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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.

The map shows in yellow where developers can get density bonuses. Developers can get parking reductions in all parcels.
The map shows in yellow where developers can get density bonuses. Developers can get parking reductions in all parcels.
The map shows in yellow where developers can get density bonuses. Developers can get parking reductions in all parcels.

A handful of developers have used the TOD ordinance to relieve their new buildings from Chicago's typical one-apartment, one-parking-space formula. Centrum Partners is building eight parking spaces for over 40 units next to the Paulina Brown Line station, and BlitzLake Capital Partners proposes 50 parking spaces for its 110 units near the Belmont Red Line station.

Near the Blue Line's Damen station, LG Development Group just announced a five-story building at 1647 N. Milwaukee Avenue, housing 36 apartments and 11 parking spaces. Since this reduction exceeds the TOD ordinance's automatic 50 percent reduction, the developer will have to go through an additional administrative adjustment process in addition to the zoning change that their building requires. MPC advocates making the TOD ordinance even more flexible, eliminating parking minimums altogether and thus removing such administrative adjustments.

Early results indicate that parking reductions in the new TOD rules are working as intended. Center for Neighborhood Technology president Scott Bernstein writes in a Next City op-ed that all 99 units at 1611 W. Division Street have been rented, even though the building has no residential parking spaces. Further, 32 of the new resident households sold their cars prior to moving in. The tower was built on the site of what was an auto-oriented Pizza Hut; since last year's TOD ordinance had not yet been enacted, Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno passed a narrower ordinance two years prior that applied specifically to that site.

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