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Posts tagged "Pedestrian Street zoning"

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Once Again, the Construction of a Mariano’s Creates a Hazard for Pedestrians

People walking in the road on Broadway

People walking the street on Broadway past a sidewalk closed for the construction for the parking-rich Mariano’s development. Photo: J. Patrick Lynch

Broadway is a city-designated Pedestrian Street between Diversey and Cornelia in Lakeview. But during the construction of a new car-centric development, people on foot are encountering a decidedly pedestrian-unfriendly situation.

A massive new complex featuring a Mariano’s grocery store and an XSport Fitness gym, plus 279 car parking spaces, is currently being built at 3030 N. Broadway. For the past several weeks, the sidewalk on the west side of Broadway has been closed to accommodate the construction.

Streetsblog Chicago reader J. Patrick Lynch sent us photos of the situation, which is all-too-common in Chicago. Since the sidewalk closure signs are located mid-block, people who encounter them are supposed to backtrack half a block to the crosswalk in order to detour to the east sidewalk. Lynch tells us that many people simply opt to walk in the street.

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New TOD Ordinance Will Bring Parking-Lite Development to More of Chicago

New TOD zones

Grand Boulevard is one of many community areas that would see a significant increase in the area that can developed without parking minimums, and where developers could build denser buildings near CTA train stations. Image taken from the TOD map created by KIG Analytics.

Last Thursday, the Chicago City Council passed a transit-oriented development reform ordinance that dramatically more than doubles the distance around train stations where dense development can be built, and virtually eliminates the car parking minimums within these districts. The new legislation amends the city’s original TOD ordinance, which passed in 2013 and has been highly successful in spurring new building projects.

In general, new or rehabbed residential buildings in Chicago are required to provide a 1:1 ratio of parking spaces to residential units. Under the 2013 ordinance, residences within 600 feet of a Metra or ‘L’ stop (1,200 feet on designated Pedestrian Streets) were only required to provide a 1:2 parking ratio.

Under the new ordinance, land zoned for business and residential (B), commercial (C), downtown (D) or industrial (M) uses within 1,320 feet (quarter mile) of a station is freed from the parking minimums altogether. On a Pedestrian Street, a special zoning designation that preserves a street’s walkable character, the TOD district is expanded to 2,640 feet (half mile) from the station.

Residential developments that will include less than a 1:2 parking ratio, or no parking at all, must go through the city’s administrative adjustment process. The local alderman can also write a letter or testify before the Zoning Board of Appeals on the subject, and it’s uncommon for the board to go against aldermen’s wishes.

The Metropolitan Planning Council estimated that the new TOD ordinance increases by tenfold the land area where the usual parking minimum doesn’t apply. Off-street parking spaces cost – in structured parking – at least $20,000 each, so excess spots increase building costs, which drives up home sale prices and rents. In addition, building too many parking spots by transit stations increases the rate of car ownership and driving in what are often the most walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly parts of the city.

The new legislation also increases the density allowance for certain parcels within the expanded TOD districts if the developer provides on-site affordable housing. Affordable housing units are already required in several scenarios where developers gets a zoning change or subsidy, but they have the option of paying an “in lieu” fee to the city’s affordable housing fund. Under the TOD reform ordinance, buildings that provide the required affordable units on-site get the maximum density bonus.

One flaw of the new ordinance is that, since the density bonus only applies to parcels with floor area ratios of 3, aka “-3 zoning,” plenty of land near transit won’t be eligible for this bonus. For example, while the Near West Side has plenty of -3 zoning near transit, Albany Park, which has two Brown Line stations, has very little of this kind of zoning.

MPC had recommended that the reform ordinance be expanded to benefit zones of all dashes – the dash generally expresses the density of units allowed. That  would have shortened the timeline for many projects where it would have eliminated the step of getting zoning changed to -3.

Developers wanting to build higher-density projects will still have to go through the typical zoning change and planned development process, because the area of parcels already zoned -3 is quite limited. The area where density bonuses can be given expanded only because of the new, longer distances from train stations. MPC estimated that this area only doubled.

The community areas that would see the biggest increase in -3 areas, MPC calculated, are the Near West Side (accounting for 20 percent of the newly eligible area), Uptown, Edgewater, Grand Boulevard, Rogers Park, Lakeview, Woodlawn and the Near South Side.

Finally, in a boon to creating more walkable streets, the ordinance requires that the Zoning Administrator only grant density bonuses and eliminate the parking minimum if the project complies with Pedestrian Street design regulations, regardless if it’s on a P-Street, and includes “enhancements to the pedestrian environment.” The ordinance lists possible enhancements as “wider sidewalks, decorative pavement, trees, raised planters, outdoor seating, special lighting, bus shelters or other types of weather protection for pedestrians, [and] transit information kiosks.”

KIG, a commercial real estate firm, published a map (via Curbed Chicago) that provides a general idea of where the TOD ordinance applies. The map represents a broad overview of the zones where there’s no parking minimums, and where density bonuses can apply. However, it shouldn’t be used to determine the eligibility of any single parcel because it doesn’t show zoning districts or train station entrances.

Developers should look at MPC’s Grow Chicago map for a parcel-level view of eligible areas.

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P-Street Designation for 33rd Ward Business Strips Moves Forward at City Hall

Albany Park, Chicago

Lawrence Avenue in Albany Park. Photo by Aaron via Flickr

A few months ago, a proposed suburban-style Walgreens, across the street from the Kimball Brown Line station in Albany Park, inspired a campaign to ban car-centric development in the neighborhood’s vibrant retail districts. Now, an ordinance to officially classify stretches of Montrose, Lawrence, and Kedzie in the neighborhood as Pedestrians Streets, or P-Streets, is moving forward in City Council.

After residents objected to Walgreens’ plan to build the drugstore with a parking lot occupying the southwest corner of the Lawrence/Kimball intersection, 33rd Ward Alderman Deb Mell asked the company to go back to the drawing board to create a more walkable design. Walgreens still hasn’t provided an alternative plan. Meanwhile, the alderman asked the Chicago Department of Transportation to look at the possibility of creating P-street designations along several business corridors in the ward.

The designation is intended to prevent development that encourages driving and discourages walking, biking, and transit use. It forbids the creation of new driveways, and requires that the whole building façade 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.

On P-Streets, any off-street parking must be located behind the building and accessed from the alley. 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.

At a June 25 City Council meeting, Mell introduced an ordinance to create P-Streets on Montrose from California to Kimball, Lawrence from Sacramento to Central Park, and Kedzie from Montrose to Lawrence. The legislation will likely go before the city’s zoning committee in early September. If the committee approves it, the ordinance will go before the full City Council for a vote.

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Logan Square Transit-Oriented Development: Less Parking, More Walkability

The two proposed towers will be within 450 feet, as the crow flies, of the California Blue Line station. Image: AJ LaTrace/Curbed Chicago

The two proposed towers will be within 450 feet of the California Blue Line station. Image: AJ LaTrace/Curbed Chicago

A pioneering developer of car-free apartments is looking to continue building car-lite residences. Curbed Chicago reports that Rob Buono, who was behind constructing 1611 W Division in Wicker Park, is proposing two mid-rise residential towers in Logan Square along Milwaukee Avenue near the California Blue Line station. The two towers, one 14 stories and the other 10 stories, would have 231 units and 7,100 square feet of retail but only 72 car parking spaces.

The relatively low amount of car parking is possible because Buono can take advantage of the 2013 transit-oriented development ordinance, which cuts parking minimums in half for residential developments near train stations.

Chicago’s zoning code would normally require at least 239 car parking spaces for this development — eight for the retail space, and one for each household. That mandate would have harmed this thriving part of Logan Square by adding more automobile traffic, getting in the way of people, buses and bicycles.

Last year, when Adam Hebert was struggling against parking requirements so he could open a restaurant and bar, he told Streetsblog, “In the Logan Square community, everybody bikes everywhere. It doesn’t make sense to put in parking where people bike. I’d rather put in bike racks.”

The TOD ordinance allows Buono to completely get out of the mandate to build eight parking spaces for retail, but the requirement for 231 residential parking spaces can only be cut down to 116. To get down to the 72 surface parking spaces Buono is proposing, he will probably have to change the property’s zoning.

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New Grocery’s City-Mandated Car Parking, Not Buses, Will Congest Broadway

broadway mariano's and xsport reduced

The proposed development, viewed from the north. Image: Antunovich Associates

Some East Lakeview neighbors are unhappy with a proposed retail complex along Broadway, just north of Wellington, that would house a large Mariano’s supermarket on its lower floors and an Xsport Fitness on its upper floors. The five-story building will have retail space with a large driveway and loading area on the ground floor, the supermarket mostly on the second floor, two levels of parking, and the fitness center on the top floor.

Many of the neighbors’ criticisms center on the building’s bulk, and the number of parking spaces — both of which largely result from the city’s zoning ordinance, which requires plentiful parking even in car-light neighborhoods like East Lakeview. Over half of the building’s area will be devoted to storing and moving cars and trucks, but the 279 car parking spaces proposed are just five percent more than zoning requires for a commercial development of this size.

A traffic analysis [PDF], performed by local firm KLOA, predicts that many people would drive to the development (which seems natural if they know that they can easily park there), and that slightly longer delays at intersections would result. KLOA does note in its analysis that trips to the development will be lower than average, because people will combine trips – going to work out, and then going grocery shopping afterwards – and because many local residents will arrive on bike, foot, or by transit. Today, this stretch of Broadway sees fairly light car traffic: Even at rush hour yesterday, it was easy to cross the street mid-block.

Project architect Joe Antunovich says that the solution for increased traffic is not to reduce parking — but rather to stripe more space for cars on the street (squeezing out room that bikes currently use to maneuver), and to add a new stoplight just 210 feet away from an existing one at Wellington. Antunovich further said that the 36-Broadway bus route causes traffic congestion when people are trying to board. He placed more blame on the bus, which carries dozens of passengers, than the single-occupancy vehicles driving down Broadway — many of whom block traffic on Broadway by making left turns from the center lane.

Alderman Tom Tunney is going along with the proposal. Although he says that the city, as a whole, is moving away from auto-centric development, he says that bike lanes elsewhere are counter-balanced by adding car traffic in this part of Lakeview, a place where half of households don’t own a car.

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City Seeks Transit-Friendly Development Near Howard Station

Howard Street parcel

The site is less than 600 feet from the CTA Howard station.

The Chicago Department of Planning and Development is looking for the right developer for vacant city-owned property near the Howard CTA station. Last week, the city released a request for proposals for the 1.05 acre parcel at 7519-33 N Ashland Avenue, between Howard and Rogers Avenue, and asked specifically for transit-friendly and walkable development proposals. The site is zoned for up to 229,310 square feet of business and residential development, enough to fit about 200 apartments and a small supermarket-sized store.

DPD says they will grade the proposals on whether they have an “active street presence with engaging ground-level retail that enlivens pedestrian experience.” This is especially important along Howard Street, which has seen new businesses, a redesigned streetscape, and renovated train station in the past eight years.

DPD also says they want to see “creative proposals” that have “one or more uses that takes advantage of the proximity to the Howard” station. A proposal that includes apartments or condos at this site could take advantage of the Transit Oriented Development ordinance from 2013, which would allow the developer to build either more or smaller residential units. DPD also asks for “an appropriately designed parking component to serve on-site uses,” although again the TOD ordinance sets a different baseline: an automatic 50 percent cut in car parking requirements for residences and, 50-100 percent cut for commercial uses. Structured parking on a site this close to the ‘L’ would be very expensive to build, with a nearby garage costing $36,000 per parking space. Future residents at this site might opt out of paying that much for car parking, since residents who live near transit tend to spend less on transportation.

The proposed development would also need to comply with the city’s Sustainable Development Policy [PDF]. That policy requires buildings on city-owned land to meet environmental standards set by either LEED, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, or Chicago Green Homes [PDF]. All of those certifications reward developments that provide active transportation amenities, like indoor bike storage, and for choosing walkable, transit-accessible sites like this one.

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New Law Could Pre-Empt Parking Lots Along Albany Park’s Main Streets

A proposal to build a suburban-style Walgreens at the busy corner of Lawrence and Kimball avenues in Albany Park, across from the Brown Line’s terminus, has sparked a proposal to introduce Pedestrian Street designations to the lively, diverse neighborhood.

The most recent available rendering from Centrum Properties.

33rd Ward Alderman Deb Mell has expressed her disapproval of the design, requesting a more walkable store more in keeping with the neighborhood. Mell has stalled construction by asking CDOT not to issue permits for the parking lot’s new curb cuts, and has also requested that Walgreens and the developer meet with her and her staff to come to a better design for the neighborhood. So far, Walgreens has not agreed.

In the meantime, Alderman Mell’s office has asked CDOT to study and provide recommendations for a Pedestrian Street, or P-street, designation along several corridors in the ward. A P-street designation would not only prevent this particular development from building new driveways, but would also require all new buildings along these corridors to have pedestrian-friendly street frontages.

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MPC’s TOD Tool Advises Developers About Train Station Bonuses

This graphic outlines the parking reductions allowed for non-residential and residential uses in B, C, D, and M zoning districts. Image: MPC

Many developers haven’t yet investigated how last year’s transit oriented development ordinance, passed to encourage development near transit, can make their work easier and possibly more lucrative. Under the TOD ordinance, developers can build bonus density — more floors, taller buildings, smaller units – and fewer parking spaces on sites near Chicago Transit Authority and Metra train stations. To accelerate this transformation, the Metropolitan Planning Council has unveiled a new tool to spread awareness about the TOD ordinance’s possibilities.

To help people understand both the new building allowances and where they’re allowed, the Metropolitan Planning Council has created a set of graphics and a citywide map highlighting parcels where the rules apply: to buildings within 600 feet of rail station entrances, or within 1,200 feet if located along designated Pedestrian Streets. The map also shows the B-3, C-3 and D-3 zoning designations that allow density bonuses.

MPC vice president Peter Skosey said that “we heard through the grapevine that developers were not aware of, and didn’t know the details of, the new TOD ordinance.” Skosey said that MPC will publicize the website among local developers.

These tools are one component of MPC’s “Equitable TOD” campaign to “get more TOD built,” Skosey said. “Land is probably Chicago’s most valuable asset,” and through TOD the city can “use it most efficiently.” By making development around transit stations easier, TOD can encourage more people and activity to settle along existing transit lines, thus increasing transit ridership and “sharing the tax burden” more broadly. Read more…

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Wicker Park Trader Joe’s: Good Company, Wrong Location

Wicker Park Trader Joe's development meeting

Trader Joe’s real estate vice president Brandt Sharrock discussed store operations at LaSalle II Magnet School.

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.”

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When Removing a Pedestrian Street Designation, Proceed With Caution

4700N block of Broadway

The Pedestrian Street designation at Broadway and Lawrence would be lifted so a billboard can be placed to the left of the 'Borders' sign. Photos: Shaun Jacobsen

Shaun Jacobsen is the author of Transitized

Last June, 46th ward Alderman James Cappleman proposed removing the Pedestrian Street designation on six blocks radiating from the intersection of Broadway and Lawrence in Uptown. The proposed removal raised some eyebrows. Was a developer planning to build something that wouldn’t fit the criteria of a P-Street, like a parking garage or drive-thru? Only one other alderman has removed a P-Street designation in his ward: In 2012, 35th ward Alderman Rey Colón removed the designation (and later reinstated it) to allow a McDonald’s to replace its drive-thru, which P-Street code prohibits.

I spoke with Cappleman regarding the removal, which was approved by City Council in September. He informed me that there is no plan to build anything that would conflict with the P-Street designation; rather, the landlord of the building where Borders was formerly located (4718 N Broadway) is seeking to install a static, non-LED billboard on the north-facing side of the building in order to lower rent and attract tenants. In this case, the P-Street designation established seven years ago was too restrictive. The alderman said he wanted to work around the restrictions without removing the entire designation, but it was not possible.

The alderman also stated that he doesn’t feel that Broadway/Lawrence is the best location for the P-Street designation, which was put in effect in 2006. He told me that the purpose of a P-Street is to preserve, and not necessarily promote, people-oriented development. As such, P-Street intersections such as Broadway/Diversey/Clark with existing people-oriented developments may be more conducive to the goals of the P-street, while wide streets such as Broadway/Lawrence with undeveloped storefronts may not be. A future road diet project will narrow Broadway from two lanes to one lane in each direction, making the street friendlier to people walking and riding bikes, and perhaps creating a more conducive environment for people-oriented development.

Using a P-Street designation as a restorative tool may be exactly what’s needed in places with undeveloped lots or existing curb cuts. A P-Street was placed on Milwaukee Avenue between Rockwell and Sacramento this year, covering three empty lots, preventing them from becoming more strip malls. It will also make it easier for new businesses to open and satisfy parking requirements — by not requiring any parking at all.

The blocks adjacent to P-Streets such as Broadway/Diversey/Clark have a high and diverse concentration of stores and restaurants, entrance doors and windows facing the sidewalk, few curb cuts and no surface parking lots — all criteria of the pedestrian street ordinance. While Broadway and Lawrence has some restaurants and storefronts, there are many vacant storefronts, surface parking lots, and curb cuts. Despite his doubts about the location of the P-Street, Cappleman stated his intent to reinstate the P-Street designation at the same location after the billboard is installed.

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