New Pritzker Project Is Basically A Transit-Ignoring Development

1313 Morse Ave_29JUNE2015
Rendering of the development proposed for 1313 West Morse. The first three stories are parking.

As I’ve stated before, Colonel Jennifer Pritzker, a historic preservationist and an heir to the Pritzker family fortune, has used her wealth in creative ways to help revitalize the Rogers Park community. She deserves credit for restoring Frank Lloyd Wright’s Emil Bach House, as well as bringing the Mayne Stage music theater and other businesses to the neighborhood. As a cycling advocate, Colonel Pritzker has bankrolled the Active Transportation Alliance’s Chicagoland Bike Map, and has even been spotted riding in Critical Mass.

Unfortunately, Pritzker is also emerging as something of a poster child for car-focused development. Her development firm, Tawani Enterprises, is currently wrapping up work on a 250-space parking garage at the southeast corner of Sheridan and Sherwin, a stone’s throw from the lakefront and the Red Line’s Jarvis Station.

Many residents bitterly opposed the monolithic structure, intended to serve visitors to the Bach house and residents of a nearby upscale rental unit tower. The opponents argued that the structure, which has zero retail space, would be a massive traffic generator and would degrade the pedestrians environment. Ultimately, 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore approved the project.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 4.59.10 PM
The nearly completed parking garage at Sheridan and Sherwin. Photo: Justin Haugens

Pritzker’s latest parking-focused project is a proposal for an eight-story building at 1313 West Morse, across the street from the Mayne Stage. The 83-foot-tall structure would include 45 rental units, plus a whopping 75 parking spaces, even though the location is virtually next door to the Morse Red Line stop. The bottom three levels would contain parking, while the top three would house the apartments. 50 housing units were originally proposed but, after input from residents, the number was reduced and units were enlarged.

There are some positive aspects to the plan. The site is currently occupied by a mostly defunct strip mall, which formerly housed a laundromat, a cell phone store, and a video store, plus about 20 surface parking spaces. It’s great that this car-centric use will be partly replaced by housing whose proximity to transit, shops, and restaurants will make it easy for residents to live without owning an automobile. The current zoning for the location only allows for a building of up to 65 feet with 35 units, so Moore would have to approve a zoning change from B3-3 to B3-5 to allow for the extra density.

In theory, the developer is taking advantage of Chicago’s 2013 transit-oriented development, which allows for a 2:1 ratio of housing units to parking spaces, rather than the usual 1:1 requirement, for buildings within 600 feet of a rapid transit stop. 25 parking spots would be set aside for the 45 units.

Rendering of a side view of the building shows that much, if not most, of the structure will be parking.

In practice, this project is the opposite of a TOD. The other 50 spots are intended for patrons of the Mayne Stage, a 230-seat theater and gastropub, which is stumbling distance from the Morse station. Like countless other Chicago music venues and restaurants, it has operated for years with no off-street parking, although a $10 valet service is offered during concerts. Rather than capitalizing on the nearby ‘L’ stop, the proposed development would encourage scores of people to drive to the venue instead of taking transit.

Tawani Enterprises didn’t respond to a request for an interview, but Moore told me he feels that 75 parking spaces is an appropriate number for the new building, since most of them will be used by Mayne Stage patrons. Again, customers have accessed the venue for years with zero off-street spaces.

Moore noted that some neighbors were actually lobbying for more parking in the building. “Despite criticism from some community residents that the proposed development does not include enough parking, the developers rightly took into account the proximity of excellent public transportation options… when they came up with the proposed number of parking spaces,” he wrote. If those neighbors had their way, the building might have had a parking space earmarked for each unit, for almost a 1:4 ratio of units to parking overall. Imagine what that would do for traffic congestion in the area.

Moore said he’s withholding his final judgment on the proposal until the 49th Ward Zoning and Land Use Advisory Committee provides its recommendations. Hopefully, residents who understand that this is more-or-less an anti-transit project will be able to get the number of Mayne Stage spaces reduced. Otherwise, this prime location next to an ‘L’ stop will be occupied by what’s essentially some housing on top of a three-story parking garage.

  • The three points of concern from residents are, in no particular order:

    1. Height (too high)
    2. Parking (not enough)
    3. Retail (why none at all)

    I shall elaborate further if anybody cares to ask questions!

  • **

    Does anyone know if the parking is convertible to other uses in the future (not all slope ramp)? Also, is there an option to move the curb cut from across the pedestrian way?

  • aweg

    I’m a resident and my concern is too much parking.

  • Harvey Kahler

    Better to have the parking for mobility around the region and density with the greater height (not a precedent) to take advantage of the Red Line – better here than in West Rogers Park. As for lack of retail space, this will support and concentrate business in existing spaces with fewer vacancies.

  • Bernard Finucane

    It’s bizarre that American’s can’t figure out how to build underground parking. Is it really that hard?

  • Bernard Finucane

    If the parking were underground, there could be reatail on the ground floor and the building would be lower to boot.

  • Jim Angrabright

    Eh, I’m not buy’n it. For performances, 50 parking spaces
    reserved for the Mayne stage = 100 people (unlike commuter traffic, date night
    has @ least 2 people per vehicle). That leaves 130 people arriving potentially
    by public trans which is more than half. Because of their diverse programming
    Mayne stage has a wide draw from different locals – including the S. side and
    the ‘burbs – and I can’t see every
    patron taking the Red Line. A reserved parking spot would prevent people
    circling the neighborhood looking for st. parking. Most performances are in the
    evening when traffic is lighter so it’s not gong to make rush hour any worse.

    So what’s the problem here? Is it just the irony of building
    parking in a TOD that galls people? Of attaching a TOD development above a
    parking garage? I’d be more concerned about the ridiculous aesthetics of this
    building and (brought up by one of the commenters) as to whether the parking
    portion of this building is designed to be repurposed at some future date.

    Until such time – 50-100 years from now, if ever – we are
    100% public trans I think this is a expedient and sound solution for the Mayne
    stage and this site..

  • No, just very very expensive.

  • Extremely expensive, especially in Chicago if you want to go down more than a level or two, because we’re built on sludge and it’s going to leak and slump into your excavation.

  • Tom Foyer

    I live in Rogers Park. We don’t want parking garages. People from the suburbs can take their cars to the train and ride into the city. Why are we building a parking structure to accommodate people from out of town for a few nights?
    We don’t need more congestion and obstructive structures. I live in Rogers Park because it’s not overly busy with clubs and bars. We don’t want it so the people have spoken.

  • Tom Foyer

    Are you retarded? Chicago was built on a swamp. Get an engineering degree dickbag.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Heh, Berlin is too. There’s an extensive subway system and lots of underground parking. Maybe the US should import some German engineers.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Why are things supposedly too expensive in the US when they can be done in other places? The answer is certainly not “regulations”.

    This is a picture of construction at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. As you can see, you hit water when you dig down a few feet.

    There are several underground parking lots there, and a subway system originally built between 1880 and 1930. Chicago seems to be literally a century behind Berlin in construction technology.

  • BlueFairlane

    I think people (on this site, at least) tend to inflate the effect the swampish nature of Chicago has on architecture here. One, in many parts of town the dolemitic limestone reefs that underlie all this glacial till and lake sediment is a lot closer to the surface than people assume. Two, this city invented the techniques for building big things on mush still used in other mush cities all around the world.

    So in most cases, I don’t think the problem is so much that building underground is too expensive as it is that it’s more expensive. Developers could build underground if they wanted to. There’s no reason for them to, though, when they can easily build above ground at lower cost.

  • Bernard Finucane

    The idea being it’s cheaper to tear down two neighboring buildings and park on the empty lots. Of course, that costs two buildings. To replace them, we build two more, which requires pulling down four more for parking, and so on.

  • Tom Foyer

    You are a funny guy Bernard. I like your elitist attitude. How many German military bases are in America?
    Chicago has plenty of engineers capable of subterranean parking lots. If you actually do your research you would know that there is already an underground system of tunnels and ducts that run continually throughout the city. If Germans are so proficient , why couldn’t they engineer their way out of losing two wars to the United States? Think about that. America has been continually innovating and designing products the world reveres. Germans are great at making beer and Birkenstocks. Good job Germany. Keep starting wars you can’t finish.

  • Tom Foyer

    Maybe. Too bad Germans can’t seem to engineer their way out of starting wars they can’t finish. Hey, at least Germans are the master race. I’d rather just be a regular guy than a dick nosed German engineer.

  • BlueFairlane

    Were it not a holiday, you’d have gotten a stern warning by now. In the mean time, I’ll point out that it’s a bad idea for the people of this fine nation to talk to anybody about starting wars they can’t finish.

  • BlueFairlane

    All this is true, and isn’t of much concern to the folks spending the money. Cost beats everything, until regulation says it doesn’t.

  • Bernard Finucane

    This is sort of a “drunk uncle channeling Fox News at Thanksgiving dinner” speech. It can intimidate nieces if presented in a loud enough voice, but in a chat like this it just undermines any credibility your other arguments may have had.

    Just sayin.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Yes, I agree.

  • Tom Foyer

    Thanks for being lenient on me. I tend to get defensive when Europeans insult the intelligence or competency of our engineers or our citizens in general. In the future I’ll be sweeter provided people continents away make comments about our abilities. I’m not talking smack about Berlin. Have a nice holiday. I’m sure we will be having interactions in the future. Danka.

  • Tom Foyer

    Thanks for shining the light in this subject. Apparently Bernard thinks Germans invented building on swamps. Chitown had the first skyscrapers. Gimme a break Bernard.

  • BlueFairlane

    FYI, I don’t run the site, so my lenience isn’t really the issue. What I’m saying is that the guy who does run the site isn’t very tolerant of the kind of rambling personal attacks that have characterized your commentary.

  • Please refrain from personal attacks. These will be deleted and repeat offenders will be blacklisted. Thank you.

  • Tom Foyer

    This is why wars are bad news brother.

  • Jim Angrabright

    The average cost of a 330 sqft above ground parking space in Chicago is $28,875 vs underground at $36,300 which would put the additional cost of building underground at $556,875. How would you justify this additional cost to a lender esp since most of these space will be vacant – not earning money – because they’ll mostly be used during Mayne performances? Also, add to these costs the additional maintenance costs of an underground garage (venting, water pumping, etc).

    You can justify building underground on very expensive downtown property (just as you can justify height) and you can justify building underground when you have no choice (a subway) but for this building out in the ‘hood it has noting to do with “will” and everything to do with money.

  • Were you able to attend the meeting? It’s difficult to point out that you hoped for less, or no, parking in this community.

  • The unfortunate side is that Tawani makes a reasonable case to not have retail; they already have a dozen retail storefronts that are vacant within a half mile of this location.

    Alderman Moore stated there was a study completed within the last decade that stated Chicago has enough retail storefronts in its current state to support 7 million people. We obviously don’t have that many people nor am I aware of how they completed the study.

    The residents’ concerns regarding retail is legitimate, though they’re not asking the right questions or willing to consider reasons why it’s already the case. They simply stated, “we don’t have enough retail!”

  • No ability to convert in its current design, the COO explicitly stated this when asked.

  • You must understand that Tawani is spending an astronomical amount of money on the 250 car parking garage at Sherwin and Sheridan. This was specifically noted by an alderperson during the Chicago Planning Commission meeting that voted in favor for the parking garage. I don’t recall the number, but it’s somewhere along the lines of $40,000 per space. Correction, according to Curbed, it’s a $16 million project and 250 spaces, we’re talking $64,000 per space.

    This is an above ground parking garage, not underground.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Why all the griping about height. It should be taller. Why all the griping about design. You want a different design, too bad. It’s not plug ugly and most people are stuck in this make it look oldy-ish look thingy.

  • Jim Angrabright

    I’m basing my estimates on the Bucknall 2014 4th qtr average construction costs per Chicago which I used purely to show the difference between above/underground parking costs.
    It’s really irrelevant as to what Tawani spent on Sheridan as each development is a separate entity and each has their won justifications; you’ll have to ask them.


Pritzker: My New Garage Will Fight Congestion, Is a Symbol of Democracy

Colonel Jennifer Pritzker is a billionaire investor, a historic preservationist, a bicycle advocate, and an LGBT trailblazer. Unfortunately, we have to add to that list “tone-deaf commentator on urban planning issues.” A ribbon cutting was held Wednesday for the new 250-car parking garage in Rogers Park, built by her development company Tawani Enterprises. “I am very […]

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