Less parking planned for 13-story building; more projects expected near Jeff Park transit center
by BRIAN NADIG
A level of parking is being removed from a proposed 13-story building next to the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, while new redevelopment projects are in the works for parcels near the transit center.
The number of parking spaces would be reduced from 250 to 200 under the revised plan. The building, which would be the tallest in Jefferson Park, would be constructed on a 25,000-square-foot parcel at the northeast corner of Ainslie Street and Lipps Avenue, where a cement-mixing company was once located.
Alderman John Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said that it has not been determined if the building would be reduced to 12 stories or if an additional floor of apartments would be added. Current plans call for seven floors with 103 apartments and ground-floor storefronts in addition to the parking levels.
“(The city Department of Planning and Development) feels 250 spaces would be excessive, and they don’t want a park-and-ride,” Brugh said, adding that Arena agrees with the department’s assessment.
Some residents have expressed concern that a large parking facility would draw too much traffic to the area and do little to help the vitality of the struggling business district, which has many vacant storefronts. They argue that the commuters would use the garage but spend little time walking by area stores.
“We want people to shop and dine here. Visit the Gift Theater, eat a rack of ribs at the Gale Street,” Brugh said.
The Mega Group, the project’s developer, has maintained that a 250-space garage is needed to attract more tenants to the neighboring 10-story Veterans Square building, 4849 N. Milwaukee Ave. Mega officials have said that insufficient parking at Veterans has scared away prospective tenants.
Brugh said that the department found Mega’s data on its parking needs “unconvincing.” A portion of the underground garage at Veterans is used for paid commuter parking, but Mega officials have described the number of park-and-ride spaces as minimal.
Meanwhile, the 168-foot-height of the proposed building remains a concern of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association, whose members recently presented Arena with a petition signed by 1,018 people who oppose the project. “Along Lawrence or Foster you don’t see buildings like that until Uptown or the Lakefront,” said JPNA Zoning Committee chairwoman Colleen Murphy.
Arena has said that he supports the project as part of his overall plan to increase density around transit centers in an effort to revitalize adjacent business districts. “We’re looking to attract those professionals who work Downtown or at O’Hare,” Brugh said.
The association is calling for the project to be built under B3-2, which it describes as the prevailing zoning in the Jefferson Park business district. That designation would limit the project to 25 apartments and a height of 50 feet.
Murphy said that residents are worried that additional large-scale projects are on the horizon. She said that more density would worsen traffic and parking congestion and add to the overcrowding at area schools.
In recent months developers reportedly have been eyeing properties on Milwaukee across from the CTA terminal. One of those projects involves the former Edward Fox Photography building at 4900 N. Milwaukee Ave.
A construction permit for the site was issued last fall to build six apartments and storefronts there, but the project reportedly may be expanded. Brugh said that the developer is expected to submit revised plans.
Also, a zoning change is being sought for a development on a 1.5-acre site at 5150 N. Northwest Highway that would include a 130,000-square-foot self-storage facility and residential units.
A notification letter sent to area property owners from the project’s attorney states that the project would be five stories tall but does not specify the number of residential units. Under the proposed zoning, one residential unit would be permitted for every 200 square feet of land compared to 2,500 square feet under the site’s existing zoning.
A permit to build the storage facility was issued last April, but Arena had the project rezoned to stop the project. Arena has expressed concern that a storage facility would add little to the vitality of the area.
The site, part of which fronts Milwaukee, is located a block from the Jefferson Park Metra Station and was once home to a food processing plant. Brugh said Friday morning that project details have not been submitted to the alderman’s office.