Updates given on Jefferson Park redevelopment


Changes to a proposed 12-story, mixed-used building next to the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., are being considered as the project is undergoing a review by the city Department of Planning and Development, according to Alderman John Arena (45th).

Arena gave updates on several redevelopment projects around the Milwaukee-Lawrence business corridor at the Feb. 18 meeting of Jefferson Park Forward, a neighborhood group that was formed late last year.  About 55 people attended the 75-minute meeting at Fischman’s Liquors, 4780 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Last fall plans were revealed for the construction of 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and office space, five levels of parking and six floors of apartments on the former site of a cement-mixing company at the northeast corner of Lipps Avenue and Ainslie Street. The 25,041-square-foot parcel now serves as a parking lot for tenants of the 10-story Veterans Square office building, 4849 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Plans call for each of the six residential floors to have 16 apartments, but the department is suggesting that some of the upper-floor units be relocated to a partial 13th floor at the south end of the building.

Arena said that the change would allow for a more visually appealing building because it would create  “a stepping down” effect toward the CTA terminal instead of having each floor consist of the same amount of square footage.

Also being considered is whether less parking and possibly more apartments would make sense for the project given that it would cater to those seeking to take advantage of the public transportation options the CTA terminal, Arena said. “I’m definitely one of those folks that are less worried about parking,” Arena said. Currently about 265 parking spaces are planned.

Arena has said that adding more apartments would create “more buying power’ to support local stores and that less parking may make sense given that younger adults, who would be one of the targeted markets for the apartments, are delaying getting their driver’s licenses.

“This is the place people are going to start out and ultimately transition into a single-family home when they have kids,” Arena said. “There is a demand for this type of housing.”

Arena also reported that plans for a four-story, mixed-use structure on a longtime parcel at the southwest corner of Lawrence and Laramie avenues are moving forward. He said that the Chicago Plan Commission is expected to hear the proposal in March.

On a neighboring parcel at the intersection’s southeast corner, the project’s developer, the Mega Group, plans to build an outdoor parking lot and a public plaza. “This parcel here can’t be built on because of Deep Tunnel infrastructure underneath it,” Arena said.

Arena said that while he supports modest density increases on arterial streets and near the CTA terminal to help revitalize the business district, he is committed to preserving the predominantly single-family home character of the area’s side streets. “We are a popular neighborhood,” he said. “Homes are closing two weeks on the market.”

Arena also gave an update on the 110-year-old firehouse at the southeast corner of Ainslie and Lipps. The building also has served as the 45th Ward streets and sanitation facility but it has been vacant in recent years.

Consultants for the Gift Theater, 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave., have been studying the feasibility of retrofitting the former firehouse into a theater, Arena said. “Otherwise, we’ll look at other ways to repurpose that space,” he said, adding that it would be less expensive to open a restaurant there.

Also at the meeting, Arena’s art liaison Cyd Smillie reported that proposals for the installation of new public art at the CTA terminal in Jefferson Park will be sought some time this year as part of the planned $25 million renovation of the facility.

The renovations will include change in how buses enter and exit the terminal, Arena said. “The entire footprint is going to be redesigned,” he said. “It is not very pedestrian friendly.”

Also planned are new bike lanes near the terminal as part of the city’s Complete Streets Program, and pedestrian refuge islands also are being installed at several locations on Milwaukee, including the Gladstone Park commercial corridor, Arena said. New bike lanes also will be installed this year on Milwaukee between Lawrence Avenue and Addison Street, he said.

As part of the meeting’s committee reports, it was announced that Forward plans to help promote the 45th Ward participatory budget process. Each spring Arena holds a community vote asking residents how to spend most of the ward’s annual allocation of $1.32 million in discretionary funds, which are intended for capital improvements.

It also was reported that some members of Forward have expressed interest in having a dog park in Jefferson Park. The two closest dog parks are at Norwood Park, 5801 N. Natoma Ave., and Portage Park, 4100 N. Long Ave.

Chicago Park District rules require that a group of interested residents conduct a petition drive to show support for a dog friendly area and draw up a proposal for its creation, including funding options.

Those at the meeting were encouraged to donate to Arts Alive to help pay for the installation of new sculptures in the business district. Donations can be made at www.artsalivechicago.org, and donors are asked to write “sculpture” in the comment section.

About half of the $3,500 to pay for two one-year rentals of sculptures has been raised.

A 12 or 13-story building is planned for this site next to the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal