Kilbourn-Irving traffic signal planned for Northwestern Medical project; some residents want proposal scaled back due to traffic issues
by BRIAN NADIG
A traffic signal would be installed at the T-intersection formed by Irving Park Road and the south leg of Kilbourn Avenue to accommodate the proposed 59-foot-tall, block-long Northwestern Medical Group facility along the south side of Irving between Kilbourn and Kenneth Avenue.
The four-story project would include a 350-space parking structure, two levels of which would be underground. An exit and entrance to the the parking structure would be located on Kilbourn, while vehicles also would be able to exit via an existing rear alley that would be extended to Kenneth. Some residents have asked for a parking entrance on Irving in order to limit the traffic on area side streets, but the city’s transportation and zoning guidelines discourage curbcuts on main thoroughfares.
Details of the $150 million project, which has been in the works for about a year, were presented at a Feb. 4 virtual community meeting held by Alderman James Gardiner (45th). Last year several buildings, including the former Sabatino’s restaurant, were demolished on the block to accommodate the project, which requires a zoning change.
During the meeting several residents raised concerns that the area’s side streets already are congested during rush hour, with one area resident saying that sometimes it takes him “5-10 minutes” by the time he leaves his home and turns onto Irving. Another resident complained about cut-through traffic on Kenneth and said that she was worried that the project would worsen the problem.
“Side streets weren’t meant to handle 2,600 cars,” another resident said. “How do we scale this (project) down? Project officials said that they estimate about “2,600 trips” a day at the complex, which includes the number of vehicles arriving and leaving the facility.
“We are not opposed to a medical facility, but not this scope,” a man said. “It’s going to create some backups (on Kenneth). … There’s still a number of points that need to be addressed.”
Project officials said that the traffic signal planned for Kilbourn-Irving is intended to help reduce potential traffic issues on side streets, as those wanting to head west on Irving would be expected to take advantage of the signal to turn left instead of using Kenneth, where there is no signal.
However, not all residents were worried about the possibility of increased traffic due to the project.
One man said that he has heard traffic complaints before in regard to other development projects and that things have always worked out. “The world is going to end (I hear) … we are still here.” He added that there would be a “line of people” to buy someone’s house near the the Northwestern site if the homeowner decides to sell.
Gardiner said that he believes most residents are supportive of Northwestern coming into the community but that his goal is to limit all potential problems and make the project “least invasive as possible.” He added that he believes Northwestern is sincerely trying to address residents’ concerns.
Gardiner said that he has gone door-to-door in the neighborhood to gather input on the project. “I have knocked on those doors … delivered those traffic studies,” he said.
The complex would include an urgent care facility, medical offices and labs. Initial plans called for the complex to be five stories, but a second level was placed underground in order to reduce the height of the 144,700-square-foot building, which would include green roofs and limestone and terra cotta design elements on its exterior. There also would a 2,400-square-foot public plaza along Irving .
Project designer Troy Hoggard of Cannon Design said that “we really wanted a five-story building” but that Gardiner was adamant the project be no higher than four stories. Pushing more of the complex underground adds about $7 million to the final cost of the project (initially only one underground level), he said.
The building would serve as an “acoustic shield” for residents to the south, blocking noise from Irving, Hoggard said.
The proposal also calls for a longer left-turn lane on westbound Irving at Kilbourn. This extension would require the removal of the existing eastbound left-turn lane providing access to the north leg of Kilbourn and the relocation of an existing sidewalk from the east side of the offset intersection to the east side of the new signalized intersection.
In addition, Kilbourn would be widened five feet to the east, and two or three on-street parking spaces along the east side of Kilbourn adjacent to the site between Irving and the alley would be removed to facilitate two-way traffic along this street segment while maintaining on-street parking along the west side of Kilbourn.
Also being considered is restricting left-turn access to and from the north leg of Kibourn and redirecting neighborhood access to adjacent streets. Kolmar Avenue, one block west of Kilbourn provides an alternate route with an existing eastbound left-turn lane on Irving, according to the project’s traffic study by Kimley-Horn traffic engineering company.
If the project’s zoning is approved, Northwestern is planning to break ground this fall.
A resident said that having a “world-class” organization such as Northwestern in the neighborhood would “enhance” the surrounding commercial areas.
The proposal also would include the installation of a security camera along with the planned traffic signal at Irving and Kilbourn, and Northwestern has agreed to pave some of the adjacent side streets and have speed bumps installed where requested by the community.
Plans call for the parking to be validated, but there are no plans to charge for use of the garage.
Gardiner said that he asked for all of the parking to be free in order to discourage users of the facility from parking on side streets.
Leed Silver Certification is being sought for the project, and retail tenants are being considered for a portion of the ground level.
The block’s predominantly B3-1 zoning would allow a variety of retail and other commercial uses, including restaurants and offices. B3-3 is being sought for the Northwestern proposal.