Alderman Martin approves 48-unit equitable TOD at Zia’s restaurant site in Lakeview

Rendering of the TOD.
Rendering of the TOD.

47th Ward alderman Matt Martin is giving his blessing to the rezoning needed for a new 48-unit transit-oriented development at 3817-19 North Ashland Avenue in Lakeview, currently occupied by Zia’s Via Lago restaurant. The apartment building, which will have 24 car parking spots, qualifies for a TOD designation and the associated reduced parking requirement because it’s located on the relatively high-frequency Ashland bus corridor. It’s also half-mile walk from the Irving Park Brown Line station.

A statement published on Martin’s Facebook page discussed his decision-making process for approving the change from B3-2 to B2-3 zoning. Zia’s owner is selling the lot, and the statement said Martin is “disappointed to see this neighborhood institution leave; however he understands that there has been no interest from a perspective buyer to maintain the property as a restaurant.” The new project doesn’t include any retail, which Martin, after consulting with the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, is willing to accept due to the current soft market for retail space on this stretch of Ashland.

Martin rejected the initial proposal for the site Mavrek Development submitted in October, asking them to go back to the drawing board to include more affordable and family-sized rental units.

In the revised proposal, Mavrek added four new three-bedroom apartments, bringing the unit mix to 31 one-bedroom, 13 two-bedroom and four three-bedroom units. The developer also increased the number of affordable from the five required by the city’s affordable housing ordinance to 10, including a three-bedroom unit. These changes bring the building to 21 percent affordability.

Mavrek has also promised to partner with the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund to secure additional funding so that they can offer the five additional affordable units at a rent that’s accessible to tenants making under 30 percent of the Area Mean Income for Chicagoland, about $30,000 for a family of four. “Alderman Martin is proud to bring these much-needed units to a transit-rich location,” according to the statement.

Zia’s Via Lago. Image: Google Maps
Zia’s Via Lago. Image: Google Maps

Some commenters on earlier Streetsblog coverage of the project noted that neighbors have complained that they feel the building will be too tall, and won’t have sufficient spots to accommodate the new residents, leading to an on-street parking crunch. “There are too many units in this proposal and not enough parking,” said one reader, claiming that over 150 people in the community were opposed to this development. “The developer is trying to maximize their profits at the expense and safety of the community.”

In response to the question of how adding more parking to the new building, which would encourage more tenants to bring cars to the neighborhoods, leading to busier streets, would improve community safety, another commenter argued “There will be more car traffic on the streets… from residents without spots and their visiting guests… driving around looking for spots.”

In reality, that’s unlikely to be a problem, since an apartment with good transit access and a moderate amount of parking in a dense, walkable neighborhood, particularly a building where one in five units is affordable, will attract plenty of residents who don’t own cars.

Martin’s statement addressed the density and parking complaints, noting that he asked the Chicago Department of Transportation to conduct a traffic study. CDOT concluded that the project would have “a limited impact on traffic and pedestrian safety.” In response to these findings, these steps will be taken:

  • Residents will be notified that they aren’t eligible for permits for on-street permit parking.
  • Mavrek will pay the city for a standing zone for use by delivery drivers to prevent double parking on Ashland and alley blockage.
  • The building manager will regulate the use of the alley loading dock to avoid traffic backups in the alley.
  • Mavrek will increase the number of indoor bike parking spots to more than one per unit.
  • The developer may move the entrance to as many car parking spots as possible to the east-west alley to reduce traffic on the busier north-south alley.

“This proposal fits the alderman’s development priorities of focusing density on the 47th Ward’s arterial streets; increasing the ward’s stock of family-friendly housing, and emphasizing affordability in Transit-Oriented Developments to help ensure equitable access to the area’s rich transit infrastructure,” the statement concluded.

Indeed, this project to create dense housing at a transit-friendly location, without an excessive amount of car parking, and with a reasonably generous number of affordable units, including family-friendly apartments, and units that are within reach of lower-income people, seems like a good template for equitable TOD that should be emulated elsewhere on the North Side.

Follow Imelda March on Twitter at @hcram1.

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