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Proposed River West Towers Would Be Better With Even Less Parking

1001 W. Chicago Ave.
Proposed development at 1001 W. Chicago Ave. Rendering by FitzGerald Associates.

Security Properties from Seattle recently received Plan Commission approval to build 14- and 15-story buildings on the site of the Gonnella bakery at 1001 W. Chicago Avenue, near the busy intersection with Milwaukee and Ogden avenues and the Blue Line's Chicago stop. 363 apartments and 35,000 square feet of retail would fill the two towers, helping to meet the burgeoning demand to live near transit and downtown and potentially bringing a grocery store to the neighborhood. The alley between the towers would become a shared space plaza, fronted by a bike repair room for residents. Less fortunately, though, the buildings will also include 318 car parking spaces.

The city's transit oriented development (TOD) ordinance allows developers to build 50 percent fewer car parking spaces than normally required for buildings whose main entrances are within 600 feet of a train station. The proposed zoning for this development would require only 182 car parking spaces for the residences and none for the retail space -- but instead of a 50 percent reduction, Security has only requested 12 percent fewer spaces than the usual requirement.

This many new parking spaces would add even more cars to the six-way junction out front. The long queues of cars here slow buses along the Chicago Transit Authority's 56-Milwaukee and 66-Chicago bus routes, and also make it difficult for bicyclists to navigate the hazardous intersection.

50 people in a 66-Chicago bus waits amidst a long queue of single-occupant vehicles on Chicago Ave
CTA expanded capacity on the 66-Chicago route last year by adding articulated buses, which still have to crawl past cars to get through the Chicago/Ogden/Milwaukee intersection.

Strangely, Security will build fewer parking spaces per residence at its similarly-featured new developments in Seattle and Portland, even though those buildings are in decidedly less transit-friendly settings than River West.

Closer to home, developer BlitzLake Capital said that fewer than one parking space per two apartments was a good "market" level at a mid-rise apartment building and grocery that they proposed for Lakeview, after the community and alderman had convinced them to cut the amount of parking by two-thirds. Other developers in Chicago have expressed their desire to bypass parking minimums, or to eliminate them altogether. 

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