Mega Mall Developer Adds Housing, Reduces Number of Car Parking Spots

Mega Mall - Logan's Crossing, north elevation
Motorists driving into and out of the parking garage would disturb people walking up and down the street. Rendering: Terraco/Antunovich Associates

The company that’s redeveloping the Discount Mega Mall site in Logan Square has released a reworked proposal that adds much needed housing and dials back the number of car parking spaces, which makes the project a better fit for the walkable, transit accessible neighborhood. Terraco Real Estate and 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack are hosting a public meeting on the development, dubbed Logan’s Crossing, at the Mega Mall on Thursday, May 7, at 6:30 p.m.

Terraco originally proposed a low-rise building for retail use, including a medium-sized grocery store and a two-story fitness center, zero residences, and 426 parking spaces at the site, which is located one long block southeast of the Logan Square Blue Line stop. The latest proposal adds several stories to the development to make room for 268 residences, and has 387 parking spaces – 39 fewer than before.

In general, the city’s zoning rules require a 1:1 ratio of car parking spaces to housing units for new buildings, but the 2013 transit-oriented development ordinance reduces this to a 1:2 ratio for developments within 600 feet of a rapid transit stop. However, Logan’s Crossing will be about 1,000 feet from the ‘L’ station, so it’s not eligible for the parking requirement reduction. This means there will need to be one parking space per unit, regardless of whether the occupants own a car.

Terraco’s first proposal provided more car parking than required, and the addition of 268 residences and the reduction in parking spots means the ratio of people to cars on the site would be much improved. However, 387 car spots may still be excessive for this location, in a walkable, bikeable area with the lowest car ownership along the Blue Line, the sixth-busiest Blue Line station, and good bus access.

The TOD ordinance has generally been working out well – it has spurred the development of nearly 20 multi-family buildings near CTA stations. However, the short distance threshold is problematic, since 600 feet is less than one standard city block. Most people are willing to walk several blocks to access rapid transit, and a couple of blocks to get to a bus stop.

The ordinance hasn’t been updated to reflect that reality. It doesn’t even offer a smaller reduction in the number of required spaces for developments located more than 600 feet from rapid transit. An exception to the 600-foot rule, however, is made for developments on Pedestrian Streets – these projects can be up to 1,200 feet from stations and still be eligible for the 1:2 ratio.

Even though Logan’s Crossing will be less than two standard city blocks from the Logan stop, and less than three blocks from the California station, and it will be located on the #56 Milwaukee bus route, the zoning code still requires plenty of car parking. Local developers have said they want the ability to only build the number of parking spaces they believe they can sell, and that much of the parking they’ve been required to build goes unused.

Terraco will need to obtain a zoning change to build the number of residences included in the current proposal. Due to its size, the project would also be designated as a planned development, which means the city would have more input on the final design.

Logan Crossing’s current design, by local architecture firm Antunovich Associates, features three places where people can drive into the building, including a large garage entrance on Milwaukee, in the middle of the block. The ensuing car traffic could endanger pedestrians on the sidewalk, and will interfere with bicyclists and bus riders in the road.

However, Logan’s Crossing is still only a proposal, and some aspects of its design, such as the driveway locations, aren’t set in stone. If we’re going to allow drivers to cross a sidewalk, a context-sensitive design is needed. Driveways require permits, and aldermen don’t have to approve them. For example, 33rd Ward Alderman Deb Mell blocked Walgreens from building a suburban-style store with two driveways, one of which would have crossed a busy sidewalk, across the street from the Kimball Brown Line stop.

No word on whether Terraco will ask the city to install a mid-block left-turn lane on Milwaukee to accommodate the driveway. Typically, when this is done in Chicago, the bike lanes disappear.

While both the necessary zoning change and planned development process for Logan’s Crossing can draw down the number of required car parking spaces to a more appropriate amount, the basic issue remains: Chicago’s zoning ordinance still generally requires way too much parking.

  • Katja

    Ugh, too many driveways. There’s already two entrances for the megamall, one on Sacramento and one on Milwaukee (on the north end). Why not just stick to those?

  • BlueFairlane

    Unrelated color commentary: The last time I was there five years or so ago, Antunovich was located in one of the only buildings in the city that still ran an elevator with an operator. That was one of the most rickety boxes I’ve ever ridden.

    Also, I invented my own mascot for the firm: Anne Tuna Fish.

  • tooter turtle

    Agree, Katja. And the traffic situation would not be as idyllic as depicted. There would be a line of cars on the street waiting to get into the garage…

  • Jim Angrabright

    With this many parking spaces an important question is how is the developer going to operate them. The least likely scenario is the parking is free for use by anyone; the tenants, shoppers of Logan Crossing and anyone visiting the neighborhood for whatever purpose and for however long they want. Second the developer could have gated, ticketed parking. Rental tenants could lease a space, users of the retail would have free parking after having their ticket stamped and everyone else would pay an hourly fee. In between is open parking with loosely enforced restrictions: signs saying parking is for people visiting Logan Crossing only but cars could be towed away if it’s obvious someone’s parked there to all day.

    How does each of these 3 possible scenarios relate to the neighborhood esp the local businesses? Is Logan Crossing retail going to be a closed loop with people coming to the neighborhood in cars, shopping exclusively at Logan Crossing and then leaving? How does this benefit the neighborhood and how will it effect local traffic?

  • Sticking with the two existing driveways wouldn’t make any sense when you’re trying to develop a brand-new building (it restricts the design). The MM proposal has one driveway on Milwaukee, and one alley entrance on Milwaukee. It also uses an alley entrance on Lyndale.

    Furthermore, when a new building is built, the driveway permits are “lost” and the developer has to obtain new ones. It doesn’t mean anything that there’s an existing physical structure of a driveway because without the permit they’ve no right to use that as a driveway.

  • I’m all for ‘transit oriented development’ if it also means better service on the Blue Line. I live a block from here and the blue line could in no way be considered a functional form of transportation if you’re trying to get anywhere on any sort of schedule. My job has been fairly understanding that I’m just not going to be able to predict what time I will arrive. The trains are completely full by the time we arrive to Clark and Lake and many people are left on the platform every single day. The neighborhood does have a high walk score for some reason, despite having no real grocery store and it looks like this isn’t going to include a grocery store either (Target is not a grocery store). The new proposal is also way way taller than anything else in the area and doesn’t really fit. Right now it looks like it’s going to just contribute to the massive dangerous traffic jam that is Milwaukee Ave.

  • Katja

    I had no idea about the permit thing. Good to know! Still hope they can keep the driveways in the design to a minimum.

  • norrin_raddical

    Hey now Blue, I work in that building! I would give anything to have the old cage elevator with the operator back. That elevator got taken out and new modern elevator was put in. Not nearly as fast or efficient…and most importantly friendly. The elevator operators were great guys.

  • ohsweetnothing

    Tony’s, Sunrise Fresh, Dill Pickle, the Jewell in Avondale, the market that was next to Cozy Corner but moved two blocks south.

    The neighborhood has grocery options, what we don’t have is the “right” grocery options in the eyes of some people. That’s not to say I wouldn’t like a grocery store there either, but I think it’s shouldn’t be as high of a priority that many seem to place it.

  • ohsweetnothing

    Well it’s in Waguespack’s Ward now, so I look forward to our townhouse development with adjoining retail and a 2:1 parking ratio.

  • JKM13

    I ride the blue line almost every day in winter months, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen people not get on at California because of crowded trains. If you’re really consistently late because of CTA, get out of the house earlier.

  • cjlane

    “Mega Mall Developer Adds Housing, Reduces Number of Car Parking Spots”

    …makes design even LESS visually appealing.

  • Jim Mitchell

    Not to mention the Aldi currently at Wrightwood and Pulaski and the Cermak Fresh Market that is planned as part of the redevelopment of the former Olsen Rug factory/Marshall Fields warehouse at Diversey and Pulaski: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/ct-fields-warehouse-0320-biz-20150319-story.html

  • Kurtis Pozsgay

    This project would seem to be a great rallying cry to amend the TOD ordinance. There should at least be a step down for buildings: i.e within 1,000 – 1:1.75 ratio, within 1,250 – 1:1.5 ratio, etc. And they need to include prominent bus lines when calculating those ratios. I understand not all bus lines would work, but Milwaukee would seem like one that fits the bill. Just seems short sighted to only use the 600-foot rule in the ordinance.

  • LoganChicago

    Good enough for me.

  • Logan Square Dad

    So, my question is this.

    Is there anyway a surplus of parking spots at the Mega Mall can be used to return the Boulevards back to no parking zones? And, just as importantly, can it be used to force the Church Parkers to obey the law and not park on the Boulevards?

    As much as I’m not a fan of this uninspired, Suburban-style mini-mall design, I’d endorse it if it got the parked cards off of the Boulevards.

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