Panel okays Jefferson Park master plan despite no specific upzoning, affordable recommendations
by BRIAN NADIG
To many, Alderman John Arena (45th) is seen as a strong advocate for affordable housing and increased density around the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., even to his detractors.
Which is why it seemed odd when some members of the Chicago Plan Commission at its Dec. 20 meeting questioned why the proposed Jefferson Park Station Area Master Plan, which the commission approved, did not include specific recommendations for upzoning and more affordable housing.
"This is very small zoning (and) no emphasis on affordable," commission member Alderman Tom Tunney (44th) said in reference to some of the properties near the transit center. "We want to make sure there are opportunities for development."
Commission member Fran Grossman said that a "more focused" plan with specific recommendations on how to redevelop the area around the transit center should possibly be considered.
Arena told the commission that in discussions with project consultants it was decided not to include specific recommendations for individual properties. "Let’s not say a plaza needs to go here when we don’t control the land," Arena said.
The approved plan will serve as an important framework to guide future development, Arena said. "It also gives me something to work with a developer for the get-go. Here’s what the community wants," Arena told the commission.
Arena said that the master plan outlines several new development projects in the works and that out of the 316 currently planned new apartments in and near the commercial district, 25 percent of them qualify as affordable (below-market rate) units. Arena has called for higher affordable housing requirements on Milwaukee Avenue in Jefferson Park and Portage Park in an effort to curb gentrification, but the city Department of Planning and Development has not supported Arena’s recommendation.
One commission member had expressed concern that the master plan had encouraged the re-use of older, low-rise buildings. "The realty is we have a 16-story building approved with 114 (apartments)," Arena said.
Arena added that some parcels near the transit center recently changed ownership and that he will be having discussions about future development with those owners. Earlier this year a group of investors purchased the former Northwestern College parcels at 4829 N. Lipps Ave. and 4811 N.Milwaukee Ave., and the former college site is now being managed by Mega Properties, the developer of the planned 16-story building at 4849 N. Lipps Ave.
Commission member Alderman Joe Moreno (1st) said that the plan demonstrated "a broad vision. This looks forward for Jeff Park."
The 80-page master plan includes design guidelines for buildings, identifies possible revenue sources for building improvement projects, identifies opportunities for community gathering spaces that can support outdoor activities, redeveloping vacant land around Milwaukee Avenue, Lawrence Avenue and Long Avenue and calls for "walkability" and other transportation-related enhancements.
A copy of the plan is available at www.accessjeffpark.org.
Also at the hearing, Preservation Chicago executive director Ward Miller said that a historic district landmark designation should be considered for a portion of the Jefferson Park business area. He said that the Hoyne Savings Bank building at 4786 N. Milwaukee Ave. and the "street wall" in the 4700 block of North Milwaukee Avenue are worth preserving. "They are real important to Jefferson Park," he said.