Zoning hearing on Laporte-Cuyler parking lot at 6 Corners delayed; city seeks possible residential project there
by BRIAN NADIG
A scheduled Sept. 8 hearing on the proposed rezoning of a city-owned, 111-space parking lot at Six Corners was postponed after some merchants had raised concerns about plans to sell the property for a possible residential development.
“We are taking the time to ensure we do what is in the best interest of our community,” Alderman James Gardiner (45th) said.
Plans call for the city to rezone the 37,601-square-foot lot at 4050 N. Laporte Ave. from B1-1 to RT-4, which would allow up to 37 residential units on the property.
The city Department of Planning reportedly is looking at a possible townhouse development for the site. Some merchants have expressed concern that rezoning the lot to RT-4 without the potential buyer’s plans first being presented to the public would deny the community the opportunity to have input on the development project.
It costs $2 per hour to park in the lot, and in 2019 there were on average 42 monthly parkers who had purchased passes to use the lot, according to the department. Some business owners allocate passes to their workers, and some residents have bought passes to park in the lot overnight.
The Laporte-Cuyler parking lot is one of several which the city is looking to sell due to a low utilization rate. In 2019 the overall utilization rate was 4 percent for the Laporte lot, the department said.
However, according to the Six Corners Chamber of Commerce, there is often 30 or more vehicles in the lot, and it plans to work with a planning firm to have a parking count study of the lot conducted and to possibly survey area merchants and residents to gather their input on the city’s proposal.
In the past it was not unusual for the lot to be full on evenings when the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., had sold-out concerts, but the theater has been closed since 2018, and it could be several years before it reopens. There are no active business licenses for the Portage.
Chamber president Mike DiMeo said that the resurgence of the shopping district is not far away given that several redevelopment projects are in the works, with construction underway or about to start. They include the Clarendale senior living at 4747 W. Irving Park Road, the 207-unit apartment and retail complex at 4712 W. Irving Park Road and the Northwestern Medical Group facility at 4441 W. Irving Park Road, he said.
Closing the Laporte lot could create a “barrier to trade” at a time more stores are opening at Six Corners, DiMeo said. The lot’s current users would have to look to the congested side streets to park, and that could lead to more residential permit parking parking, forcing more workers and all-day parkers on the main streets in front of stores, he said.
“A ripple effect (of closing the lot)… concerns us the most as we are trying to create a viable business district,” DiMeo said. “Ultimately this is about going forward (and) the resurgence.”
The city has retained the real estate brokerage firm of Cushman and Wakefield to market and solicit offers for the parking lots. Any proposed sale would require approval by City Council following a 30-day alternative proposal period from other potential buyers.
The city reportedly may not require buyer to sign a redevelopment agreement which would require a specific type of construction or use for the site. The buyers would be limited by what the site’s zoning allows or could seek a rezoning.
If the Laporte parcel were to be rezoned to RT-4, the construction of 10 or more residential units would require the developer to adhere to the city’s affordable housing requirements.
Gardiner has said that he pushed back on the city’s plans to sell the Laporte-Cuyler lot for months but that the city is looking to raise revenue. Gardiner is the sponsor of the rezoning proposal for the lot.
In the past Gardiner has called for the city to find other ways to raise revenue instead of increasing property taxes.
It is not known if the City Council Zoning Committee will hear the rezoning proposal in October or if it will remain on hold. The planning department was hoping to have the site rezoned by the end of last month.