Eyes on the Street: Checking Out the “Mistake by the Lake” Parking Garage

Photo: John Greenfield

I have a confession to make. When I wrote Monday’s post about the brand new parking garage that billionaire developer Jennifer Pritzker opened at Sheridan Road and Sherwin Avenue in Roger Park, I hadn’t actually checked it out in person.

The house that the garage replaced. Photo: Kelly Loris

However, a visit yesterday during the evening rush confirmed most of the criticisms about the structure. The monolithic, 250-spot facility looks out of place alongside historic buildings on Sheridan. It replaces a colorful, 90-year-old house that formerly housed a meditation center, which had an attractive yard with several tall trees. Since the garage has zero retail and presents a blank face to pedestrians, it’s a much less interesting property to walk past.

This streetscape isn’t awful, but it would be more interesting with retail. Photo: John Greenfield

The parking structure is a five-minute walk from the Red Line’s Jarvis stop, and a two-minute stroll to the beach, so it occupies valuable land that would have been much better utilized by housing. And the garage entrance and exit on Sherwin further degrades the pedestrian environment by forcing people on foot to watch out for cars crossing the sidewalk.

Cars entering and leaving the garage will be a hazard for pedestrians. Photo: John Greenfield

It was hard to gauge how much impact the facility will have on traffic congestion in the neighborhood, since — probably due to its newness — the garage was mostly empty when I stopped by. But it’s safe to predict that the structure will encourage more tenants of the nearby, Pritzker-owned Farcroft by the Lake rental tower and visitors to Frank Llloyd Wright’s Emil Bach house to bring cars into the neighborhood. Other residents can rent monthly spaces for $125, which further promotes car ownership.

That said, seeing the facility with my own eyes also confirmed that it’s probably one the most attractive structures ever built that has no function whatsoever except to stack automobiles. The garage also gets points for its louvered green glass panels, which provide plenty of airflow, eliminating the need to use power for a ventilation system. And it’s certainly a good thing that the structure has spaces for car-sharing vehicles, plus an electric vehicle charging station.

It’s too bad that cars, rather than apartment dwellers, get to enjoy this nice lake view. Photo: John Greenfield

Pritzker apparently agrees with me that, if she and local alderman Joe Moore keep bringing car-centric development to the neighborhood, we should rename the community “Rogers Parking Lot.” The punster in me applauds the fact that there’s an “R” to the left of the garage’s “P” for “Parking” sign — see the photo at the top of this post.

  • High_n_Dry

    Ethnocentric? What does that even mean in this context? One cannot cry “ethnocentric” when motorists dominate our transportation culture, require a very large portion of our property tax dollar revenue and cause most of our localized air pollution.

    High horses? All “we” are attempting is to have a small increase in equity in our transportation options, small steps to improve the mess previous generations got us into but when more and more autocentric structures are built it is taking a step backwards. Edit: typo.

  • duppie

    It is interesting that the only solution you seem to come up with is “more parking”.

    The reality is that a solution to this problem is not black or white. Simply building more parking is not going to solve the problem, just like suggesting that everyone uses transit is not going to solve the problem either.

    Neighborhoods are like a living organism: Their composition changes all the time. Their needs and priorities change all the time. The solution will have to be multi-faceted. Suggesting that there is only one solution possible suggests that you do not take the changing nature of neighborhoods into consideration.

  • Alex Greenfelder

    As I have said, it may not be the best solution, but it is a solution. It is at least something tangible, unlike the ideas being thrown around about having fewer cars in the neighborhood. That is too broad and abstract. At least this garage will be a place for people to park their cars. Will it solve everything? No. But it could at least do something.

  • duppie

    “It is clear from the following sentence that the author is staunchly against this structure, and doesn’t even try to see any positives…”

    Alex, may I suggest that you read the About Us section on the top right of this page? It will help you understand where the authors are coming from.

  • Alex Greenfelder

    I completely understand all about the ideals of those writing on this blog, but that line indicates that the author will use any argument he can as ammunition for his cause. Being against the garage because the entrance will cross a sidewalk where pedestrians walk? That is absurd.

  • Garage exits are more dangerous than driveways or parking lot exits due to poor sight lines, which is why they’re especially harmful to the pedestrian environment. If a garage is a necessary evil, that’s one thing but, as I’ve stated, better management of Rogers Park’s existing parking resources would have been an alternative.

  • Alex Greenfelder

    Got anything to back up that claim, chief? Or are you just sticking to your anti-car rhetoric?

  • Here’s some reading on the subject of better parking space management as an alternative to building more parking: http://chi.streetsblog.org/2014/07/02/wicker-park-counts-up-better-ways-to-use-its-11650-parking-spaces/

  • Alex Greenfelder

    I would welcome a survey of our neighborhood, as Rogers Park is not Wicker Park, so the results of the study being discussed cannot immediately be deemed relevant us. There are definitely points worthy of consideration, such as using existing lots at churches or schools or business, but where in Rogers Park are there lots that are currently not used?

    Also, where did it say in the article, written by another Streetsblog contributor, did it mention the dangers of parking garage entrances/exits?

  • Anne A

    It’s better if we can improve conditions for walking, biking and transit so that people don’t need to rely on cars nearly as much. Increasing numbers of people all over the city are finding more ways to get around with less car use. For many of us on this blog, that’s the big picture goal.

    Many countries have gotten a lot further towards less reliance on cars than the U.S., so we have good examples to use as guidance.

  • Anne A

    Well said!

  • Straight away, the parking garage design doesn’t follow an important best practice: visibility. The garage exit isn’t designed to allow the motorist to exit the garage, see pedestrians on the sidewalk, and then proceed across the sidewalk.

    You can see in the fourth photo (mom and her kid) that the exit gate is about the same distance as the hood and bumper of a typical minivan or SUV. That means that the driver doesn’t have enough space to exit the garage, stop the vehicle, and look for pedestrians on the sidewalk. Instead, they exit and at the time that the driver now has an unobstructed view in both directions, part of their car is already on the sidewalk.

  • Alex Greenfelder

    I understand that the idea of a driver having less visibility is dangerous, but as I have asked before, is there any proof that exits/entrances to parking garages are actually dangerous? Do you have stats showing that pedestrians are killed or injured specifically because of exits/entrances of parking garages?

    Using this argument to further the anti-car movement without anything to back it up is irresponsible, especially for writer.

  • I think you just proved our argument for us. “A driver having less visibility is dangerous.” Drivers have less visibility at parking garage exits. Therefore parking garage exits are dangerous. I think Socrates would agree with this logic.

  • Alex Greenfelder

    But does the possibility of a lack of visibility, and not proof of it, really justify not creating a parking garage at all? Just because a driver MIGHT lack visibility, a parking garage should not be created. That is not good logic.

  • I think most motorists would agree that drivers have less visibility at parking garage exits and that it’s necessary to be especially careful not to strike pedestrians when leaving a garage.

    At any rate, this issue is only one of the many reasons why this garage is bad for the community. Heck, it’s only one of the reasons why the structure is bad for pedestrians.

  • Here’s what I could do in an hour for you, Alex.

    Children are the most at risk in driveway and parking lot crashes, likely because of their small size. They often die instantaneously, even at low speeds. The studies I read said that prevention is the only effective injury mitigation strategy because there’s nothing a hospital can do differently to save the child.

    1. “Studies of pedestrian non-traffic injury events have focused primarily on children. In one of the earliest such studies, Brison et al. (1988) examined coroner and other medical records for pedestrian fatalities involving children ages five and under in Washington State and found that 58% resulted from non-traffic events.” (non-traffic = parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, off-street trails)

    2. “25% of injuries serious enough to require hospitalization in pedestrians under age 15 were incurred in non-traffic events” (non-traffic = parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, off-street trails)

    3. “20% of in- juries to pedestrians under age 16 were due to non- traffic events”

    1-3 from https://wiki.cecs.pdx.edu/pub/ItsWeb/BikeBoxes/Stutts_Hunter_1999.pdf

    4. Driveway and parking lot crashes are highly underreported. [They are also often excluded in some statewide and national reports, and some jurisdictions don’t track them. Chicago tracks these, but there are only a handful (20-30 per year) and that I believe they’re under reported in Chicago, like a lot of other crash types.]

    4 from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/98/6/1096.full.pdf

  • Alex Greenfelder

    1. Not specific to parking garages
    2. Not specific to parking garages
    3. Not specific to parking garages
    4. Doesn’t provide any real data

    Nothing you just provided does anything to highlight the dangers of PARKING GARAGE ENTRANCES/EXITS, which was the argument made by Mr. Greenfield. The argument against the parking garage because of pedestrian safety is not based around facts, but simply the mind of someone too far gone in his anti-car mindset.

  • You imagine things a lot differently than I do. My goal is choice. Urban areas for living without cars and suburban living for car lovers. Between them is a continuum going from perfectly car-free spaces to perfectly car-full spaces. My view says that there are already too many people who want to live and pay taxes and too few places of the sort they want to live and work in.

    So if my assumption is true (and it may not be) then the method of increasing disincentives for cars would slowly increase the amount of space to supply the pent up demand for car-free space.

    You seem to be assuming that there would be a gap in time between the creation of quality car free space and its occupation by car-free lovers who can pay taxes. I assume there would be no gap and therefore no loss of revenue. I believe that the evolution of places like downtown Chicago from places with very little permanent residents to its current state of many many residential buildings bears that out. Is it a car-free utopia? No those are your words not mine.

    We have different beliefs. Since neither of us has very much power to create or destroy talk is cheap for us.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    No. Its about the children. Yes, when children are hit by cars they are likely to be more gravely injured. But when you can’t make an argument based on facts concerning parking garage exits, bring in the children. How many children are hit by cars backing out of home garages? How many children are hit by cars exiting alleys? Statistics don’t matter. We have speed cams because of the children. But no data to support speed cam preventing the annilation of children. We went to war in Iraq to save the children. Roll my eyes. I could go on.

  • I think we’ve already determined it’s common sense that garage exits are dangerous because they reduce drivers’ sight lines. Yes, the danger can be mitigated with lights and bells, but these things, plus the requirement to stop in one’s tracks for a vehicle crossing the pedestrian right-of-way, makes walking less pleasant.

    Since the garage exit issue is only one of many arguments I made against the facility in this post and the previous one, why don’t we stop flogging a dead horse on this particular topic?

  • Bernard Finucane

    The only real problem I see is the lack of street level retail.

  • Alex Greenfelder

    This whole thread is pointless because the garage already exists, so you anti-car people just have to deal with it.

    I thought it would be interesting to see why people were so against this garage, and while there were a couple reasonable claims, most of the comments were filled with simple-minded, anti-car pandering that gave no realistic, comcrete solutions.

    To the point of your claim that entrances/exits are dangerous, I just want to see any kind of evidence to support it. I understand your reasoning, but as a writer, you should use FACTS, not solely your opinions. I just want you to admit, Mr. Greenfield, that you let your own personal biases influence your writing and you don’t use facts to back up your claims.

  • Alex Greenfelder


    “But when you can’t make an argument based on facts concerning parking garage exits, bring in the children.”

    Screw facts. Use children to make your case. That is ridiculous. Your credibility in this discussion just got thrown right out the window.

    Good day ro you.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Sorry you feel that way. I just strongly feel when people use the emotional pull of “it’s for the children” to shore up their argument, without any statistics, its a pretty poor argument. Now back to my coffee.

  • On the contrary, Rogers Park decision-makers have already taken notice of this thread — look for another post on Monday afternoon.

    While it’s not necessary to dig up data to prove something that’s common sense, like the garage exit issue, if you keep reading Streetsblog Chicago, I think you’ll find we do a good job backing up our factual claims with statistics.

    Of course, since this is an advocacy site as well as a news site, we do make arguments based on opinions. Unlike the mainstream media, we don’t claim to report the news in a “fair and balanced” way.

  • Charlie D

    It certainly has not changed my quality of life. The scale is actually consistent with the surrounding structures. Thankfully it’s not some revisionist faux-vintage mess. Given the landscaping it does not have a hulking and overbearing feel given the setback. I’m cool with it. More cars off the street = more chances for bike lanes.

  • Alex Greenfelder

    I totally didn’t even see the “roll my eyes” line of your previous comment. My apologies. I am in total agreement with you – using kids to make an argument is for people that can’t actually make an argument with facts.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    You choice is no choice at all. Cars out of the city and dont like it, there’s the suburbs for you.

    Pent up demand? Yeah there is some of that, but who’s to say that demand will stay steady except where transit is easy and cheap. People may want the 350 sq ft TOD, for awhile, but who’s to say those units won’t turn over regularly as people’s lives change.

    close in dense dowtown development is great. But its also the most expensive development to live in even without a car.

    My idea of choice is if people want to live car free in TOD, have at it. But if you make life difficult for everyone else to the point they leave Chicago, will there be enough tax base left to suppoet a great city?

  • Alex Greenfelder

    Of course you need facts to back up the argument that parking garage exits are dangerous. Without facts, it is just a useless claim.

    I could say that green beans are dangerous just because people might choke while eating them, but that doesn’t make it true.

    Parking garage exits could potentially be dangerous, given the right mix of bad conditions, such as weather, a careless driver, etc, but you can say that about a million other things, including your beloved biking and public transit.

    There is no evidence to support your claim that parking garage exits are dangerous, and without it, you argument is useless.

  • Please leave the poor horse alone.

  • duppie

    “I would welcome a survey of our neighborhood, as Rogers Park is not Wicker Park”

    This is another argument that opponents to a particular argument often make. The research/survey/data/what-have-you cited is invalid, because it is not done in the exact same situation as is under discussion.

    Sounds to me you are working really hard to not have to acknowledge any facts that may be detrimental to your argument.

  • Alex Greenfelder

    Not invalid, just not conclusive. I am for reasonable arguments, but using information from a completely different neighborhood is not a way to justify an argument based around our neighborhood. It can be a place to start, as in using the results to draw support for a survey of Rogers Park, but it proves nothing about our neighborhood.

    Do a survey in Rogers Park. See what happens. I honestly don’t care the outcome. It would be interesting to see the results.

  • duppie

    Your insistence that the blog writers provide valid data before you will consider their viewpoint is interesting.

    I have not yet seen you make any reference to public data that shows that a parking problem does indeed exist in RP.
    All you (and a few others) have provided is anecdotal evidence. Clearly that doesn’t count, if we apply your line of reasoning. Therefore I challenge you to provide actual facts that the parking problem exists.

    To paraphrase a previous poster: “There is no evidence to support your claim that a parking problem exist in Rogers Park, and without it, your argument is useless.”

  • Alex Greenfelder

    I am in no way not considering his viewpoint. In fact, I am definitely considering it, and choosing to disagree with it. What I have been saying is that this particular point of his argument is flimsy, in my opinion. Not only are there no stats to back it up, there isn’t even enough to suggest a correlation, at least to me.

    The fact that he states parking garage exits are dangerous because of A) and B) does nothing for me because he provides nothing to substantiate why A) and B).

    As far as my argument goes, it is simple – there are a lot of cars in the neighborhood, and not enough parking. I am not trying to convince you of anything, but at least I have a basis for my thoughts.

    1. There are a lot of cars in Rogers Park.

    It is plain to see that there are a lot of cars in Rogers Park, as most of you would probably agree, and many of you have stated as such. If I try to get some stats, although not entirely accurate because there is no specific information for Rogers Park (which is why I welcome a study like the one in the article Mr. Greenfield posted), it at least infers something that can hopefully be researched more in depth.

    According to the 2010 Census, there are 54,991 residents in Rogers Park.
    According to a 2014 study done by the University of Michigan, 28% of Chicago households do not have cars. Mr. Greenfield previously stated that 40% do not have cars, so I will compromise and average the two figures, leaving 34% of households without cars. While it is not specific to just our neighborhood, it is simply a basis for comparison until real data focused on just our neighborhood is available.
    So, of the 54,991 residents, and an average household size for Chicago being 2.58, again from census information, we can assume that there are approximately 14,067 cars in Rogers Park. That’s a pretty large number for a neighborhood that is only 1.85 square miles.

    2. Not enough parking.

    Without a study, there is no data to show how many street parking spaces we have in Rogers Park, but this new garage will take 200 cars off the streets, leaving space for some of those other cars that currently struggle to find space.

    Like I said, I really don’t care if you believe how I do, it doesn’t matter. I just hate seeing someone so anti-car using such a weak argument against this garage. I don’t care if he hates the garage. I care about a writer being able to back up his opinions with some evidence that can cut through the bias and shed some light on his argument.

  • If I had a dollar for every time I read “y is not x so any data on y is not applicable/not conclusive/not relevant/won’t work for x”, I could buy the damn parking garage. Remember, first rule of opposing change, there are no principles that can ever be learned and science is fundamentally broken because every city/neighbourhood/street is a unique snowflake with no relationship to any other street anywhere.

  • I said “In most Census tracts in Rogers Park, 40 percent or more households don’t own cars.”

  • Kevin M

    Only 12 more comments (after this one) and this thread will hit triple-digits! We can do it! C’mon, everybody!

  • neroden

    So *that’s* why all of Google’s travel times are wrong. Good to know.

    I, of course, obey the law, unlike the dangerous criminals who speed.

  • Marc Lawrence

    I agree with comments that it would have been wise to offer retail space. But my primary observation is that this structure is another incredibly ugly piece-of-shit lining Sheridan Road.

  • I wish I had the thousands of dollars a year that it takes to subscribe to LexisNexis or whatever database of journals I need to be able to search, find, and excerpt the right research articles I need to satisfy your bickering.

    The difference between exiting a driveway parking garage and exiting a parking lot is…not there. The presence of a ceiling doesn’t make a difference.

    The articles I excerpted here, which were what I had access to freely via Google Scholar, were about all kinds of parking/driveway incidents, including backing crashes.

  • bingobastard

    There’s a giant parking structure at Loyola. and another at Rogers & Paulina. Another one wasn’t really necessary in this location, although I’m sure it will get use and make money. I miss the beautiful craftsman home that was on the corner.


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