Sorry Reilly, 71 Units Plus 128 Parking Spaces Does Not Equal TOD

Rendering of the proposed 300 West Huron tower by Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture

As Steven Vance wrote last month, downtown alderman Brendan Reilly has a good record when it comes to promoting residential building projects with sensible amounts of car parking, and he’s made smart comments about this issue in the past.

For example, he recently got the developer of an apartment tower at Kinzie and Desplaines to lower the number of off-street spaces. At a community meeting, he explained, “If you’re this close to central business district with lots of modes to get you there, you shouldn’t have a lot of parking.”

Reilly’s newsletter included similar comments about a planned residential high-rise in Streeterville. It said he also requested a reduction of parking spaces for that project “not only to press down on large, multi-story parking bases, but also for practical reasons – the profile of renters downtown does not generally include car ownership.”

So it’s a mystery why Reilly is now supporting a plan for a 71-unit condo tower that would have, in effect, 128 parking spaces, located a two-minute walk from an ‘L’ station. JFJ Development is proposing the 24-story building for a site at 300 West Huron, a mere 423 feet from the Brown Line’s Chicago Avenue stop.

On the plus side, the structure would replace a longtime surface parking lot with the residential units, plus a yet-to-be-determined two-story retail establishment.

DNAinfo reports the architect is Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, which is also designing a 22-story apartment tower nearby at 640 North Wells, the former site of Ed Debevic’s diner. That project, located about a quarter-mile from the Chicago Brown Line stop and spearheaded by JDL Development, will have 251 apartments plus retail, but only includes 117 parking spaces.

In contrast, the 300 West Huron plan calls for one parking stall for each of the 71 condos, and 57 of those stalls would feature a lift, allowing residents to stack two cars in one spot. JFJ is essentially building 1.8 parking spaces for every unit, although the city’s new transit-oriented development ordinance doesn’t require any parking for new residential buildings within a quarter-mile of transit stations. Since 2,500 square-foot units in the new tower will run about $1.3 million, the developer presumably believes many well-heeled buyers will want parking for two cars.

Not only has Reilly given this auto-centric project his blessing, he apparently made a real head-scratcher of a remark about the project on Monday at a community meeting. DNA reports he said, “You couldn’t find a better definition of a transit-oriented development.”

One could argue that the alderman is technically correct. This would be a dense, mixed-use residential and commercial building, located a stone’s throw from an ‘L’ station, so those aspects will make it very easy for residents to get around by transit.

But the project certainly doesn’t fit the main goal of TOD, which is to encourage transit use while reducing car dependency. By providing almost two parking spaces for every unit, the developer is instead encouraging residents to drive. And the addition of up to 128 more automobiles to River North certainly won’t improve congestion or air quality, or make the neighborhood a safer or more pleasant place to walk or bike.

What Reilly said about the Kinzie/Desplaines project also applies here: “If you’re this close to central business district with lots of modes to get you there, you shouldn’t have a lot of parking.” So it’s disappointing that he’s cheerleading what’s essentially an anti-TOD project.

  • Leggy Mountbatten

    Told you guys that he’s got no answers.

  • There most likely will not be 128 new vehicles driving around River North after this, since we know that many buildings overbuild parking by as much as 100%. That’s just as important to point out because it not only raises the cost of housing, it also leads to smaller urban design issues, like parking garages at street level (no windows), new curb cuts, and so on.

    JDL knows that lots of parking they’ve built goes unused, which is probably why they’re ok with lowering the amount of spaces in their new developments. Wonder when other developers will catch on, or if we’ll start limiting parking in cases like this.

  • JJ

    Also remember the financing is different for condos versus apartments. Many banks are still worried about being able to limit their risk when it comes to condos, so the assumption is that parking will be an easier sell – i.e. reduce their loan risks.

  • Pat

    Ah yes, but the cost of building that parking also makes the loan bigger!

  • Dan

    “The tower’s western facade is now 124′-6″ away from the Orleans sidewalk with the podium edge set back 28 feet as well, allowing for a ground level pocket park. The west end of the podium will contain a two-story retail space fronting onto the park while concealing the parking from view. The parking is consolidated mostly into the second floor, allowing for a shorter podium height of approximately 35 feet and keeping it as low as possible. All of the 71 parking stalls have the ability to add a mechanical vehicle lift to create a second parking space, if desired by individual residents who will purchase the spaces.

    With a high walk score of 98 cited in the meeting, it was noted that River North, and location adjacent to the CTA’s Chicago/Franklin elevated station in particular, will appeal to transit riders — a key point that was considered when designing the building with a low podium and an active ground floor. All of the parking and loading access would be from the alley while existing curb cuts to the surface lot would be removed.”

    Price point for these units is $1.2mm to $3.5mm. That’s probably going to need a least 1 spot per unit (more than a lower end apartment/rental). The parking only doubles if the residents buy a vertical lift to stack their cars.

  • Nick

    Condo buyers have cars and want parking. Renters do not. It’s that simple.

  • JKM13

    Eh. I’m all for TOD reducing mandatory parking minimums and encouraging developers to take advantage of that. But in this case, and at this price point, one spot per unit may be needed.

    The way parking has been included in the building is less offensive than most river north buildings of the last 20 years, so whether the 71 stalls end up accommodating storage of 128 vehicles will have little impact on those who don’t live in this building.

    It will be interesting to see how many people actually purchase the second vertical spot. If few do, it will aid in showing even multi-million dollar condo buildings don’t have the parking needs many believe.

  • Steven Vance

    Renters don’t have cars?

  • Cameron Puetz

    The building is replacing an existing surface lot with roughly 140 parking spots, so this project is actually a net reduction in parking spaces. Given the street level vibrancy of the design, especially compared to a parking lot, this is a gain for the neighborhood. The developer and the architect have both worked on parking light buildings, so I’m willing to bet that they’ve done their homework on forecasting demand instead of just throwing out a number based on an outdated formula. These are very expensive units ($600-$700/sq. ft. per Curbed), so the market will be different than a lot of buildings.

  • neroden

    OK, the “car lift” thing makes this less objectionable, because those two parking spaces are taking up the space of one. Honestly I expect most of the residents will never, ever use the car lifts.

  • neroden

    Yes. This provides a nice natural experiment to demonstrate just how many of these high-end condo owners actually want two spots rather than one.

    (I think it is fair to assume that high-end condo owners will have one car. Even if they only take it out on Sundays for recreational driving.)

    It would be good to follow up on this and see how many people actually do pay for that second vertical spot, versus how many say “Eh, don’t need it”.

  • neroden

    The vertical car lifts are a really cute move by the developer. Because they allow the developer to *say* that you can have two parking spaces… but the developer doesn’t actually have to build the second parking space, and probably expects very few buyers to actually get the car lift.


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