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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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