Garage, mixed-use proposal for Jeff Park; height similar to 10-story Veterans
by BRIAN NADIG
A building with up to 12 floors is being proposed for the Jefferson Park business district.
The building, which would be located next to the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, would include 10,000-square feet of ground-floor retail space, five floors of parking with 265 spaces and six floors with 96 apartments. Ten of the apartments would be affordable housing units which would be offered at below market rate.
The building, whose address would be 4849 N. Lipps Ave., would be located behind the 10-story Veterans Square office building at Milwaukee and Higgins avenues.
The proposed structure would be located on the former Cowhey Materials and Fuel Co. site, which for the past 10 years has been used as a gravel parking lot for tenants of Veterans Square. The 25,000-square-foot site is located at the northeast corner of Ainslie Street and Lipps Avenue.
The Mega Group, which owns the both the former Cowhey property and the Veterans building, previously proposed to build a seven-story parking structure with storefronts on the site, but Alderman John Arena (45th) would not a support a zoning change for that proposal, which was made in 2011.
The seven-story proposal would have been about half as tall as the Veterans building, but the newly proposed structure would be similar in height to Veterans Square. The parking floors in the proposed building would not be as tall as the office floors in the Veterans building.
Arena will host a community meeting on the proposal at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30, at the Copernicus Center Annex, 5214 W. Lawrence Ave. Arena holds community meetings after his advisory panel of architects and urban planners reviews a zoning proposal, but those meetings with the panel are closed to the public.
"During the day the parking garage would help support the commercial space at Veterans Plaza across the street. At night and during weekends the parking could be used by visitors to the Copernicus Center and other neighborhood attractions.
"The planned development agreement will include a requirement that both the new garage and (existing underground) garage in Veterans plaza be professionally managed. Additionally, the agreement would cover both this new building and the existing Veterans Plaza. It will require that the dumpsters for Veterans plaza be moved to an enclosed space off the sidewalk.
"The planned development agreement gives the community significant input into the design and materials used. The height of the proposed building requires such an agreement," Arena wrote in his weekly newsletter.
The Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association has a platform that opposes up-zoning. During Arena’s community meeting, the association is scheduled to hold an election for a new president, and one of the candidates has written on social media that he serves on Arena’s advisory committee and has said that the association’s platforms are too restrictive. The other candidate supports the platform.
Mega officials have said that a parking garage on the former Cowhey cement-mixing site is needed to help attract more commercial tenants to the Veterans office building. About 60 percent of the office space is occupied, according to Arena.
The underground parking garage at Veterans is used by the office and ground-floor retail tenants at Veterans, while some of the spaces are available to the public for $12 a day. Mega manages the garage, but under the proposed development agreement, management would be turned over to the same company operating the garage in the new building.
Also, at community meetings, concerns often are raised about overflowing dumpsters for Veterans. The dumpsters are located on the sidewalk behind Vetrerans along Lipps, but the proposed agreement would prohibit that.
Mega also is seeking to build a four-story building with storefronts and apartments at 5201 W, Lawrence Ave., which is used as a gravel parking lot. The city owns a portion of the site and is selling its property to Mega for $1.
Arena has argued that more residential density is needed around the commercial district to help support the businesses.
There also is a proposal for a five-story building with ground-floor parking and four floors of parking at Long avenue and Argyle Street, across from the Jefferson Park Metra Station. The project’s developer reportedly is revising the proposal.
The 10-story Veterans building was constructed in three phases starting about 25 years ago. Mega did not need a zoning change to build the veterans building, as the site was rezoned in the 1970s, several years before Mega acquired the property.