Swap Parking for Green Space at the Golden Angel Site? The Horror!

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Rendering of the garden that would replace several parking spaces. The proposed sidewalk is visible to the right.

The impending departure of the Golden Angel pancake house, 4344 North Lincoln in North Center, located kitty-corner from the Sulzer Library, where I often type up Streetsblog posts, is bitter-sweet for me. I’ll miss conversing with the chatty waitresses at this old-school greasy spoon while I tuck into a plate of their tasty chilaquiles.

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The Golden Angel's Las Vegas-style sign. Photo: John Greenfield

On the other hand, I’m stoked to hear that the Golden Angel’s eyesore of a parking lot is slated to be partly replaced with a much more productive, attractive and environmentally friendly use. As DNAInfo’s Patty Wetli reported, Lou Malnati’s pizzeria plans to buy the building, as well as a couple of adjacent homes, which would be demolished to make room for an expansion of the restaurant.

As part of the project, Malnati’s wants to reduce the number of parking spaces from 13 to seven to make room for a garden area at the north end of the triangular property. This would give patrons a place to wait for tables during nice weather, and the restaurant may have an Italian ice cart during the summer. The greenery would replace asphalt with permeable surfaces, which would help alleviate the neighborhood’s flooding problems. The pizzeria is also planning to add seating for 50 to 60 people on the sidewalk on the west side of the building, next to Leavitt Street.

At a recent community meeting, homeowners on Leavitt raised a stink about the possibility of noise from the sidewalk café. That seems a little silly, since there are already four outdoor seating areas in the immediate vicinity of the diner. On the other hand, perhaps moving the café to the east side of the property, on the Lincoln business strip, would appease the neighbors.

Predictably, these folks were also upset about the parking conversion, arguing that more employees and restaurant patrons will park on side streets. “There goes all the parking on Leavitt,” one resident groused. 47th Ward rep Ernie Constantino invited them to apply for permit parking on their street.

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The Golden Angel with a nearly empty parking lot at lunchtime. Photo: John Greenfield

But it seems like fears about a parking apocalypse are overblown in this very pedestrian-, bike- and transit-friendly location. The Golden Angel is located next to a major bike route, and Montrose Avenue bus stops. It’s also a short walk from the Western, Damen and Montrose Brown Line stops, and there’s a Divvy bike-share station across the street at the library. When I dropped by at lunchtime today, the parking lot was nearly empty.

I was cheered to see that the majority of commenters on the DNA article were in favor of the parking lot makeover and sidewalk café, and they argued that the NIMBYs are off base. “These people are crazy,” commented Shaun Jacobsen, author of the transportation blog Transitized. “They live at the intersection of two very busy streets with truck traffic and they’re concerned about noise from a restaurant? Please move to Naperville so those of us who love the liveliness of a city and its outdoor spaces can enjoy it.”

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