New Skyscraper Will Add Over 1,000 Parking Spaces Above a Subway Station

Rendering of the development. Source: JDL Development
Rendering of the development. Source: JDL Development

Yesterday, the Chicago Plan Commission approved a $500 million mixed-use development to be constructed at the corner of Chicago Ave. and State St. on a parcel now containing a surface parking lot for Holy Name Cathedral. The development, “One Chicago Square”, will contain 795 rental units, 75 condos, several floors for commercial use, and a whopping 1,090 parking spaces.

The existing surface lot has approximately 160 parking spaces, meaning the parking supply on this lot will increase by 580 percent in one of the city’s densest, most walkable, and transit-dense neighborhoods. It is a shock to see city transit-friendly policies so greatly ignored.

Of these parking spaces, 225 are reserved for parishioners of the Holy Name Cathedral across the street, which is 65 more parking spaces than they currently have. The remaining 865 spaces would be for residents and commercial uses. It is not known if a parking space for residents will be attached to the price of the unit, or purchased/rented separately.

Aerial image of the existing surface lot across from Holy Name Cathedral.
Aerial image of the existing surface lot across from Holy Name Cathedral. Image via Google Maps

Just above the Red Line station at Chicago, this development could technically be built with zero parking spaces thanks to Chicago’s transit-oriented development (TOD) ordinance, which allows developers to reduce by 100 percent the commercial parking minimums and by 50 percent the residential parking minimum. Through an additional process, the residential parking minimum can also be reduced to zero spaces.

Since its introduction in 2013, the TOD ordinance has allowed developers to provide fewer parking spots in residential and commercial developments within 600 feet of ‘L’ and Metra stations. The ordinance was revised in 2015 to permit developers to totally eliminate parking from developments within 1,320 feet (¼ mile) of those stations.

It is clear that, to maintain the city’s progressive TOD policy, the ordinance is due for another update – especially in the downtown area. Any development this close to transit should be subject to a parking maximum, instead of simply eliminating the minimums.

The development site currently sits on land with mixed zoning, DX-7 and DX-12; the developer is seeking to change the zoning so the entire parcel is zoned DX-12. The existing parking minimum in the DX-12 zone would require 478 parking spaces for residential use (0.55 spaces per unit) and 0 spaces for commercial use. With or without the TOD ordinance, this development is far exceeding the amount of parking that should be built in a downtown district.

Alderman Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) stated earlier in the week that he was “leaning toward support” for the development – already approved by the Plan Commission – thanks to a “Chicago Avenue transit improvement program” to be required as part of the development. This program will, according to Hopkins, “address the traffic backups on Chicago Avenue”. The alderman may have misspoke, as the only transit-related commitments made during the Planned Development process and confirmed by his office involve paying up to $40,000 for the construction of a single “concrete bus pad” on Dearborn St. just north of Chicago Ave., and moving a CTA bus shelter on Michigan Ave., three blocks away from the development.

Concrete bus pads, unfortunately, don’t do anything for traffic or bus riders.

 

Ground floor access points. Source: OneChicagoSquare.com/JDL
Ground floor access points. Source: OneChicagoSquare.com/JDL

The commitments made as a result of the now-approved Planned Development process also include requiring the developer to pay for a Divvy station on the property, but that is where the sustainable transportation requirements end. The developer will also be responsible for changing eleven traffic signals, and adding left- and right-turn arrows at several intersections along Chicago Avenue. The ward itself will move several metered parking spots on Chicago Ave. to unmetered blocks in the 2nd Ward in order to add more traffic lanes on Chicago Ave.

The zoning committee must still approve the Planned Development.

Hopkins claims that the result of adding additional traffic lanes “will be better traffic conditions,” but this isn’t true. Multiple studies found that increasing the capacity for car traffic – adding more lanes – eventually results in the same amount of traffic filling in the new capacity, an outcome called induced demand.

One way to increase the amount of people, not just vehicles, moving along Chicago Ave is to implement bus lanes along the corridor. In fact, the CTA has provided data showing that its #66 Chicago buses comprise just 2 percent of the vehicle traffic on the street, but carry about 30 percent of all people travelling along the street.

Streetsblog and other local transit advocates have already covered the need for bus lanes on Chicago Ave., one of the city’s most-travelled bus routes. By improving the level of service, bus lanes could also bring back some riders on the route, which saw a 4.9 percent decrease in ridership between 2015-16.

The development approval also comes at a time when the CTA is wrapping up a multi-year study regarding “Bus Slow Zones” on 79th St and Chicago Ave, which it plans to deliver at the end of this month. While a copy is not yet publicly available, notes from Alderman Hopkins’s office suggest that dedicated bus lanes and locations for queue jump signals are recommended for this route. Unfortunately, these recommendations are not currently required as part of the development, and while Hopkins’ office has stated they will work with the developer to accommodate the CTA’s recommendations, it is not as strong a commitment as those that end up being baked into the Planned Development (like the new Divvy station).

Because the parking spots to be removed are metered spots owned by Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, they will be moved elsewhere in the ward. Normally, moving metered parking is a process that the city avoids and has used to justify not installing bus and bike lanes on city streets. Even if the process of moving metered parking is a difficult one the city wants to avoid, it is evident that it is a worthwhile procedure when it concerns moving more cars, but not always when it concerns moving more people on public transit.

The increase in car trips that will occur as a result of new travel lanes, and all of the additional parking, also poses an increased threat to people walking or bicycling on Chicago Ave. From Paulina St to State St, Chicago Ave is designated a “high-crash corridor” by the city’s Vision Zero Action Plan, and as such should be treated with priority when it comes to safety enhancements. However, the only major actions taken here are to modify traffic signals with the goal of improving car traffic flow only – there are no explicit plans for improving the safety of walking and biking along Chicago Ave.

Adding capacity for over 1,000 vehicles and increasing roadway capacity is a misguided approach to solving traffic issues, especially in a dense, transit-rich neighborhood. The next step for this development involves approval by the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards, which holds regular public meetings at City Hall, and is your opportunity to provide feedback regarding the development.

The next meetings are scheduled for January 25 and February 22, but the agenda for the latter has not yet been set. Alderman Hopkins’s office can be reached online, via email at ward02@cityofchicago.org, or at (312) 643-2299.

  • Tooscrapps

    This is way out Hopkins’ area of expertise. The fact that so many other agencies (and the Mayor) has been silent on this issue is suspect.

    Has there even been a independent traffic study done on this?

  • ardecila

    Doesn’t the plan also call for some funding to be put towards the Chicago Ave bridge replacement? As much as I dislike road widening, the moves being contemplated here (eliminating structural bottlenecks, removing metered spaces) absolutely clear the way for bus lanes or at least queue jumps in the future.

    Clearly CTA is aware of the congestion issue and looking to find solutions, and the alderman is interested in implementing some of them (whatever CTA’s study might recommend).

  • Yes, the bridge is a CDOT project and is not part of the commitments made during the PD process for this development.

  • **

    A great opportunity for Ald. Cappleman to show some genuine leadership on
    transit-oriented development. He’s the vice-chair of the zoning, landmarks, and building
    standards committee that needs to OK this. He has a personal relationship with Jim
    Letchinger, having supported two of JDL’s developments in the 46th Ward, even authorizing nearly $16 million in TIF for the one at Montrose & Clarendon. The city council meetings that were rushed to get that second development finalized under the old ARO were found by the Circuit Court to have been held in violation of the state open meetings act. Only four months after that deal, Letchinger walked away from the re-fi of one of his south loop highrises with $68 million, capital gains tax free. Yet no one—neither the mayor nor Ald. Cappleman—has ever stepped forward to call for a re-vote on the OMA-violating deal or to push Letchinger to focus on the folks on the ground (even that wind tunnel this will create on the sheer side to the north). Like a certain president we know, he’s all about “ultra-luxury.” At some point I hope someone at least calls in the favors to get a better deal for the public.

  • **

    The only way we could get a traffiic study for JDL’s Montrose-Clarendon development was to FOIA it. Despite the fact that our neighborhood guidelines said there had to be a detailed study that was well-vetted, it was never publicly released. It turns out it was full of significant errors, like missing bus stops. No mention was made of the fact that 1600 kids walk by the site 2X a day going to and from schools and the neighboring park.

  • ardecila

    The Sun-Times very clearly quoted Hopkins as saying that One Chicago Square would get the bridge project “off the ground”. Maybe Hopkins can get money out of the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund somehow.

  • Perhaps the other work to be done on Chicago Ave with signals is related, but there is no indication from Hopkins’ office that the bridge project itself is part of the Planned Development.

  • Thanks Shaun. Good rundown of the issues.

    Bus lanes absolutely. And on Michigan Ave while we are at it.

  • Curtis James

    This is grotesque. It is maddening how developers rule the City of Chicago and always have. This project is absurdly disproportionate to the neighborhood and will cause nothing but grief for all of its neighbors. It should be stopped.

  • Frank Kotter

    Many ways to critique this but ‘absurdly disproportionate’ isn’t one of them, Curtis

  • Chicagoan

    I’ll admit that I like the design of the biggest tower and I’ve long disliked the parking lot next to Holy Name, but all of the parking is absurd. Alderman Hopkins’ constituents have a vice grip on him and his policies. I can understand 250 spots for Holy Name, and perhaps I could understand up to 500 spots for the event space, grocery store, and housing units, but no more than 750 is warranted and even that amount seems crazy.

  • Chicagoan

    ‘Disproportionate’?

    Come on…

  • Chicagoan

    As a historic preservationist and transportation advocate, I’m torn by the replacement of the Chicago Avenue Bridge. It was built in 1914 and has a lot of appeal to it. I’d like to see it stay.

    Also, I know dredging work under the bridge was done for the Chicago Avenue subway that never came, are they going to leave that work alone?

  • Tooscrapps

    Or simply put time restrictions on the Holy Name spots. The times that retail/entertainment are buzzing are opposite the time parishioners need parking.

  • Obesa Adipose

    How is it not warranted? Are you the developer? Are you the developer’s broker? There’s to be a condo component to this building and people spending top dollar for a unit are going to want parking to go along with it.

    Those constituents you mentioned elected the alderman – it’s called representative democracy – and so that’s who he’s beholden to. Besides, many of the constituents (and BTW, they’re not all of one mind when it comes to opinions) wanted less units and ergo less parking.

  • Obesa Adipose

    It’s very rare but I’d like to see the parking designed to be retro-fitted for other purposes should all those spaces not be needed. The developer is following what his broker says the market warrants and should they be wrong at least all that space wouldn’t be wasted. The problem is that you can’t re purpose a garage for human occupancy without planning for it from the get go.

  • Chicagoan

    That’s too intelligent to happen.

  • Chicagoan

    There’s only 75 condos, how many parking spots does each unit need?

    I don’t suspect 75 Jay Leno’s and their car collections are moving there.

  • That wasn’t an independent study, though.

    CDOT almost always require that a developer provide a traffic study, and they generally always recommend the same thing: more capacity for cars, and most often via changing traffic signals and adding turn lanes.

    Adding a Divvy station in the One Chicago Square project is not that useful because there already is one at the Chicago/State Red Line station (even though it’s in a crappy location that’s not visible from any of the station entrances) and because there is no bike infrastructure around here. And no plans to add any bike infrastructure.

  • Yeah, I’d say a skyscraper here is very appropriate.

  • It *is* allowed by code, though. There’s a “shared parking” ordinance that allows a parking space to do double duty for the minimum parking requirements. For a “normal” development*.

    *This project is abnormal because it’s providing an infinite number of car parking spaces more than is required.

  • Many developers, Letchinger included, have said in the past (published on Streetsblog Chicago) that they are required by city law to put too much parking in their buildings.

    We published in 2014, “Letchinger said in an email that 60-65 percent of parking in JDL’s other developments sit empty.”
    https://chi.streetsblog.org/2014/01/27/parking-minimums-at-work-uptown-tower-must-build-554-parking-spots/comment-page-1/

    City law, in this development’s case, requires 0 parking spaces.

  • The market is not demanding this much parking.

  • Tooscrapps

    For what it’s worth, the Northbound Dearborn buffered lane is pretty good. But they missed the boat not making it a PBL when they repaved.

  • david vartanoff

    The shared spaces concept for churchgoers/commercial customers, is brilliant. Otherwise none should be needed. OTOH each resident in return for not owning or leasing a car should be given a CTA monthly pass as one of the perks of living there.

  • “This much parking” does not include the parishoner spaces which were demanded by the original property owner or the building wouldn’t have happened in the first place. Leading the article with the total number of spaces is misleading. Suggesting the building could have been built with no parking is obviously false. Holy Name would simply have left the parcel a parking lot. So essentially, you’re pissed off that a church didn’t give up all of its parking and a developer didn’t demand that all of its residents take the Red Line. That is far beyond the realm of reasonableness, but par for the usual axe-grinding here.

  • Tooscrapps

    It’s clear from your sermonizing, you didn’t read the article or any of the comments below.

    Aside from that, churches sell off land without strings attached all the time. The main issue, and one I think that is well represented in the article, is that the extra ~750 is completely overkill for a parcel directly above a Red Line station.

    And yah, a lot of people are pissed off that a ultra weathly, tax-exempt organization gets to dictate land-use policy in a dense urban core. Holy Name pays no tax on this land, land banked it as a parking lot for years, and is making tens of millions off of selling it. If anything, they should either start paying property taxes on it, or should sell it no strings attached.

  • Maybe they could keep the facade and update the interior.

    Another real loss will/would be the Cortland Bridge.

    Love it when some gem of secret Chicago surfaces briefly. Chicago Avenue subway!

  • NYCBK123

    Why on Earth is the developer taking on this cost if it’s not mandated?

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