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Could the lot next to the 35th/Archer station be saved for TOD after all?

We don’t have a particular problem with Dunkin’ Donuts — we just don’t want to see single-story drive-throughs built on transit-adjacent land.

Last month it looked as if land next to the 35th/Archer Orange Line station in McKinley Park was going to be used for a drive-through Dunkin' Donuts. That would have been a tragic waste of valuable transit-friendly land that could be used to increase access to housing, jobs, and education in a working-class Southwest Side community.

On January 4, the city issued a building permit for the single-story doughnut shop at 3560 S. Archer Ave., currently occupied by a parking lot across the street from the 'L' station and bus hub. The permit was awarded through a self-certification process on the same day that developer Sanjeev Khatau applied for it. 12th Ward alderman George Cardenas was unhappy about the proposal and sought a zoning change for the land, located at the northeast corner of Archer and Leavitt Street.

Alderman Cardenas said in a statement that he’d asked the Chicago Department of Planning for a comprehensive review of the issue, arguing that residents had no input on the plan. “We rightly deserve to know traffic patterns and the impact this business will have on the surrounding area.” He noted that the parking lot is zoned C1-2, which allowed Khatau to build this low-density development “as of right,” without Cardenas’ approval for a zoning change. “This store was not approved by my office, or required any community input because of the underlying zoning.”

The alderman’s statement said he was working with the planning department to re-zone land around the station. “I’m seeking a zoning that is calmer and fit for a retail environment which will bring jobs and better quality of life… My intention is to continue engaging the community on land-use planning and development decisions.”

The parking lot at 3542 S. Archer. Image: Google Maps
The parking lot at 3542 S. Archer. Image: Google Maps
The parking lot at 3542 S. Archer. Image: Google Maps

The good news is that later in January the Chicago Department of Buildings put a hold on the construction permit, halting the doughnut shop project, according to a report by Justin Kerr in McKinley Park News. "They have to come back and deal with the community," Cardenas said in a statement posted on a local Facebook discussion group. "The construction permit has been put on hold."

"That should not be a self-certification permit," Cardenas said. "They need to work with alderman’s office first." He noted that the ward office had not been notified or involved in the zoning review process for the project.

Cardenas thanked community members for providing input on the Dunkin' Donuts development. The drive-through would degrade the pedestrian environment by allowing motorists to cross the sidewalk, and some residents mentioned concerns about traffic safety.

Cardenas promised on Facebook that there will be a community input process for what should be built on the property in the near future. "We will invite the developer to participate in a community meeting to share details of the site plan, discuss traffic patterns and pedestrian safety."

Hopefully Cardenas and his constituents can successfully lobby for this transit-adjacent land to be used for development that will promote equity, livability, and prosperity in the neighborhood, rather than making the area a more dangerous place to walk.

Read the McKinley Park News piece here.

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