City seeks to sell Six Corners public parking lot for possible townhomes
by BRIAN NADIG
The city is looking to sell a 109-space public parking lot at 4050 N. Laporte Ave. that has served the Six Corners commercial district for decades for a possible townhouse development, but at least one local business organization is opposing the plan.
The parking lot, which is roughly 37,000 square feet in size, is often underutilized, with no more than 30 vehicles parked there, except when there have been concerts at the 1,300-seat Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave. The theater has been closed since early 2018, and it could be years before it reopens given that there are no existing licenses to operate the theater as an entertainment venue.
The entrance to the lot is where Cuyler Avenue dead-ends at Laporte, and previous operators of the theater have said that it plays an important role in the potential success of the theater.
At times theater patrons also have been allowed to us the parking lot at the former Sears at 4730 W. Irving Park Road, but that property is being redeveloped for a 208-unit apartment complex and reportedly a Target department store.
The lot charges $2 per hour and offers monthly parking passes, which at least one businesses purchases for its company vehicles. The lot does become noticeably more filled in October due to Halloween crowds at Fantasy Costumes, 4065 N. Milwaukee Ave.
“The city is trying to raise more revenue,” Alderman James Gardiner (45th) said.
“I’ve been pushing back on (on the sale of the parking lot) for six or seven months, … but the problem is I can only do so much for a theater that is nowhere near being sold (or re-opening),” he said. He added that the licensing and permitting process to get the 101-year-old theater reopened could take months, possibly even a year or two.
The Six Corners Chamber of Commerce is calling for the parking lot to remain.
“We are totally opposed to this idea. For more than six decades this lot has provided parking for customers who are vital to the Six Corners business community. With Six Corners’ growth on the upswing, this lot is even more essential,” chamber president Michael DiMeo.
“You don’t see Harlem/Irving (Plaza) selling its parking lot. This is part of a very basic business formula. By selling it, you’re giving up o the business district at a crucial time when its growth is building increased revenue for its retailers and the city.”
The city is planning to issue a request for proposals from developers who would purchase the parking lot for the purposes of building townhouses, Gardiner said. The city is planning to have the property rezoned as early as this summer to accommodate a residential development, as the site’s existing B1-1 zoning does not allow for townhouses.
If the lot is sold, the good news is that the project would increase the area’s density and thus the customer base for area stores and restaurants, Gardiner said.
Gardiner has advocated for the sale of some city-owned properties as a way to help alleviate the tax burden on residents, calling for parcels to be sold to the “highest bidder” through a public bidding process.
He was critical of the city’s recent negotiated sale of the former Jefferson Park firehouse at 4837-41 N. Lipps Ave. for $1, which was completed without an issuance of a request for proposals, but he did not oppose the actual sale.
Also at Six Corners, a revised proposal for a shopping center, featuring an Amazon Fresh grocery store and a Burlington department store, is in the works for the former Peoples Gas site at 3955 N. Kilpatrick Ave. Under the new proposal there reportedly would be apartments above one of the stores, as the previous plan called for the apartments to be limited to an adjacent parcel on Milwaukee Avenue.