Poor audio quality for meeting on Peoples Gas site frustrates listeners; many criticize proposal as too auto-centric
by BRIAN NADIG
About 160 people attended an Oct. 13 community meeting on a mixed-use proposal for the former Peoples Gas site at 3955 N. Kilpatrick Ave. at Six Corners, but for about half of the attendees — those who participated virtually via Zoom — GW Properties’ presentation suffered from poor audio quality.
“FUBAR,” wrote one listener in the Zoom chat room, where many complained about the audio quality and the project itself. The meeting was held at Schurz High School, 3601 N. Milwaukee Ave.
“Please consider holding an additional meeting via Zoom if the audio issues are unable to be resolved. There are 70 people on the call who cannot hear,” city Department of Planning and Development official James Harris wrote in the chat. The issues were not resolved, and Harris later posted, “Please be assured that an additional community meeting will be held.”
The department has been highly critical of the $80 million project, calling for a more urban and pedestrian-friendly design. The department has said that the planned driveway on Irving Park Road should be eliminated and that more of the project’s bulk/density should be located along Irving Park.
Under the current proposal, the center’s anchor retail tenants, Amazon Fresh and Burlington, would be located in the rear of the six-acre site, while a Panera Bread with a drive-through facility would be located on Irving Park along with a retail building designed for several smaller-sized tenants.
In all, the project calls for 96,000 square feet of retail space and 110 residential units, which would be located near the back of the center, including one residential building that would front Milwaukee. A few hundred parking spaces are planned, and there would be be 15,000 square feet of outdoor gathering space, including plazas.
“My main issue with this is that it’s designed for people in other neighborhoods to drive here and shop. It benefits people who don’t live here and makes it a pain for those of us that do. Ideally build something where we actually want to walk or bike to,” a resident said in the chat room.
“The proposal includes far too much ground parking, too much wasted land,” another said.
Another expressed concern that the project would worsen traffic on Kilpatrick. “Cars sit for several light cycles on Kilpatrick due to cars blocking the intersection. Then there’s a ¼-mile backup on Irving every afternoon,” the resident wrote.
In an interview earlier in the month, GW developer Mitch Goltz said that given the high volume of traffic on Irving Park Road (approximately 40,000 vehicles a day) and the parcel’s unusual depth of 200 feet, it makes more sense to place the residential units away from the noise and traffic. “Irving Park is as close as to being a highway as you can get in the city,” he said.
Goltz added that the project is addressing the community’s need for more destination retail and that the project’s design is helping to draw retailers like Amazon and Burlington to the site. “Retailers demand parking for their customers,” he said. “This is a retail project with a residential component.”
The project also caters to a variety of transportation modes, as there would be designated areas for 116 bikes and there is a plan to seek a Divvy Bike Station and a new shelter for the existing bus stop near the the center’s community gathering area at Milwaukee and Kilpatrick avenues, Goltz said.
The center would consist of six buildings, ranging in height from one to 5 or 6 stories.
The meeting was hosted by GW in conjunction with the Six Corners Association, Old Irving Park Association and Portage Park Neighborhood Association.
Alderman James Gardiner (45th) was not a host or sponsor of the meeting. He said a few months ago that he was not ready to support the proposal due to concerns expressed by several community groups.
“So disappointing the alderman didn’t show up or post about the meeting,” one virtual attendee wrote. In recent weeks, the city ethics board and reportedly the FBI have been looking into his conduct following the release of text messages from a former aide.