UPDATE: Jefferson Park project now at 15 stories; approval expected this spring
by BRIAN NADIG
A level of parking is being removed from the proposal for a 15-story building next to the Jefferson Park CTA terminal, while new redevelopment projects are in the works for parcels near the transit center.
Plans had called for 250 parking spaces and 103 apartments in a 13-story building, but the revised proposal calls for 200 parking spaces and 114 apartments in a 15-story structure. The top floor would have a community room, according to Alderman John Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh.
A local neighborhood group gathered more than 1,000 signatures on a petition against the building’s height last year when 13 stories were proposed. The proposal received mixed reaction when plans were presented at a 2015 community meeting on the project, which was at 12 stories at the time of the meeting.
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 concrete company was once located. The building also would have ground-floor storefronts and four levels of parking on the second through the fifth floors.
“(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 commercial district, which has many vacant storefronts. The residents argue that commuters would use the garage but that they spend little time in the shopping district.
“We want people to shop and dine here,” Brugh said.
The Mega Group, the developer for the project, has maintained that a 250-space garage is needed to attract tenants to the neighboring 10-story Veterans Square building, 4849 N. Milwaukee Ave. Mega officials have said that insufficient parking at Veterans Square has deterred 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 height of the proposed building, which was 168 feet tall when the project was at 13 stories, remains a concern of members of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association, who recently presented a petition to Arena 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,” JPNA Zoning Committee chairwoman Colleen Murphy said.
Arena has said that he supports the project as part of his plan to increase residential density near transit centers in an effort to revitalize adjacent commercial districts. “We’re looking to attract those professionals who work Downtown or at O’Hare,” Brugh said.
The association is calling for the development to be built under B3-2 zoning, which it describes as the prevailing zoning in the Jefferson Park business district. That designation would limit the building 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 increase traffic and parking congestion and add to overcrowding at area schools.
Developers reportedly have been looking at properties on Milwaukee Avenue across the street from the CTA terminal. One of the projects involves the former Edward Fox Photography building, 4900 N. Milwaukee Ave.
A construction permit allowing construction of six apartments and storefronts was issued for the site last fall, but the project reportedly may be expanded. Brugh said that the developer is expected to submit revised plans.
A zoning change also is being sought for a development on a 1.5-acre site at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. that would include a 130,000-square-foot self-storage facility and residential units.
A notification letter sent to area property owners from the attorney for the project states that the building 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 existing zoning of the site.
A permit to build the storage facility was issued last April, but Arena had the site 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 Avenue, is about a block from the Jefferson Park Metra station. For many years it was occupied by a food processing plant that provided meals to Archdiocese of Chicago schools. Brugh said Friday that details on the project have not been submitted to the alderman’s office.
While the JPNA generally opposes up-zoning, Jefferson Park Forward, a neighborhood organization formed in 2015, has called for the construction of new transit-oriented developments near the Jefferson Park transit center. TOD projects are intended to encourage more use of public transportation, and in some instances, the zoning code allows for reductions in parking requirements and special increases in density for TOD projects.