Gladstone corridor master plan heard


A Dec. 6 community meeting on a master plan for the Gladstone Park commercial corridor featured suggestions on how to attract businesses and customers to the area.

"You need some iconic businesses like Superdawg," resident Mark DeVience said. "If you have more of them, you’re going to draw in a bigger crowd of people."

Other recommendations include installing decorative street lighting and creating some uniformity in storefront design or color in order to create a stronger identity for the commercial area.

Gladstone Park Chamber of Commerce board member Russell Schultz said that the chamber has been working with the Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association to hold festivals and other public events.

This year the chamber held a summer street festival that an estimated 11,000 people attended and a holiday tree-lighting ceremony. The chamber and the neighborhood association also hold a networking event on the third Thursday of each month at a local bar or restaurant.

The events generate publicity about the community, and it is hoped that participants notice area businesses on their way to and from the events, Schultz said. The chamber also held a "Light Up Milwaukee" campaign to encourage businesses to decorate their storefronts for the holidays, he said.

The master plan focuses primarily on Milwaukee Avenue between Foster Avenue and Devon Avenue. It was created by city senior planner Benet Haller with contributions from the chamber, the association, Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) and Alderman John Arena (45th) as well as from a community workshop.

The plan calls for more full-service restaurants and cultural venues, including storefront theaters, and for the construction of retail-residential buildings of up to four stories in underutilized sections of the corridor.

A portion of the 6000 block of Milwaukee was identified at the meeting as an area that could be ready for redevelopment due to several underutilized properties. The area has a closed tavern, an industrial storage lot and a former real estate office.

The plan also states that the corridor is in need for shoe, apparel and pet stores but that an obstacle to further retail growth is the proximity of several large shopping centers. "If you have a car, you have access to an enormous variety of stores," Haller said.

Other challenges include the shallow depth of the commercial lots in the area, which are 100 feet deep instead of the standard 125 feet, Haller said. The shallow lots make it difficult to design a building to accommodate a store’s needs and also leave little space for landscaping and other beautification elements, he said.

The corridor’s three main retail areas are at places where three streets come together, at the Milwaukee/Devon/Nagle, Milwaukee/Austin/Ardmore and Milwaukee/Central/Foster intersections, Haller said.

Laurino said that those areas could have an increase in foot traffic with the planned Pulse express line, which will have a bus stop near each of the intersections. The Pace suburban bus service will operate the express route with eight stops between the Golf Mill shopping center in Niles and the Jefferson Park CTA station, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Laurino also said that an effort is being made to create diagonal parking on some side streets on the north end of the corridor to provide more customer parking.

The chamber will give copies of the master plan to commercial brokers and will post it on its Web site, and copies will be made available through both aldermen’s offices.

Chamber executive director Cathy Voight said that when real estate agents contact the chamber, she helps them identify vacant storefronts that may be appropriate for their client. Voight said that the chamber recently had inquires about the former Gladstone Park Bakery building, 5744 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Chamber president David Wians said that the chamber supports an effort by state Representative Robert Martwick (D-19) to pass legislation that would address the problem of landlords who refuse to lease a storefront in order to gain a reduction in the building’s property tax assessment.

Martwick has called for legislation which would give county assessors more authority to investigate and penalize property owners who apply for a vacancy relief despite doing little to lease or sell the property. Wians said that some landlords see the current law as incentive to keep their property vacant.

Editor’s note: Nadig Newspapers publisher Brian Nadig is an officer of the chamber.