists.

    That said. I am super excited that Ald. Mell is making it happen in Albany Park. It is a very cool neighborhood!

  • duppie

    I’d agree. That is good news, both about the P-street designation as well as the empty KFC lot being occupied again.

    Complaining about the parking takes away from the otherwise positive article. Especially since the article does not give any realistic alternative use for the site.

  • JacobEPeters

    Um, since he is opening a store in the old location, it would be safe to assume that this parking will be used by more than just one business, and should lead to better utilization of parking spaces than in a truly “car oriented development”.

    The steps going forward should be to see how many of the spots in the lot are filled on average, and approach Mr. Naghavi about repurposing some of them into cafe seating or additional development should the parking spaces prove to be underutilized.

    Noon-o-Kabab is a great restaurant, but it is most commonly a destination for large group meals. This makes some of those parking spaces necessary, and likely to be used by cars carrying more than 2 or 3 people at a time.

  • david vartanoff

    Leaving the parking issue aside, the upgrade from chain junk food to a one off ethic restaurant is a plus in its own right.

  • Noon-O-Kabab is a terrific restuarant, and Haghavi seemed like a nice man when I spoke to him on the phone. He’s slightly reducing the number of parking spaces, and he’s closing a curb cut, which are good things. It’s entirely possible that it’s not within his budget to build a larger structure that would occupy more of the lot.

    That said, it would be great to see him do more creative things with the property than using remaining 30+ parking spots to accommodate more people driving into Albany Park. If he can’t afford to do a larger building expansion, perhaps some of the parking lot could be used for outdoor seating and/or additional green space.

    For example, Lou Malnati’s pizzeria bought the existing, car-centric Golden Angel diner property in North Center. Plans may have changed somewhat since I wrote about it last year, but Malnati’s originally proposed reducing the number of cars spaces from 13 to 7. Plans included outdoor seating, a garden, and a public plaza:
    http://chi.streetsblog.org/2013/09/18/swap-parking-for-green-space-at-the-golden-angel-site-the-horror/

    Naghavi should consider following Malnati’s example by converting some of the excess asphalt to uses that would benefit, rather than negatively impact, the community. Adding additional seating and/or making the restaurant site more attractive, rather than just warehousing cars, would likely help his bottom line.

  • Annie F. Adams

    Luis S–sorry I am often unclear & rambling. The driver of the car threw a bottle out the passenger window–past his passenger–at me as he passed me 5 min. later. No need to respond. Just wanted to clarify.

  • tg113

    ha ha jefferson park unanimously voted against it. now albany park voted all for it and made the idea look cool. we’re are adamantly against it said a hole jefferson park residents. no way we will allow such a thing in our neighborhood said jefferson park residents. now there going to say, well it wasn’t a good fit for our neighborhood.

  • Resident

    How about focusing on crime in the area? More foot traffic equals more risk to law abbiding citizens. How about more police foot traffic?

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