Neighbors of a Trader Joe’s grocery store, proposed by Smithfield Properties for the corner of Division Street and Honore Street in Wicker Park, fear that the development will harm the work they’ve put into crafting a pedestrian-friendly street lined with locally-owned businesses. The store is welcome in Wicker Park, but neighbors say that the proposed location at Division Street and Honore Street isn’t the right one.
Scott Rappe, partner at Kuklinski + Rappe Architects, spoke up at the first public meeting earlier this month at LaSalle II Magnet School, which stands across Honore from the site. Rappe has worked with the East Village Association for 17 years, and I spoke with him to learn why this might not be the right place for Trader Joe’s.
Rappe recounted how EVA, now 33 years old, was launched to address the area’s caved-in sidewalks. Rappe said, “Most of the sidewalks had vaults [underneath], and they had collapsed in many cases — holes that you could fall into,” referring to an EVA newsletter with photos from the era [PDF]. He listed several policy changes that have enhanced and maintained Division Street’s pedestrian-friendliness:
- Changing Commercial zoning to Business zoning. “Both allow mixed use, but [commercial] is much more conducive to automobile-oriented businesses.”
- Liquor moratoria. Rappe said part of this is an economic decision to keep rents reasonable so retail stores stay. “Liquor sales are so lucrative,” he said, and as a result, bars and liquor stores can drive up rents. “When this happens, the only companies that can afford the rents are national chains.”
- Pedestrian Street designation. This zoning overlay keeps a neighborhood’s sidewalks safe by disallowing drive-throughs, repair shops, and new driveways, and requiring human-scaled storefronts along the sidewalk.
- The 1611 W. Division apartment building. This tower replaced a former Pizza Hut restaurant surrounded by car parking with 99 rental units and no tenant parking. Rappe said EVA asked Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno to extend the Pedestrian Street designation to Ashland and supported Moreno’s TOD ordinance (since augmented) that allowed the building to forego tenant parking. “This was a very considered [change], to encourage density near transit in the neighborhood.”