Parking component in 12-story Jeff Park project discussed at meeting


Concerns were raised at a Sept. 30 community meeting that the 265-space parking garage in a proposed 12-story building next to the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal would be too large and would cater to commuters who may not live, shop or work in the area.

“How can we reconcile this with transit development and pedestrian-oriented development?” resident Susanna Ernst said toward the end of the 2 1/4-hour meeting that about 90 people attended. The city’s Zoning Code reduces parking requirements for projects next to transit centers in an effort to encourage pedestrian-friendly development and more use of public transportation.

Alderman John Arena (45th) said that revisions to the project are possible and that increasing the number of apartments from the planned 96 would create “more buying power” for prospective retailers. “Personally I’d rather see more residential than parking,” Arena said.

The project would be constructed on a 25,041-square-foot parcel at 4849 N. Lipps Ave., which is being used as a gravel parking lot and which was once home to the Cowhey Materials and Fuel Co. The ground floor would consist of 10,590-square-feet of retail space, the second through sixth floors would be for parking, and the seventh through twelfth floors would consist of one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Plans call for each apartment tenant to have the option to lease a space in the garage.

Additional parking would be used for commercial tenants in the 10-story Veterans Square building at 4849 N. Milwaukee Ave., where about 40 percent of the office space is vacant, and for visitors the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave. A portion of the garage, which would charge hourly rates, also would be used for commuter parking.

Arena said that further analysis of the project is needed before he would consider “swapping” some of the parking levels for additional apartments. In 2011, Arena opposed a proposed 299-space garage on the site in part because it lacked a residential component.

Resident Lloyd Tharel said that he hopes the amount of parking in the building is not reduced. He said that when he lived in Wicker Park, his friends had to take taxicabs to visit him because of a lack of parking and that he does not want the parking problem in Jefferson Park to become that severe.

Several residents complained about the height of the proposed structure, which would be about 7 feet taller than Veterans Square. “Why can’t a building half this size work? Why so big? Why so massive?” resident Steve Gulyas asked.

Arena said that the site is “unique” because the adjacent railroad viaduct and CTA terminal and the nearby by Kennedy Expressway shield the site from homes.

A woman said that residents should not have to endure a 12-story structure because the project’s developer, the Mega Group, is “desperate” for parking to attract more tenants to Veterans Square. “I want density, but I want density that is reasonable,” she said.

The woman added that the developer, who owns several vacant lots in the area, is holding the neighborhood “hostage” until the company gets what it wants, but another audience member responded, “I say who is holding who hostage.” The man said that allowing Mega to fill its office building would bring more people area who would be patronizing local businesses and that the neighborhood would benefit from that.

It is estimated that the project would generate $2.4 million in tax revenue over 10 years.