CTA Introduces Redevelopment Plan for Belmont Flyover Site

Rendering of a theoretical post-flyover construction TOD building. Image: CTA
Rendering of a theoretical post-flyover construction TOD building. Image: CTA

On Monday night the CTA hosted a community meeting to introduce Lakeview residents to the agency’s redevelopment plan for the area around the future Belmont Flyover. More than three dozen residents showed up for the hearing at the Center on Halsted to discuss development opportunities following the project’s completion. View the meeting presentation here (PDF).

Phase I of the CTA’s Red-Purple Modernization project includes the flyover (officially called the Red-Purple Bypass), an elevated track to carry northbound Brown Line trains over the Red and Purple Line tracks. This will eliminate the need for Red and Purple trains to wait for Brown trains to cross, and the CTA says the change will allow them to run up to 15 more trains per hour between Fullerton and Belmont. The proposed structure previously faced fierce opposition from some residents, largely due to the need for the transit agency to demolish some 16 buildings and acquire 21 buildings on or near Clark Street north of the station.

Last night's hearing. Photo: Michael Podgers
Last night’s open house. Photo: Michael Podgers

In partnership with the Chicago Department of Planning and Development and a team of consultants, the CTA wrote a transit-oriented development plan to guide the redevelopment of sites made vacant during the construction of the flyover. This includes recommendations on building density and design. In particular, the plan focuses on taking advantage of the sites’ transit-oriented development potential.

This meeting represented a step by the CTA to show community members that it has not only listened to their concerns about the impact of demolishing properties for construction purposes, but also to their concerns about redevelopment potential and the quality of those developments. As reported previously on Streetsblog, many of these residents have accepted the inevitability of the project. Since then, they have turned their attention to minimizing the negative impacts of the flyover and making sure that high-quality development follows the completion of the project.

Rendering of theoretical new buildings on the west side of Wilton Avenue, which is currently occupied by a gravel parking lot. Image: CTA
Rendering of theoretical new buildings on the west side of Wilton Avenue, which is currently occupied by a gravel parking lot. Image: CTA

Although the eventual redevelopment of these sites will be left up to market forces, CTA spokeswoman Irene Ferradaz said the agency will ultimately be responsible for putting the properties back on the market and that the agency would use the frameworks laid out in the TOD redevelopment plan to identify buyers appropriate for and responsive to the needs of the community.

While some residents commented that they were opposed to the development of TODs, a number expressed concern that too much parking was being proposed. Most of the massing diagrams (which show the general size and shape of a building) presented by the city depicted buildings no taller than six stories. Many residents said they felt that this is an appropriate maximum height for the area, although some expressed support for taller buildings with more units. Alderman Tom Tunney also outlined plans for a number of improvements to sidewalks, as well as new east-west neighborhood greenways on Roscoe and School/Aldine, which the audience applauded.

RPM TOD RPB Public Meeting Presentation - October 2017
Potential bike/ped improvements at Roscoe/Sheffield/Clark. Image: CTA

Unfortunately, city officials at the meeting didn’t discuss any other potential improvements to pedestrian, bike, and bus infrastructure in the area, such as improving service on the Belmont bus. The CTA’s director of strategic planning and policy Leah Mooney acknowledged that there is a “conversation that needs to happen on a broader scale around complete street,” but added that the CTA is “working with [the Chicago Department of Transportation] on all these pieces.”

The TOD plan successfully lays the groundwork for redevelopment around the Belmont Flyover. Hopefully empty lots in the heart of Lakeview will not sit empty for long considering the neighborhood’s tight housing market. (It’s worth noting that,  about a decade after buildings along the west side of Wilton north of Belmont were razed as part of the station reconstruction, that land remains a gravel parking lot.) Still, discussions about the quality of local streets and the pedestrian and bike experience need to begin, because the Belmont Flyover will impact more than just ‘L’ riders.

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  • Kelly Pierce

    The article in DNA Info said the CTA expects developers of housing
    units to set apartments aside for affordable housing. Is this just for TOD
    developments with little to no parking or is this for all the properties? I
    wonder if anyone else is concerned that this government-engineered social
    policy would delay and discourage residential reconstruction because developers
    will not make as much money on the properties? If artificial government
    mandates squeeze developers, the properties may not be redeveloped and land
    sits empty. Lakeview has a shortage of housing and the CTA does not seem to appreciate
    how badly the neighborhood wants commercially successful properties to be rebuilt
    and the housing replaced. I do recognize though that the artists, theater performers,
    gym coaches, bartenders and restaurant workers have an extremely difficult time
    finding a place to live that they can afford and be within walking or biking
    distance of their job. They are what makes Lakeview different from Lincoln Park.
    This is why I completely support TOD with some units set aside for lower rents
    that can be afforded by these workers.

  • FlamingoFresh

    You bring up a good point. Currently I notice that some of these sites with the proposed TOD developments are somewhat vacant parking lots or bars out of business so in that aspect there looks like money can be made by adding housing rather than keeping parking. I think most residents in the area want to see affordable housing, not just in the sense it’s classified for someone who makes less than a certain value of income, but affordable in the sense that new units aren’t $1600/month for 400 sq feet for someone making $60,000. The cost of rent and property taxes has risen drastically over the past couple years and doesn’t look to be slowing down currently. If we can increase the supply of housing then hopefully down the road the demand will drop and prices will become more affordable. If not millenials will live here for a couple years and then leave when they want to start saving money for their life down the road.

  • Currently, a residential project must include affordable housing set asides or payment of a fee when the project receives a zoning change or TIF district funding.

    There is no TIF district here that can provide funding (the only TIF district is a transit TIF, the funding from which can only go to transit projects).

    There are several parcels that have a less-than-optimal zoning classification. Optimal in regards to the Cx-3 and Bx-3 classification on which the TOD ordinance bestows the most benefits.

  • WrigleyResident

    How loud is this going to be? Is there anything in place to help current residents soundproof their homes for an additional noisy track? Are they going to put up any sound barriers to help? Are they going to update the current tracks in the same area? It just seems like 5 years of heavy construction noise with a lifetime of an additional loud track is enough to send everybody moving and drive down housing costs anyway.

  • chicagoaning

    The bars weren’t out of business until the city bought them or used eminent domain to deem them out of business. https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140417/lakeview/ctas-belmont-station-bypass-16-lakeview-buildings-needed .

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