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.

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.

  • what_eva

    Looks like they could work on the accuracy of their map. Color me unimpressed that the parcels *on the expressway* can use lower parking limits…

    Same issue on the Ike at Racine, a couple of big parcels marked purple that are on the expressway.

  • Alex Oconnor

    Good idea; need to work out a few kinks.

    Should send this to both Chody and to Harry Osterman re that parcel Chody is imminently planning on ruining with their typical strip-style blight. All near 24/7 transit to boot.

    Maddening. And edgewater and broadway have made some good strides…..Chody comes along and tries to ruin it.

  • Kyle Smith

    That would be a wonderful idea. No street could be transformed by TOD and urbanism quite like Broadway. So many underutilized parcels right next to one of the nation’s only 24 hour rapid transit lines.

  • riddle

    They’re purple because they’re near transit stops, not because they’re near the expressway.

  • what_eva

    Not *near* the expressway*. *On* the expressway. Look at the screenshot Steven has above and notice the purple parcels at the southwest corner. They’re on the Kennedy (and this is not at Hubbard’s cave where the expressway is decked over). Obvious errors like that make me question the accuracy of the map as a whole, it’s something MPC should get corrected.

  • To be clear, the parcels that are highlighted on the map are all parcels that fit within the guidelines of the TOD ordinance. In other words, they are within the
    600′ or 1200′ buffer from transit stations and they fit certain zoning constraints today, as shown on our page. This applies to parcels that currently are vacant, parcels with buildings, and even parcels with
    transportation infrastructure on them.

    As a result, parcels along the highway are included. These remain official parcels under city guidelines, despite the construction of the highway there. This may seem nonsensical, as those parcels are unlikely to be developed, but to fall on the safe side, we included all parcels that fit within those rules. It is up to the developer, the community, or the current property owner to determine whether they wish to build there under the TOD Ordinance provisions. And, indeed, it is worth remembering that there are many cases in which new construction has occurred above transportation facilities.

    Yonah Freemark

  • what_eva

    Fair enough, I should have guessed it was “upstream”. Anyone I’ve talked to that deals with GIS data says that it’s usually a mess.

    So, even though the Kennedy and Ike have been around for over 50 years, the city maintains the existence of the previous parcels instead of converting them to roads.

  • FG

    Maybe 6 or so years ago (maybe more, actually) Edgewaterians near B’Way fought and got Mary Ann Smith to downzone broadway so it wouldn’t end up with six-story buildings lining it (like Paris) because they didn’t want “a canyon”…..

  • Alex Oconnor

    yeah I am aware as I live in the area. Well that can always be changed via effective argumentation among other strategies.

    Nonetheless I believe the current parcel is zoned b1-2 if I am not mistaken which specifically allows residential above business.

    The max height is dependent on the frontage this is a big parcel so off the top of my head they could probably build to perhaps approx 40 feet…enough for 4 stories…as of right under current zoning.

    This does not apply any TOD bonuses if they are even applicable I am not sure.

    While that would not be ideal it would be eminently more appropriate for the site and better for the neighborhood than the typical Chody strip-blight.

  • HJ

    Great work Yonah, thanks for the handy Map.

  • what_eva

    The streets themselves aren’t treated as parcels, so why should the expressway be treated that way?

    If the capping goes through, the city isn’t going to use decades-old parcel information, they’ll create new ones. (and odds are, not remove the old from GIS and make it a total clusterf

  • I think it’s because the streets pre-date the parcel dataset but the expressways don’t.


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