Self-storage plan faces zoning obstacle; Arena wants unified development for block




by BRIAN NADIG

Plans to covert a former food processing plant at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. into a self-storage facility may be in jeopardy, as Alderman John Arena (45th) is seeking to rezone several industrial sites in order to attract a single development to the block.

Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said that a storage facility would not be a good use for the site, which is at the approach to the Jefferson Park commercial district. The rezoning would affect the west side of Northwest Highway between Milwaukee Avenue and Central Avenue, where several industrial properties have been for sale in recent years.

LSC Development acquired the former food plant, which was operated by the Archdiocese of Chicago, last fall. The existing M1-1 zoning of the site allows warehouse and storage uses, but the proposed B1-1 zoning does not.

"We would strongly consider retail and/or residential uses there," Brugh said. "Given the surrounding properties, industrial no longer represents the best and highest use (for the block)."

The rezoning would allow residents to have a say on the redevelopment of the block because it is unlikely that any development could be built under B1-1, which is the least intensive zoning designation for business uses, Brugh said. A developer would have to seek a zoning change, and that would require a public hearing process, he said.

Brugh said that Arena hopes that the block can be redeveloped in a cohesive manner. The site is about a block from the Jefferson Park Metra station, and Arena has called for higher residential density near transit centers to bring shoppers to the area.

The interior of the food plant has undergone extensive demolition in recent months, and a construction permit application is pending for the build-out of the storage facility. The 67,868-square-foot complex, some portions of which are up to three stories tall, is next to a 30,000-square-foot industrial property that is for sale.

A city Department of Planning and Development spokesman said in March that the construction permit for the storage facility would be reviewed based on the current M1-1 zoning.

However, the department reportedly changed course and is using B1-1 standards. The city’s Web site shows that the permit did not pass its zoning review, and the application is on hold.

The Chicago Plan Commission is scheduled to hold a hearing on Arena’s proposal at its meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 19, in the Council Chamber at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St. The rezoning would remove the "industrial corridor" designation from the properties at 5140 to 5190 N. Northwest Hwy.

Brugh said that when the Northwest Highway Industrial Corridor was proposed in 2012 there was discussion of whether it would be appropriate to include those properties because the heart of the corridor is further north. The corridor runs primarily along Northwest Highway in Gladstone Park, Norwood Park and Edison Park.

The alderman was not aware of storage project at the time that rezoning ordinance was filed late last winter, Brugh said. LSC Development, which specializes in converting industrial buildings into office and storage uses, first contacted the alderman’s office about 2 weeks ago, and attempts are being made to arrange a meeting between the alderman and the company, he said.

A representative of LSC could not be reached for comment.

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