Jeff Pk residents pleased with area’s transportation, housing options but want more retail
by BRIAN NADIG
Residents are pleased with the area’s access to public transportation and housing options but want more shopping and dining choices, according a survey that is being used to create a master plan for Jefferson Park.
An update on the planning process was given at the Aug. 29 meeting of the Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association. The study area for the “Jefferson Park Station Area Master Plan” includes the portion of Gladstone Park south of Bryn Mawr Avenue. The survey features 969 respondents.
The fact that 84 percent felt that the transportation options are “good” or “excellent” is not a surprise given that the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Transit Center, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., has CTA Blue Line and Metra stations and access to 15 bus routes, said project consultant Scott Goldstein of Teska Associates.
About 7,100 Blue Line riders board at the Jefferson Park station each day, while about 7,600 people board a bus there, Goldstein said.
“There is a lot of people coming through there,” he said. “This is the second busiest bus (terminal in the city).”
Residents are looking for improvements in and around the terminal, including pedestrian safety enhancements and a designated area for those picking up and dropping off commuters, Goldstein said.
“One of the things we’re (also) hearing is there’s not enough businesses and things to do in the area,” he said.
The survey showed that the Touhy Avenue retail corridor in the Village of Niles and the Village of Skokie was the top shopping destination for Jefferson Park residents when respondents were asked where they shop at least once a week. The survey showed that Jefferson Park was the second destination, and the Harlen/Irving Plaza was third.
Several residents at the meeting said that the Touhy corridor offers chain stores and free parking which families are seeking and that the Lawrence-Milwaukee district would be more successful if there was a free parking garage or surface lot, similar to the free lots which the Edison Park Chamber of Commerce operates in the community there.
Lincoln Square and Edison Park are two of the neighborhood business districts which residents have said that the Jefferson Park district should be more like, Goldstein said. “It’s been a 20-year process I’d say for Lincoln Square to come along,” Goldstein said. He added that the opening of the Old Town School of Folk Music sparked Lincoln Square’s revitalization and that “Edison Park has a real tight-knit character.”
Some of the residents at the meeting questioned the need for the master plan to make recommendations on housing in Jefferson Park given that the survey respondents were overwhelming satisfied with the area’s current choices. There are plans for 300 new apartments near the transit center, with additional projects in the works.
Alderman John Arena (45th) has pledged to bring 50 new Chicago Housing Authority-sponsored apartments to the ward to help desegregate the area and to fill what he has described as a housing void for families who already are living here and pay a disproportionate amount of their income for rent.
Arena also has argued that increased density will bring in a larger customer base for the struggling business district and that having low-income housing near transit centers helps these households have better access to jobs.
One proposal would bring 30 CHA and 50 affordable units to a site at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy., while a developer has backed out of a proposed 43-unit, low-income housing development at 4601 N. Milwaukee Ave.
There also were preliminary discussions to include two CHA apartments, which are intended for those earning between 30 and 50 percent of the area’s median income, in a planned 16-unit building at 4812 W. Montrose Ave., but none are reportedly moving forward.
A 16-story development at 4849 N. Lipps Ave. will include 114 apartments, with a dozen affordable units set aside for households earning 60 percent of the area’ s median income.
The area consists predominantly of single-family homes and older, smaller-sized apartment buildings, and there is a need for some new housing, but “there is not a lot of vacant land left,” Goldstein said.
The study will examine how development projects can best fit in with the character of the community, he said. A portion of the $120,000 master plan study is being funded by the Regional Transportation Agency as a transit-oriented development plan. The city’s zoning ordinance allows for additional density and fewer parking requirements for properties located near transit centers.
A series of housing recommendations, including possible density guidelines for the area, are expected to be part of a community workshop next month that will include updates on the planning process. Participants will be asked to tour exhibits and give their input on a variety of issues that are being covered in the study.
The workshop will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16, at the Copernicus Center Annex, 5214 W. Lawrence Ave. A final plan is expected to be completed by next spring.
The study is intended to develop strategies to improve transportation, mobility, land use, housing and economic development. In other areas, survey results indicate that most residents are pleased with the area’s parks, schools and access to roads, as the two expressways and several diagonal main thoroughfares cut through Jefferson Park.
“We need your help. The plan can only be as good as your participation,” Goldstein said.
Also at the association’s meeting, several residents suggested that the study take into consideration the impact of crime. A man said that recent shootings and stabbings in Jefferson Park caused some of his friends to skip the area’s annual “Jeff Fest” arts and music festival due to safety concerns.
The master plan study is not focusing on the transit center itself, where a $25 million renovation already is planned, but will instead make recommendations on how to improve the area around the transit center, Goldstein said.
A start date for the construction has not been determined, but a contract for the work could be awarded by the end of this year, according to a CTA spokeswoman.