To Be Perfectly Frank, This Is A Dog of a Project

Scan 4
Image: John Greenfield

Does the idea of slathering the centrally located riverside land at Fullerton/Damen/Elston with asphalt make you red-hot? Let 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack know this traffic artery-clogging plan for the sausage emporium site doesn’t cut the mustard.


  • David Altenburg

    It would be less of a frankfurter and more of a Schaumburger if this development is built.

  • R.A. Stewart

    Rimshot and a tip o’ the hat.

  • Dan

    John, I responded to your question from the prior thread. I repeat my comment here below. I’ve explained why I don’t think some of the alternate suggestions are the best for this location. 1. It’s cutoff, not a walkable neighborhood, 2. it’s far from train lines, limiting it’s attractiveness as an up-zoned dense residential project because that would generate a large number of PEAK-time driving commuters that worsen the traffic situation.

    A park would be nice, but given Chicago literally is on the verge of bankruptcy (, I understand why they didn’t pony up to buy the land from Vienna, instead letting them sell it to a developer.

    That leaves low-density residential for the area, which I think would sell at a discount (tough to rent or sell to non-car owners, significantly surrounded by the pre-existing big box/post-industrial/high speed auto environment). You can’t fault Mid-America for wanting to turn it into a Whole Foods. Even with the new Mariano’s, the tony Bucktown (and rapidly gentrifying Logan Square) are significantly underserved in the “luxury grocery” segment.

    We are getting a riverwalk (by ordinance). The alderman promised bike lanes. We should emphasize making those true PBLs. And we should pick our battles and promote smart, walkable TOD in areas that are actually close to the train (like Finkl Steel or the massive abysmal wreck of suburban development on Ashland between Belmont and Addison).

    Opinion on Traffic:
    I’ll preface with an acknowledgement that I’m not a traffic engineer and I don’t have the IDOT data, so my opinion is not evidence based, it’s intuitive. So we’re both in the same boat on that.

    That said, based on my experience as a part time driving part time bus & train CTA commuter I would say that 6 way intersections are the bane of efficient traffic flow. It’s the same general reason that they took the cars out of Times Square in NYC, it was mucking up traffic all the way south to lower Manhattan.

    …but that’s getting off topic. In this case, it’s all about PEAK traffic times: rush hour.

    Creating some space here should definitely help offset that.

    The impact of the additional traffic light will depend on what development is there, could be zero, could be a problem.

    I don’t think a grocery or retail development would have much impact as those typically drive traffic on evenings and weekends (off peak).

    I am somewhat concerned about Chick-Fil-A, as many drivers will swing through for dinner. However I think the fact that it is a Chick-Fil-A certainly justifies the parking they’ve got there (something like 40 spots + room for 20 queuing in the drivethru from the looks of it).

    The best example I can cite here is Portillos & the Rock & Roll McDonalds in River North. Portillos does not have sufficent space to have its waiting vehicles off street and it blows up southbound traffic on Clark every rush hour. The McDonalds has plenty of space and never really impacts traffic flow.

  • I like(a) where you’re going with that. This kind of backwards urban planning is a throwback to Medieval Times.

  • Fred

    I lived just south of here behind Popeye’s for a year, half that time without a car. You can absolutely live here without being car dependent. There’s tons of shopping nearby and the Loop is a bus/bus or bus/train away via the Fullerton bus to the Red line or Damen bus to the Milwaukee bus or Blue line. I would walk down Damen to the Milwaukee bus and could be at my office in the West Loop in 45 minutes, including a mile of walking. When I biked I would take Elston (before PBLs) and could do the trip in 15-20 minutes.

  • Dan

    This is not what most would consider not-car-dependent, I get that you CAN do it, but it’s a big ask and depresses the real estate value to residential. “I would walk down Damen to the Milwaukee bus and could be at my office in the West Loop in 45 minutes, including a mile of walking. “

  • Fred

    I could have taken the Damen bus (which I did in the rain) and shaved 10+ minutes off my commute, but I chose to walk instead. 35 minutes is a better than average commute in Chicago.

  • DR

    1. The intersection is being redeveloped because it sees 70k cars a day. The added car traffic from say, 50-100 units, would be negligible. Perhaps 4/10ths of 1%, at maximum? The basis for your traffic argument against residential is not solid – The idea that they would put in a drive-through while nixing residential because of traffic is absurd.
    2. Many people would be car independent here, particularly if low-income housing is included, and it’s very doable in the area – I think you have a mistaken view of what types of living situations people handle without cars. The fullerton bus line makes this a highly functional location.
    3. Why is maximizing the psqf value of residential a consideration to anyone but the developer who has to make a business model work? We should be interested in maximizing the value of the parcel to the city and its citizens. The current proposal does the opposite. Lower psqf value would generally be a positive attribute, providing market-rate economic diversity.

  • John B

    The current set-up discourages public transit use. I say this personally, as I would often avoid taking the Damen bus when I lived at Damen and Diversey because this intersection added 5-10 minutes each way depending on traffic.

  • T.G. Crewe

    Another big box shop is exactly what that area does not need.

    Office tower and housing would be a fine addition.

  • planetshwoop

    I wrote yesterday and here is the response I received. (I was pleased that I got one. My alderman’s office never responds to anything quickly.)

    He wrote:

    Unfortunately, what most people are having a misunderstanding about on this Vienna site is that the zoning is changing. It is actually remaining the same and we are only able to modify the project through a planned development which will allow us to create more riverbank access and landscaping. The location is also not a transit oriented development site, and it currently sits in an industrial planned manufacturing zone.

    I understand people want more residential but there are over 1500 condos and apartments being built or in the planning stages within 1000 feet of the Vienna site. So, we’ll have more than enough residential construction going on in locations properly zoned for residential. The Damen, Elston Fullerton reconstruction is also addressing the need for more bicycle lanes and it is already part of the project design.

    Thanks again,

    Alderman Scott Waguespack

  • Pat

    -1 mile (15-20 minute walk) to a Metra that serves 2 lines may be prohibitive for some, but certainly not all. (Lets not forget that many lakefront properties are roughly 7/10 – 9/10 of a mile from the L.)
    -A crossroads to two major bus lines.
    -Easy expressway access.
    -Short cab ride to plenty of great places.
    -Grocery and other retail across the river and up Elston.
    -A new riverwalk component.

    Some of the above may be valued more than others, but the mix of all of them makes this an attractive residential area. People keep pointing out that it is an island. If you build smart
    mixed-use, it would be an island that plenty of people would want to
    live on.

  • Pat

    I assume he’s talking about the Lathrop homes. What is the net gain on units for that redevelopment (as I believe the south part is still occupied)?

    The zoning issue rings hollow to me. Just because it is planning on staying the same doesn’t mean it can’t be rezoned. If I recall, isn’t that an issue with the Finkl site as well? It has some sort of special zoning.

  • Jeremy

    I just sent an email through Scott Waguespack’s website. I mentioned that during one of the mayoral debates, Rahm Emanuel said he wanted to increase development along the river in order to link neighborhoods to the river. A river walk is a perfect way to do that.

    Also, a river walk could increase demand for housing the same way the 606 Bloomingdale Trail is increasing demand for property in Humboldt Park and Logan Square.


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