City accepting input on Jefferson Park master plan until Dec. 14
by BRIAN NADIG
The city Department of Planning and Development is accepting public comment through Dec. 14 on a proposed master plan that calls for an increase in multi-family construction and a possible taxing body for the Jefferson Park commercial area.
"This plan calls for additional mixed-use residential development to provide housing opportunities for existing residents to stay in the community as well as new households who might like to move to Jefferson Park for its quality-of-life and convenience.
"The goal of this plan is to provide guidance to ensure that new development and redevelopment in Jefferson Park is reflective of community input received throughout the planning process, while meeting the housing needs of the community," states a revised draft of the Jefferson Park Station Area Master Plan. The plan also covers portions of Gladstone Park.
Construction of more than 300 new apartments is in the works within two blocks of the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The proposed master plan states that a possible location for additional density near the transit center is the site of former Northwestern College at 4829 N. Lipps Ave., which closed earlier this year. The property was sold to a group of investors and is being managed by the Mega Group, which is planning to build a 16-story mixed-use development with 114 apartments on the site of a parking lot at 4849 N. Lipps Ave., next to the CTA terminal.
Unlike the Six Corners Master Plan, which was completed in 2013, the Jefferson Park plan does not include specific height and density recommendations. The Jefferson Park plan is being funded in part by a Regional Transportation Authority grant.
The 80-page draft is available at www.accessjeffpark.org, and the department asks that comments be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Last summer the department delayed approval of the plan so it could revise the initial draft, which was released in May.
The Jefferson Park plan also calls for a feasibility study on forming a Special Service Area to help fund beautification improvements and marketing initiatives for some portions of the area’s main thoroughfares.
The SSA would get its funding allocations through a new taxing body that would affect those properties located within the service area’s boundaries.
"An exploratory outreach campaign should be conducted to provide education on what SSAs are, what the costs and benefits would be, and to determine local support for the creation of a district. While there was an unsuccessful effort in the past to create an SSA, the neighborhood has evolved in the past couple of years.
"SSAs have proven to be an effective, locally controlled tool to advance the priorities that local businesses have while providing additional resources for business support and public space improvements within the business district," the draft states.
A proposed SSA in 2015 included hundreds of residential properties on Milwaukee Avenue, Lawrence Avenue and Central Avenue that would have been subject to the tax in additional to a smaller number of commercial properties. A support petition for the SSA later came under scrutiny for invalid signatures, including the signature of a property owner who was in jail.
The revised draft also calls for addressing traffic safety at what it calls a "crash hot spot" near Foster and Milwaukee avenues. From 2011 to 2015 there were 384 crashes, including 68 injuries, in that area.
Under a concept presented at a master plan meeting last year, traffic on Foster would be diverted to Northwest Highway, and a new traffic signal would be installed at Milwaukee and the Foster spur, which runs along the north end of the 16th (Jefferson Park) District Station, 5151 N. Milwaukee Ave. Northwest Highway also would be realigned slightly to the north so that it is even with the spur, making it easier for motorists to cross Milwaukee.
The realigning of Higgins Avenue at Milwaukee also is being recommended so that it aligns with West Veterans Place, a street which runs between the CTA terminal and the 10-story Veterans Square, 4849 N. Milwaukee Ave. Currently Higgins dead ends at the driveway for the Veterans Square parking lot. The realignment would allow for a new public plaza near the intersection.
Other recommendations include building a pedestrian bridge over the Kennedy Expressway from the Metra platform to the neighborhood to the east, improving transportation options for bicyclists and pedestrians, and having new construction built on the area’s existing character and historic nature. A former pedestrian bridge over the Kennedy was demolished about 10 years ago due to its deteriorating condition.
The plan also encourages the community to work with the U.S. Postal Service in an effort to close the mail-sorting center at Milwaukee and Higgins avenues since it does little to encourage foot traffic in the business district. The plan suggests that the sorting facility be used for an expansion of the Ed Paschke Art Center, 5415 W. Higgins Ave.
The plan also suggests that a pickup and drop-off area for commuters be located on Lipps across from the planned 16-story building and calls for Avondale Avenue between Lawrence Avenue and Ainslie Street be converted to a one-way street to allow for the installation of a sidewalk.
Design guidelines for new buildings and the renovation of existing ones also are included in the master plan.