Like TOD Ordinance, Less Restrictive Zoning Can Help Lakeview Businesses

Brown Line stations with decreasing housing units
The number of housing units near the Paulina and Southport Brown Line stations has decreased from 2000 to 2011. Image: CNT, SSA 27

The Lakeview Chamber of Commerce is concerned that restrictive zoning, car parking requirements, and changing household types may hinder growth in the high-demand neighborhood and negatively affect local businesses. The chamber, along with Special Service Area #27 (map), published a report this week [PDF] that shows that not only is Lakeview’s housing supply failing to keep up with population growth, it’s actually decreasing.

The North Side neighborhood is attractive because there are diverse amenities within walking distance and it’s possible to meet all your needs without leaving the neighborhood, according to SSA director Lee Crandell. The eight CTA ‘L’ stations and multiple east-west bus routes are a major asset. “We’re highly dependent on transit and it’s one of our greatest strengths,” Crandell said.

The number of households in Lakeview decreased by one percent between 2000 to 2011, but the population increased 11 percent, with most of the growth attributed to an increase in families with children. Having more families in Lakeview is a good thing, Crandell said. “It means we’re the kind of neighborhood where people want to have and raise kids.”

However, as a result of the increase in families, and the resulting conversion multi-unit buildings to single-family homes, the neighborhood is losing housing that’s suitable for single people, couples, and renters. “We’re trading one type of population for another instead of accommodating all,” Crandell said.

The SSA is worried that the change in household types in Lakeview, from renters to owners, and singles and couples to families, means there could be reduced consumer spending at local businesses. “That shift has a big impact on how much extra money people have to spend in the neighborhood,” Crandell said. “People with disposable income have been significant to businesses [here].”

“We have heard anecdotally from some businesses, particularly hospitality – bars and restaurants – that they’ve noticed a shift in demographics in the neighborhood,” Crandell added. “Their target base isn’t as present in the neighborhood as it used to be.”

Southport Grocery & Café owner Lisa Santos said she’s noticed the age range of her customers has narrowed. She said the change in housing stock has definitely moved more to single-family homes. She pointed out that the way parcels near train stations are being developed is a missed opportunity to develop housing for people like her employees, who are all in the twenties and early thirties, and don’t own cars.

The chamber’s service area has seen a decrease in units, Crandell said. The new report, based data from the U.S. Census compiled by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, showed that the number of housing units within a half mile of the Brown Line’s Southport and Paulina stations has decreased by two and four percent, respectively, between 2000 to 2011.

Even with an increased population, consumer spending is best measured by looking at changes in household type rather than population changes, explained Kyle Smith, an economic development planner at CNT. “Most consumers make their retail purchases on expensive furniture and household goods in their twenties and early thirties, and the current retail environment in Lakeview is that it has a pretty thriving bar and restaurant environment.” The nightlife scene is supported by a large population of people with disposable income, which is declining as singles and couple are replaced by families.

Yet Lakeview’s housing is not accommodating the shift toward families. There are many parcels that are zoned for fewer units or less retail space than currently exists on site because of widespread and systematic downzoning. A developer or landlord who wants to build something different than current zoning allows has to go through an arduous re-zoning process.

Red areas on the Simplified Chicago Zoning Map show that despite mixed-use buildings with multiple housing units on Lincoln Avenue in Lakeview (near the Paulina station), the only thing that could be built now are single-family homes.
Red areas on the Simplified Chicago Zoning Map show that despite mixed-use buildings with multiple housing units on Lincoln Avenue in Lakeview (near the Paulina station), the only thing that could be built now are single-family homes.

Lakeview is also experiencing many teardowns (replacing existing buildings, often with larger ones) and de-conversions (reducing the number of units in an existing building). “If our zoning doesn’t provide opportunity for growth, I think that’s problematic,” Crandell said.

Renters and owners, and singles, couples, and families also have different transportation needs. The report noted that car ownership in all households within a half mile of Lakeview’s CTA stations has dropped by six percent since 2000, and the share of people driving to work has dropped by seven percent. Car ownership by renters dropped a full 16 percent during this time — 43 percent of all rental households are now car-free.

Santos said the TOD ordinance “is a good change. Looking at the age group of who would be renting and buying there, and how they get around, it makes complete sense.”

Even with these commuting figures, Smith said focusing on the journey to work belies the full picture of transportation use in the neighborhood. “Four out of the five trips that a household takes each day are non-work trips,” said.

Smith said that the city’s transit-oriented development ordinance, enacted in September 2013, is making it easier to develop in commercial and retail corridors. Before the law passed, small parcels of land sometimes went undeveloped because it wasn’t feasible to include the required number of car parking spaces, Smith said.

Two developments in Lakeview near CTA stations are taking advantage of the TOD ordinance and building less parking and more units than would previously have been allowed: 3400 N. Lincoln Ave. in the 47th Ward, and 3200 N. Clark St. in the 44th Ward. A third development, at 3401 N. Southport Ave., is still in the community engagement phase.

The proposed mixed-use residential building at 3400 N Lincoln Avenue would have 31 to 48 units and nine car parking spaces. Rendering: Centrum Partners
The proposed mixed-use residential building at 3400 N Lincoln Avenue would have 31 to 48 units and nine car parking spaces. Rendering: Centrum Partners

A diverse business community depends on having a diverse population. Certain businesses cater to certain demographics, so residents who want to see a healthy retail mix should be advocating for all kinds of housing types in the neighborhood. Crandell said that aldermen Pawar (47) and Tunney (44) understand the benefits of the TOD ordinance and that some community groups are coming around to the idea.

Logan Square is also seeing its housing and population change. Near the Blue Line’s California stop, one developer is building 120 units and another has proposed 213 units, with both developments containing various numbers of bedrooms. In some ways, Logan Square has the opposite issue of Lakeview. While more families are settling in Lakeview, more single people and couples are moving to Logan.

The population and household size near the California station has decreased even as the number of housing units has increased. A combination of factors has cause this: There are more single people living here; people are having smaller families; and people are living in homes with more bedrooms than people.

The issue of neighborhoods where the household types and the housing mix don’t match up should be viewed from a citywide perspective, Crandell said. Chicago lost over 200,000 people between 2000 and 2010. Crandell believes we should be encouraging growth in high-demand neighborhoods instead of stifling it through restrictive zoning practices. “Lakeview could be be making a bigger contribution to growing Chicago’s economy more than we are.”

Updated April 17 to add a zoning map of the Paulina station area. 

  • jeff wegerson

    We downzoned the west side of Broadway between the Granville stop and the Thorndale Stop. Guilty as charged. I turned my self in with this article “Confessions of a NIMBY.”

  • That’s so interesting, Jeff. You fought for restrictive zoning and then later regretted it. I am trying to set the stage so that we don’t have to be NIMBYs or YIMBYs, but we can be “people for responsible development”.

  • Dan

    I live near there. Walking Lincoln from Whole Foods (School & Lincoln) to Trader Joe’s (Grace and Lincoln) is .75 miles. You pass 2 brown line stops and are never more than 0.25 miles (5 min walk) from one. The area is ridiculously blighted relative to the neighborhood. Practically every retail storefront is closed up. I don’t know if owners raised rents in advance of new development or what’s going on there. Compared to the sizzling Southport Corridor one stop over it doesn’t make any sense. Granted this is where the Brown line snuggles up to the metra and forms a wall going north that divides West Lakeview in half, but still… tree lined streets, million dollar homes, great schools, and great access to transit. Poised for development. Hopefully they add some more 6/7 story buildings right up next to the L.

    The new whole foods at Belmont and Ashland was supposed to have apartments on top back when it was still going to be a target. Not anymore, opportunity missed. A block closer at Ashland and School on the NE corner there’s a brand new, equally offensive “suburban style” strip mall development going in right now. Apparently the anchor tenant is an “Urgent Care center”. No residential. Opportunity missed again. That bumps up next to a Chase bank with a 4 lane wide drive thru and massive surface parking lot… c’mon people! All of this is also within the Phase 2 of the potential Ashland BRT plan.

  • Cameron Puetz

    That little blighted strip is very close a couple booming strips. Southport as you mentioned but also Roscoe. There is a lot of retail, for a not particularly dense area. Also for some reason Lincoln as a street seems to struggle. Further south around DePaul, Lincoln also lags the other commercial streets.

  • Jared Kachelmeyer

    No one wants to locate in a blighted area without much going on.

  • I bike through the Roscoe retail district each week between my house in Avondale to places in Lakeview/Boystown/Lakefront Trail. I’m always surprised that it has such a bustling retail scene for a low-density area. Many of the shops, though, have multiple units above them.

    There’s only one or two off-street parking lots. The rest is metered parking. It seems there are very few vacancies.

    Two blocks from the east edge of the district (Damen) is a 200+ unit condo building between Wolcott and Ravenswood. That probably helps!

  • I predict that most people attending the strip malls have driven from outside the neighborhood. And they won’t be driving to patronize the street shopping areas (Roscoe, Southport, Lincoln, Belmont) – thus the need for diverse housing options on those strips and at the train stations.

  • duppie

    We own a single familyhome in Edgewater Glen, and I do recognize that struggle. My neighbors are calling for permit parking, so that they can park their SUV in front of their house, while most of them have 2-car garages that are filled with junk.
    The building at the end of our street on Clark is for sale, and most neighbors worry that a developer will come in and add a few stories, and are afraid that it will take away from their quality of life and their property value. I understand their desire to prevent that from happening, and I do recognize that we live in a unique part of town that is worth preserving, but at the same time we need density, we need more residents, and we need commercial opportunity and the tax revenue that such a building would bring. I am struggling with that. And yes, peer pressure plays a role.

  • Every time I hear people in my area speaking out against new apartment buildings, I hear a subtextual equation that goes:

    Renters (especially “affordable” units) == grinding poverty == drug dealers == crime == I will be murdered in my bed. And then they fight back against “more renters” as if the people on the pro- side were actively advocating “I will be murdered in my bed.”

    There’s often also a strong implication that every one of these renters will be nonwhite or recent immigrants, with all the distasteful “Not Our Kind, Dear” “changing the character of the neighborhood” “different values” dogwhistles that involves.

    In my experience renters are most often officeworkers, sometimes with a very good income. Yeah, they don’t spend hours every weekend cleaning up the sidewalk in front of their place — the management company ought to be doing that. Yes, they have friends and throw parties — so do some of the homeowners on my block.

    The defensive, reflexive xenophobia puzzles and bothers me.

  • Sadly, downzoning is incredibly popular with local homeowners. In Jefferson Park, where I live, there is a strong current of thought on the local neighborhood association that downzoning should be done wherever possible. One of the reasons I joined my neighborhood association was to fight against a policy against “upzoning”, even around transit stations.

  • Sadly, this line of thought occurs throughout much of the north and northwest sides.

  • But there is the rub, Steven. What is “responsible”? I think our community here largely agrees but we are just preaching to the choir. I recently joined my neighborhood association in large part to advocate for more mixed use and higher density development, particularly around the train stations. I’ve been as welcome as gentrification has been in Pilsen. I think we need to focus our arguments around the economic development angle – how density increases “boots on the ground” and how congestion isn’t necessarily a bad thing (most business districts thrive on congestion; even Roscoe – although the congestion occurs on the sidewalks!).

  • Yeah, I’m in the periscope of Ward 35 that now sticks up into Albany Park, further fragmenting any ability the residents might have to implement an area-wide plan of any kind.

  • jeff wegerson

    My opposite of NIMBY is OIMFY, only in my front yard. People hate speed humps except the ones in front of their house protecting their kids.

  • Thomas

    I am curious about the parking rules. In general it seems a lot of people are concerned with the fact that their is no off street tenant parking, yet believe those tenants will still have cars and thus clog up already crowded street parking. Couldn’t one solution for these TOD buildings be to not issue tenants permits for that area? If these are truly “TOD” developments that should in theory appease both sides. As a resident near the proposed Southport development, that seems to be the argument made most around us.

  • jeff wegerson

    With the further gentrification of my neighborhood has come the loss of rentable apartments. Many of the most interesting people have often been the renters. The loss of “characters” walking the sidewalk has definitely meant a loss of character for the neighborhood itself.

  • Several developers have done this — the Pilsen development on Division is expressly excluded from access to local permit parking zones. But the nay-sayers say this will just lead to more illegal parking.

    They honestly cannot imagine anyone living without a car, so in their (probably subconscious) view anyone claiming people like that exist is either naive or actively lying. Of COURSE any renter would have at least one car per unit! And of COURSE they’d want to park it near where they live, so PARKINGPOCALYPSE.

    Personally I’m a little testy about the creeping growth of permit parking zone limitations, because my block is one of the very few NOT permit-limited within a mile-or-two radius of the Kimball brown line station, and I have actually witnessed people habitually driving to park in front of my house and walk to the El.

    This is because we don’t have a proper multilevel garage anywhere in the area for people who want to park-and-ride to use, so they’ll find some way to do it less legally. Yes, the curb in front of my house is free (though a fairly long walk from the station), and a garage would require payment, but I bet people would be willing to pay for the stability of knowing a space will always be available, shoveled, and not rained on.

  • jeff wegerson

    In the 60-70’s a wall of highrises (30 stories) arose along the lake in Edgewater. Rogers Park on the other hand did not have that phenomenon. The 80s and 90s saw Rogers Park descend into business blight. While some of that blight was to be seen in Edgewater as well it is likely that the density represented by the high rises tempered the effects of blight. One example is that while Rogers Park saw the loss of it’s chain supermarkets (Jewel and Dominicks) Edgewater did not.

  • In a different case study, the neighborhoods just south of Irving Park and just west of the Kennedy are almost universally permit parking, and have a lot of large houses with enormous lot sizes (and a sprinkling of apartment buildings).

    When I was dropping my kid off at the CPS daycare there, or otherwise trying to access the commercial street, often the (metered) spots on Irving Park were completely full, the very few metered spots just around the corner on side streets usually full but occasionally with one opening, and blocks and blocks further south were EMPTY.

    I get that residents want to be able to park in front of their houses for the all-night, but during the day, what’s the harm? Nope, there must be a scorched-earth NO CARS THAT DO NOT BELONG HERE policy, enforced by permit.

    Not Our Kind, Dear, again.

  • That zoning map tool is awesome.

    And also, what the HECK for large stretches of arterial streets (like Elston in its nearly-six-lanes-wide parts) being zoned exclusively for single-family homes?? Arterials should be largely commercial-with-apartments-overhead.

  • Pilsen development on Division? What’s that?

  • I may be conflating. I meant the speckly building across from the bank, at (googling for it) 1611 W. Division, which has already been widely covered at Streetsblog for its high occupancy rates and zilch effect on local traffic or parking.

  • Anne A

    I see it in Beverly, too.

  • I grew up at North and Clybourn from the early 80s to the mid-90s. I believe strongly that “gentrification” is and should be viewed as a very different process than “sustainable development” or even “revitalizing neighborhoods”.

    Gentrification is almost universally deadly to anything but the very highest-ticket development options (mcmansions, big-box chain stores).

  • I’ve gone back and forth on permit parking. On the one hand it clears out cars as it is less efficient than free parking at utilizing parking resources. And on that same hand it can apply some “market discipline”. Meanwhile I don’t like how permit parking a block away from my street causes my street to be harder to park on. Of course I can’t complain as I have a two car garage. I don’t see Osterman or the Glen Association supporting more permit parking.

    Clark street there is a strange space. The street is two wide to create synergy amongst businesses on either side of the street. And now that the firestation has killed an entire block, business wise, well it’s strange.

    But yes housing makes sense as does multi story housing. There is already regret at allowing the Glenlake building to expand upwards. Especially sad is that no viable business has adopted the ground floor space.

    But no I personally would not oppose three or four stories on the Hood side too. It’s quite appropriate.

    Another thing I would support is the Ashland BRT coming even up to Devon and then over to the Redline on Devon. Probably the turn-around would be too tricky, but hey.

    If you are coming to the EGA general meeting on Monday the 20th at 7pm at Gerts, introduce yourself to me. I’m the tall guy with grey beard and hair.

  • BillD

    The “mall” includes a Vitamin Shop, Petsmart, and immediate care. Nobody is driving from outside the neighborhood to get to any of these businesses,even if there is a small parking space in the back. There are at least 1 supplement shops, 2 pet shop suppliers, and 3 immediate care providers within walking distance of these businesses.

    The owner of the land figures that their tenants will be able to pay their bills over the course of their leases. Look at the empty commercial spaces on Ashland North of Belmont.

    Should there be more residential space? Maybe. The residential market is hot right now. Why aren’t they willing to invest in this area?

  • Not all residential development has to do with willingness. It has to do with what provides the most bang for the buck, and right now that’s single-family homes: it’s the easiest to do because building multi-family housing is illegal in most of the city (per zoning).

  • Unfortunately, the zoning ordinance is written in a restrictive language, mostly barring things it doesn’t want, instead of encouraging things it does want. Just like a MAXIMUM parking ratio would go a long a long way towards reducing the number of spaces built, a MINIMUM residential density requirement would go a long way towards ensuring a plentiful and diverse housing stock.

    Most of the new buildings on Lincoln Avenue and some on Southport are one-story retail strips. A minimum density requirement (with no parking requirement) would encourage housing development where the City wants it, and where it should be… on these streets and close to transit.

  • Vitaliy Vladimirov

    The NIMBYs are out in full force, posting absurd inflammatory flyers every week. Each time, the wording gets more desperate, showing their classist slant. Just look at this gem:

  • I love how you have to pay an annual fee to vote. Speaking of burying the lede.

  • ps2os2

    The Lincoln/Paulina/Roscoe area has slid downwards for the last say 10 years
    We just got notified of yet another bar opening on Lincoln. The Lincoln area between Roscoe and School has become a club “scene” with bars and loud music to 2 AM and on holidays yells and loud music can be heard several blocks away. We also (on Paulina) (esp on Fridays) have 3-4 beer trucks blocking Paulina. Add in the UPS and FEDEX trucks and it makes Paulina one dangerous street to walk across or gain access to from the alley’s.
    Right now the area is ignored by the Chicago Police because we have No Parking signs and I am beginning to believe that the police are paid to look the other way by the Beer distributors.
    Add to this our Aldermans’ neglect for the last 20 years and add in our change in Alderman this year (we got moved from one ward to another). No one is going to bat for us, so we are pretty much adrift.

  • Jeff H

    I’m curious as to which bars are contributing to a club scene on that stretch of Lincoln from Roscoe to School. There’s that wine bar, which I’ve never been to. Other than that, the only one I’m aware of is The Green Lady, which is one of the best low-key beer bars in the city, hardly one that would contribute to any sort of club scene. Maybe Waterhouse just just north of Roscoe? It skews younger, does have a different vibe and can certainly be loud with sports/music.

    I completely agree about Paulina being dangerous to cross, especially right at Lincoln. Had several incidents where southbound Lincoln cars turning right onto Paulina do not yield to crossing pedestrians.

  • ps2os2

    I do not go into bars in general. However in the spring/summer/fall the bar(s) open their windows on Lincoln and you can hear them for several blocks. Our building faces Lincoln as well as Paulina. The beer trucks as everyone knows are beer trucks. They don’t have signs on the trucks so you can’t know who they are delivering too.

  • fathornyblackandjoe

    Yeah…I am wondering the same thing.

    I live in the area (Lincoln & Paulina), since 2002, and I have NO idea what ps2os2 is talking about. “Club scene”…?

    Neither Frasca nor Waterhouse are overly loud or rowdy…at all. Waterhouse is the louder of the two, but seriously…if Waterhouse is what’s bothering you, then you need to move, because the city is not for you. Waterhouse is maybe 3-4, on a 10 point scale, in terms of loudness.

    The Greenlady is a very quiet neighborhood place…you almost forget it’s there.

  • fathornyblackandjoe

    This is all because of a bunch of old-school-thinking NIMBYs who happen to be a vocal minority, and no vision or leadership from the Alderman. There have been some very interesting proposals for each of these sites, but they have been shot down by idiots or uninformed people who are worried about past-thinking issues like over-density and traffic, instead of forward-thinking solutions like TOD. Many, many, wasted opportunities indeed.


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