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Mega Mall Developer Adds Housing, Reduces Number of Car Parking Spots

Mega Mall - Logan's Crossing, north elevation
Motorists driving into and out of the parking garage would disturb people walking up and down the street. Rendering: Terraco/Antunovich Associates

The company that's redeveloping the Discount Mega Mall site in Logan Square has released a reworked proposal that adds much needed housing and dials back the number of car parking spaces, which makes the project a better fit for the walkable, transit accessible neighborhood. Terraco Real Estate and 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack are hosting a public meeting on the development, dubbed Logan's Crossing, at the Mega Mall on Thursday, May 7, at 6:30 p.m.

Terraco originally proposed a low-rise building for retail use, including a medium-sized grocery store and a two-story fitness center, zero residences, and 426 parking spaces at the site, which is located one long block southeast of the Logan Square Blue Line stop. The latest proposal adds several stories to the development to make room for 268 residences, and has 387 parking spaces – 39 fewer than before.

In general, the city's zoning rules require a 1:1 ratio of car parking spaces to housing units for new buildings, but the 2013 transit-oriented development ordinance reduces this to a 1:2 ratio for developments within 600 feet of a rapid transit stop. However, Logan's Crossing will be about 1,000 feet from the 'L' station, so it's not eligible for the parking requirement reduction. This means there will need to be one parking space per unit, regardless of whether the occupants own a car.

Terraco's first proposal provided more car parking than required, and the addition of 268 residences and the reduction in parking spots means the ratio of people to cars on the site would be much improved. However, 387 car spots may still be excessive for this location, in a walkable, bikeable area with the lowest car ownership along the Blue Line, the sixth-busiest Blue Line station, and good bus access.

The TOD ordinance has generally been working out well – it has spurred the development of nearly 20 multi-family buildings near CTA stations. However, the short distance threshold is problematic, since 600 feet is less than one standard city block. Most people are willing to walk several blocks to access rapid transit, and a couple of blocks to get to a bus stop.

The ordinance hasn't been updated to reflect that reality. It doesn't even offer a smaller reduction in the number of required spaces for developments located more than 600 feet from rapid transit. An exception to the 600-foot rule, however, is made for developments on Pedestrian Streets – these projects can be up to 1,200 feet from stations and still be eligible for the 1:2 ratio.

Even though Logan's Crossing will be less than two standard city blocks from the Logan stop, and less than three blocks from the California station, and it will be located on the #56 Milwaukee bus route, the zoning code still requires plenty of car parking. Local developers have said they want the ability to only build the number of parking spaces they believe they can sell, and that much of the parking they've been required to build goes unused.

Terraco will need to obtain a zoning change to build the number of residences included in the current proposal. Due to its size, the project would also be designated as a planned development, which means the city would have more input on the final design.

Logan Crossing's current design, by local architecture firm Antunovich Associates, features three places where people can drive into the building, including a large garage entrance on Milwaukee, in the middle of the block. The ensuing car traffic could endanger pedestrians on the sidewalk, and will interfere with bicyclists and bus riders in the road.

However, Logan's Crossing is still only a proposal, and some aspects of its design, such as the driveway locations, aren't set in stone. If we're going to allow drivers to cross a sidewalk, a context-sensitive design is needed. Driveways require permits, and aldermen don't have to approve them. For example, 33rd Ward Alderman Deb Mell blocked Walgreens from building a suburban-style store with two driveways, one of which would have crossed a busy sidewalk, across the street from the Kimball Brown Line stop.

No word on whether Terraco will ask the city to install a mid-block left-turn lane on Milwaukee to accommodate the driveway. Typically, when this is done in Chicago, the bike lanes disappear.

While both the necessary zoning change and planned development process for Logan's Crossing can draw down the number of required car parking spaces to a more appropriate amount, the basic issue remains: Chicago's zoning ordinance still generally requires way too much parking.

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