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Valuable land next to the Wellington ‘L’ stop is being squandered on an anti-TOD

4:23 PM CST on January 14, 2021

Precious real estate on the west side of the Wellington station is being wasted on this new 408-space garage. Photo: John Greenfield

Earlier this week I looked at a depressing situation in the McKinley Park community on the Southwest Side, where land across the street from the 35th/Archer Orange Line station, which would be ideal for equitable transit-oriented development, is being squandered on a drive-through chain doughnut shop. (And I'm saying this as a person who loves doughnuts.)

There's a similarly disheartening example of "anti-TOD" happening on the North Side in Lakeview. Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center has nearly completed a five-and-a-half-story parking garage 408 stalls next to the Wellington Brown and Purple Line station. This parcel, which was formerly home to housing and a Thai restaurant. plus a surface parking lot, is located at the northeast corner of Wellington and Sheffield avenues.

The housing and Thai restaurant that was demolished to make room for the parking garage. Image: Google Maps
The housing and Thai restaurant that were demolished to make room for the parking garage. Image: Google Maps

It's an incredible waste of land that should be used for dense housing and retail, taking advantage of the precious commodity of transit-adjacent real estate and helping to reduce car-dependency. Instead, the 'L' station will be surrounded on three sides by garages with 400-plus spaces.

There are already two parking garages on the east side of the station. Photo: John Greenfield
There are already two parking garages on the east side of the station. Photo: John Greenfield

Silver linings of this generally awful project include the fact that the garage entrance will be located on the north of the structure on Nelson Street, rather than on Sheffield or Wellington, which are retail streets with heavy foot traffic, and truck loading will take place on the east side of the building in the alley under the 'L' tracks. The structure also includes a new facility for outpatient physical therapy and sports medicine. The Chicago Department of Transportation is installing bike racks in front of the building. And this otherwise-ugly structure will be "art-washed" with a rainbow facade treatment on Wellington, but that's lipstick on a pig, if you ask me.

Rendering of the new garage, including the rainbow facade treatment on Wellington.
Rendering of the new garage, including the rainbow facade treatment on Wellington.

Illinois Masonic is also building new four-story facility for existing outpatient counseling services and the Pediatric Developmental Center nearby at the southwest corner of Wellington and Mildred avenues. Altogether there will be a net gain of 166 parking spots, encouraging more people to drive to the hospital campus instead of taking the train.

Graphic from a PowerPoint on the project.
Graphic from a PowerPoint presentation on the project.

As I said in the McKinley Park article, Chicago really needs to start zoning land around train stations to help prevent the kind of wasteful use of CTA-friendly land that should instead house transit-oriented development.

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