Last week, the Metropolitan Planning Council launched the “Grow Chicago” campaign to promoted transit-oriented development. The city’s current TOD ordinance, passed in 2013, reduces the minimum parking requirement and allows additional density for new and renovated buildings located within 600 feet of a rapid transit stop, 1,200 on a designated Pedestrian Street. Among other recommendations, the Grow Chicago report calls for revising the ordinance to include all buildings within 1,200 feet of a station, dropping the parking minimums altogether within these zones, and streamlining the approval process for TOD projects.
Today, Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a new TOD reform ordinance that would essentially grant all of these wishes by expanding the TOD zones and abolishing the parking minimums. The new law would also create new incentives for including on-site affordable housing in TOD projects. The ordinance will be introduced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, and the council will likely vote on the legislation in September, the two-year anniversary of the original law.
“From day one of my Administration, we have invested in our public transportation system to create jobs and revitalize commercial corridors across Chicago,” said Emanuel in a statement. “This ordinance will build on those investments, spurring economic development in our neighborhoods, which will benefit residents and small business owners alike.”
Although the new ordinance is closely aligned with MPC’s goals, and the nonprofit was given a sneak peek at the bill in order to provide an initial analysis of the new law, the group wasn’t directly involved in drafting the legislation, according to MPC spokeswoman Mandy Burrell Booth. “We’ve been having conversations with the city over the past several months, and this came out of those talks,” she said.
The 2013 ordinance has facilitated eight projects worth more than $132 million, creating almost 1,000 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs, according to the mayor’s office. “Groups like MPC and developers have seen how successful the 2013 ordinance has been in spurring development near transit, so this was a natural next step to capitalize on that success,” Burrell Booth said.
The new law would more than double the reach of the 2013 ordinance. Currently, new residential buildings within 600 feet of a Metra or ‘L’ stop (1,200 feet on designated Pedestrian Streets) are required to provide at least a 1:2 ratio of parking spots to units, instead of the usual 1:1 ratio. The parking requirement for commercial uses, or the commercial portion of a mixed-use development, is waived.
Under the reform ordinance, land zoned for business (B), commercial (C), downtown (D) or industrial (M) uses within 1,320 feet of a station would be freed from the minimum parking requirements altogether, including for residential uses. On Pedestrian Streets, the zone would be expanded to 2,640 feet.
Note that the elimination of parking minimums does not mean that all TOD developments would have zero parking spaces. Rather, it leaves the decision about how many spots should be provided up to the developer and the community, instead of having the zoning ordinance dictate that number. Since off-street parking spots cost at least $20,000 each, dropping the requirement for unneeded spaces will help reduce housing costs.
The legislation would also increase the density allowance for parcels within these new TOD districts that are zoned B, C, or D, with a floor area ratio of 3 (roughly equivalent to three stories), if the developer provides on-site affordable housing. Buildings in which 2.5 percent of the housing units are affordable would receive an upzone to a FAR of 3.5. Those with five percent affordable units would qualify for a FAR of 3.75, and those with 10 percent affordable units would be eligible for a FAR of 4. This would help make it easier for working people to access jobs via transit. Read more…