Zoning still not approved for Downtown Jefferson Park projects; hearings expected next year


The Chicago Plan Commission will not hold hearings on four-story and 13-story redevelopment proposals for Downtown Jefferson Park until some time in 2017.

The proposals have been in the works for several years. Alderman John Arena, who supports both proposals, held community meetings on the projects in 2015.

The proposal for a mixed-use building at 5201 W. Lawrence Ave. is listed on an agenda for the commission’s Dec. 15 meeting, but the hearing will be deferred, Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said. It is expected that the commission will hear both projects at the same meeting next year, but a date for the hearings has not been set, he said.

The Mega Group, which owns the 10-story Veterans Square office building at 4849 N. Milwaukee Ave., is the developer for both projects, which require the approval of a zoning change in the form of planned development ordinances. The two development sites are being used as temporary parking lots.

Only minor changes have been made to the Lawrence project since it was formally introduced to the community last year, Brugh said. The City of Chicago owns a portion of the site and is planning to sell the land to Mega for $1.

The project calls for a four-story-story building with 39 apartments, 41 indoor parking spaces and 9,900 square feet of ground-floor commercial space on the southwest corner of Laramie and Lawrence avenues. The plan also includes the construction of a public plaza and 21-space outdoor parking lot at the intersection’s southeast corner.

Currently Laramie is a one-way northbound street, but under the proposal it would converted to a two-way street between Lawrence and the first alley to the south.

At the recommendation of residents at the community meeting, the building would be constructed a few feet away from the sidewalk instead of right along it, Brugh said. The sidewalk in that area is narrower than in other parts of the business district, and the change may allow for a small outdoor café, he said.

corner of Lipps Avenue and Ainslie Street, next to the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal. Plans calls for 103 apartments on the upper floors, and several ground-floor storefronts.

The building also would include a 250-space parking garage under Mega’s proposal, but the city Department of Planning and Development has reservations about allowing that much parking, Brugh said.

Mega officials have said that the garage would be used during the day to accommodate office tenants in Veterans Square and in the evening for events at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence, which has a 1,900-seat theater. A portion also would be used for paid commuter parking.

About 35 percent of the office space at Veterans is vacant, and Mega claims that the proposed garage would attract tenants to fill the spae, but department officials are “extremely skeptical” that such a large garage would be needed, Brugh said. If the amount of parking were reduced, additional apartments may be added, he said.

Some residents have expressed concern that a large parking garage would not be in line with the city’s transit-development guidelines, which call for projects that encourage use of public transportation instead of driving.

The Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association is conducting a petition drive against the 13-story project, claiming that it would too tall and dense and would worsen traffic.

Meanwhile, the Jefferson Park Forward neighborhood group has voiced support for transit-oriented developments in the area.