Chicago Cityscape's '1909' newsletter
Thursday, November 23, 2017
Thursday, November 23, 2017
Happy Thanksgiving! We’re having a sale, we’ve got a cool new zoning tool, and neighborhood news is back after a short hiatus.
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Cool new zoning tool
Zoning Assessment, featured in this screenshot, is a great site selection tool for developers and architects. Open your target neighborhood and search for keywords like “apartment” or “mixed-use” and the map will change in real-time to show where those building types can be built as of right.
For CTA and Metra stations, it shows the zoning districts within a 10 minute walk or bike shed. Look at the Morgan Green/Pink Line station, for example.
- The Cook County Land Bank Authority has rehabbed its 200th house (actually, they employ local developers and contractors to do the actual renovations) (Crain’s) — view their current properties for sale
- CityLab highlights seven buildings across the country whose owners renovated them by taking advantage of the federal historic rehabilitation tax credit, including the Wrigley Building in 2012 — the credit could be gutted by Congress
- PullmanArts, Artspace, and Chicago Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) intend to break ground on the Pullman Artspace Lofts in the Pullman community area in the spring
- Keep up with the issues and fears about the impacts to residents that the Obama library may bring; not everyone in Woodlawn/Jackson Park thinks a community benefits agreement is ideal (Chicago Reporter)
- Trianon Lofts in Woodlawn is supposedly the first market rental apartment building in 40 years (Curbed)
Friday, November 17, 2017
Determine how much is residential or mixed-use
Zoning Assessment is a new, automated tool that measures the kind of different zoning districts in any of the more than 6,000 maps of Chicago on Chicago Cityscape. With it you can see how much residential-only, mixed-use, or planned developments make up a ward, community, or the area around a CTA station.
For example, 58 percent of the land within a two-block radius of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Logan Square Blue Line station is zoned to only allow single-family houses. Fully 72 percent of the land area is zoned for residential-only.
That contrasts to the 13 percent of the land around the Belmont station in Lake View that serves the Red, Brown, and Purple Lines, that allows only single-family houses. Forty-two percent of the land area is zoned for residential-only.
Both have 24-hour rapid transit service.
Each has a similar amount of land already zoned to allow 3-flats (and sometimes 4-flats, depending on the lot size), but the Belmont station area has eight times more land zoned to allow buildings with up to a couple of dozen apartments or condos (again, depending on the lot size).
Drawing a two-block radius circle around the station is one thing, but what is the zoning like within walking distance to the station? We’ve since added a “walk shed” add-on, which is described in technical detail. But you can try it yourself here, by clicking on one of the walk shed or bike shed links below the map.
I must always note in these limited zoning analyses that zoning districts are a poor indicator of current — actual — land use. But current zoning has impacts on generating new housing, generating new affordable housing, and zoning can affect construction costs, because of the time and money-consuming process to change zoning in order to build something that isn’t allowed.
In Logan Square, for example, many blocks that are zoned RS-3 (which allows only single-family houses, and two-flats under extreme circumstances) have a majority of two- and three-flats!
One more thing
The Zoning Assessment tool also has a map that responds in real time to your search for specific zoning categories (try “residential”, “planned development”, or “mixed use”).
Can I get the data?
Pro members can download the Zoning Assessment results, and a GIS copy of the zoning map within that area. Not a member? Start a free trial.
New tool automatically analyzes the zoning map in any part of Chicago was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
Developers are trying to lure artists visiting the University of Chicago’s Arts Incubator to stay in Washington Park to live and work with discounted rent and cheap studio space.
The KLEO Community Life Center and Brin Life Center are breaking ground in December on a $23.5 million apartment building at 65 E. Garfield Boulevard designed specifically to get more artists to live in Washington Park.
A building permit for the project was issued yesterday.
Rev. Torrey Barrett, executive director of the KLEO Center, said Thursday that the University of Chicago has convinced lots of artists to visit the neighborhood, with more expected when the university opens a new $8 million arts center two blocks away in the coming years.
“What we’re realizing is a lot of artists have been coming to the neighborhood, spending their money in the neighborhood, eating in the neighborhood, but they don’t live in the neighborhood,” Barrett said.
The 58-unit building is Barrett’s attempt to keep them there, with 49 of the units set aside for artists making less than $33,180 a year, or less than 60 percent of the area median income for an individual. The remaining units will be rented at market rate.
Apartments are expected to rent for $750 to $1,150 per month.
Barrett’s plan is to make it easy and alluring for artists to work in Washington Park as well. Four studio spaces line the first floor along the Michigan Avenue side of the building and are set up to make it easy for artists to open their studios to neighbors and visitors.
“It’s almost like a garage door that opens on Michigan that lets you have that indoor-outdoor feel,” Barrett said.
Studio space is expected to rent for $700 to $1,100 per month.
Barrett has gotten the city onboard to financially support the project, which he hopes can be replicated throughout the city.
The city is pitching in $6.4 million in tax increment financing, $1.5 million in low income housing tax credits and $270,000 in donations tax credits, as well as selling the property valued at $925,000 to the developer for $1.
Barrett said the building is expected to open to residents in February of 2019. He said he’s considering a similar project in Woodlawn next if this building is successful.
Juan Gabriel Moreno Architects, best known locally for its design of the Northeastern Illinois University El Centro campus, has created a design that pops on the block of mostly utilitarian brick box apartment buildings.
The architect has called for a façade of semi-translucent panels striped in green and yellow.
“The building itself will actually glow,” Barrett said.
He said he’s working now with artist Theaster Gates, director of arts and public life at the U. of C., to strengthen programming between the KLEO Center, the artist housing and the university’s arts block.
The new apartment building when complete will sit at the western edge of the university’s arts block, which is expected to expand considerably in the coming years.
The university has started construction on a new arts theater, with plans next for an outdoor arts pavilion, capping off with the completion of the new arts center in 2020.
Developer betting $23.5 million that artists want to live in cheap Washington Park apartments was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
by Mina Bloom, one of the many reporters laid off when Joe Ricketts shut down DNAinfo and Chicagoist two weeks ago. Chicago Cityscape has invited DNAinfo Chicago reporters to continue reporting on some of the zoning, housing, and neighborhood development stories they covered while working for DNAinfo.
A pair of modern residential projects, each offering six condos, could soon rise in Avondale (see map and latest construction permits).
In one of the projects, Chicago-based developer NOAH Properties wants to redevelop a site at 3046–48 N. California Ave., which is currently home to a two-story building and an adjoining lot. Plans include constructing a six-unit condo building with six garage parking spaces. The two-story building used to house Clyde’s bar.
NOAH Properties is aiming to sell the condos for anywhere between $450,00 — $550,000, according to Sara Barnes, zoning attorney for the developer.
Farther north, Jim Coakley of Bloomhill Homes is looking to build a residential project in place of the Grace Pentecostal Church building, 3301 N. Albany Ave., with the same specifications — six condos and six garage parking spaces.
The three-story church building, which zoning attorney Paul Kolpak called an “eyesore,” has sat vacant for years. Coakley wants to sell the condos for $499,000.
Seeking zoning changes because the California lot doesn’t allow even a 2-flat, and the Albany lot only allows single-family houses, both developers pitched neighbors and Ald. Deb Mell (view map of the 33rd Ward) at a community meeting Wednesday evening hosted by Avondale Neighborhood Association.
Several neighbors who spoke during public comment took issue with the design of the projects.
Though the two projects are not related, they share the same aesthetic: modern with red brick and big windows.
“These are like twin sisters, and I think the community has a strong voice. We’re tired of this repeated cookie cutter architecture,” said Mark Thomas, an Avondale resident and member of Avondale Neighborhood Association’s zoning committee.
Benjamin West of Axios Architects & Consultants, the firm hired to design the project at 3046–48 N. California Ave., rejected Thomas’ assertion.
“They may be twins, but the previous project is located on a quiet residential street. This is located on California. This is built into the context of the block. There’s already multi-story buildings throughout the block,” West said.
Other issues centered around affordability, parking and congestion were brought up, but none commanded as much attention as design.
Addressing some of those concerns, Kolpak said a residential project on the church site would generate tax dollars — something the church never did.
“Right now, the city of Chicago gets absolutely zero because it’s a church. Could [the project] affect your tax bill? The answer is yes,” Kolpak said.
Some neighbors like Joel Zawko, 45, applauded the developers for bringing new life to a neighborhood they say is plagued with crime and empty storefronts.
“This provides value,” Zawko said of NOAH Properties’ project. “You can sit here and talk about aesthetics. I know my street has none. I love my neighborhood, but I want it [to be] a little nicer and I want less crime.”
Mell didn’t explicitly say if she supports the projects, but suggested that Coakley’s project on Albany would be preferable to a vacant building.
“Ultimately, we want you folks to be OK with this design. A lot of our city streets, you do see these bookends with three-flats [at the end] and single-families in the middle. Thats where I’m at. I also don’t want to see a vacant property,” the alderman said.
Mell said she intends to go back to the developers to make sure they incorporate community feedback.
Two developers need zoning changes for separate Avondale housing proposals was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
WICKER PARK — A three-story residential building with ground floor retail will replace the recently-demolished Shell gas station at the corner of Damen and Division Street, permits show.
On Monday, the city issued a new construction permit for an estimated $3.25 million project at 1205 N. Damen Ave.
Renderings of the planned building were not immediately available. It is unknown if the residential units will be condos or apartments.
Renterghem previously helped to design Bucktown’s Willow Court townhomes and served as the senior designer and project manager for South Loop’s Museum Park residential development.
Gaspar Gomez, who operated the gas station from 1977 until its closure Oct. 1, previously told DNAinfo that a rent increased pushed him out. Gaspar said his landlord wants to build an apartment building at the corner, anchored by one or more restaurants.
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st Ward) told DNAinfo in September that “Any new development at this corner will need to go through a thorough review by the community.”
On Tuesday, Moreno did not immediately return a request for comment on the new building, nor did the site’s owners, 1950 West Divison LLC’s Rob Buono and Paul Utigard.
Raymond Valadez, Moreno’s chief of staff, replied to Cityscape on Wednesday and said that the project was able to get a building permit without community input because it will be built “as-of-right” within the exising zoning classification.
“Unfortunately, I do not have a rendering that I can share,” Valadez said.
The former gas station lot is zoned B3–2, which allows for apartments or condos above a commercial ground floor and the permitted building would not require any zoning changes to be built.
Presumably to aid with impending construction, Moreno introduced an ordinance on November 8 to the city’s Committee on Transportation and Public Way that would exempt 1950 West Divsion LLC from having to construct a physical barrier to prevent alley access from its commercial driveway. All property requiring a commercial driveway permit must have a physical barrier to prevent alley access, unless exempted by the city council [Municipal Code 10–20–430].
Utigard’s Newgard Development bought the land where the gas station is located for $2.5 million in 2012, county records show.
Utigard and his business partner, Buono, are prolific real estate developers who’ve built several apartment buildings anchored by retail and restaurants throughout the city, including an 11-story, 99-unit tower just up the street from the gas station, at 1611 W. Division St.
Under a venture named Henry Street Parners, Buono is currently developing 23 modern town homes in Noble Square, slated to be ready in early 2019.
Apartments and retail coming back to the busy Damen and Divison corner could be a welcome reprise. Prior to the gas station, the northeast corner of Damen and Division was home to a grandiose apartment building anchored by a snack shop.
The apartment building that predated the gas station was demolished sometime between 1966 when Sigmund J. Otsy photographed it and Nov. 7, 1971, when a Tribune story by Robert Cross headlined “Proud Old Stubborn Wicker Park,” talks about “a couple of big gas stations” at Damen and Division.
Stay tuned for updates on this project.
No more gas at Damen/Division #wickerpark
Demolished Shell gas station at Damen/Division to be replaced by small mixed-use building was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
The City Council’s zoning committee punted a third time Tuesday on a proposal to amend a Planned Development near the Cumberland Blue Line, holding in place the final regulatory barrier for construction of a 297-unit luxury apartment complex.
The seven-story building would join an existing 12-story Marriott hotel at 8525 W. Higgins Rd., facing the Kennedy Expressway to the south and the border of suburban Park Ridge to the north. Another slice of the property would be reserved for a new office building, once a potential tenant is found.
The plan passed muster with the Chicago Plan Commission in July, but since then 41st Ward Ald. Anthony Napolitano has repeatedly asked his colleagues in the council to hold it from final approval, saying his constituents are opposed to “adding more density to an already dense area.”
Although developer Glenstar O’Hare, LLC, is not proposing to change the underlying zoning for the 22-acre property, the council is required to sign off on any proposal approved by the plan commission. Green-lighting the plan over Napolitano’s objection would buck a longstanding council tradition giving aldermen the final say over proposals in their own wards.
The new apartments raised few objections when they were first proposed last December. They would include studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, with the cheapest starting around $1,200. Complete with an indoor pool and “spa-type facilities,” the building would be designed with an eye toward young professionals working near O’Hare, according to Glenstar O’Hare principal Larry Debb.
In January, the plan scored the unanimous approval of the 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Committee, whose signal Napolitano vowed to follow while he campaigned for alderman in 2015.
But after a proposal to build a 100-unit mixed-income apartment complex at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. in Jefferson Park sent ripples of backlash across the Northwest Side this spring, Napolitano changed his tune.
The alderman said in July that “thousands” of his constituents had called to oppose the Higgins proposal, and he added in an announcement last week that the proposal had seen “tremendous feedback.”
But when the plan commission and zoning committee respectively considered the apartments in July and September, no residents signed up to speak against them.
The alderman cited the new building’s potential to exacerbate overcrowding at the nearby Dirksen Elementary School, which is already near 150 percent capacity.
A study commissioned by the developer suggested that the new apartments would have a negligible impact on Dirksen, according to Glenstar O’Hare principal Larry Debb.
But even one new student would be “too many” for a school hosting more than 950 students in a building barely built for 500, Napolitano said in August.
When the proposal first came before the council’s zoning committee in September, the alderman also objected to the inclusion of 30 affordable units in the development.
Glenstar O’Hare had originally agreed to include only seven units on-site and to pay $2.9 million in lieu of putting 23 affordable units on site, as mandated under the city’s 2015 Affordable Requirements Ordinance.
After that meeting, Napolitano told DNAinfo reporter Heather Cherone that the sudden increase in affordable units was “dirty” and designed “to tug on the heartstrings of the [zoning] committee on behalf of affordable housing.”
Monica Dillon, a member of the activist group Neighbors for Affordable Housing in Jefferson Park, was prepared to testify at the September zoning committee meeting before the matter was deferred.
A resident of the 41st ward, Dillon said her daughter, who lives with a disability, has struggled to find an accessible home that she can afford.
“I definitely think there are families like mine who could benefit from having a few units of affordable housing in the 41st ward,” Dillon said. “It’s by design that there‘s hardly been any affordable housing built on the Northwest Side, and we think it’s time to redesign these communities to be more inclusive.”
No affordable units have been built in the ward since the passage of the 2015 ordinance.
Dillon said Neighbors for Affordable Housing in Jefferson Park asked Napolitano for a meeting to discuss the proposal, but his office never responded.
Comprising the entire Higgins property, Planned Development no. 44 was last amended in 2014, when a different developer had planned to build a mixed-use residential and retail development on the site. But last year, Debb entered into a contract with the property owners to put forth his own idea, which strips out the retail and replaces it with more apartments.
Earlier this year, Napolitano moved further to head off the construction of new large-scale housing in his ward by asking the council to amend Planned Development no. 347—now a low-lying office park at Delphia and Bryn Mawr avenues—to prevent housing from being built on the site. The amendment was approved by the full council last week.
Neither Debb nor Napolitano responded to requests for comment Tuesday.
Napolitano digs in and vows to block new apartments in his ward was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Monday, November 13, 2017
The “RS-3” zoning classification only allows large, single-family houses to be built and its prevalence impacts the availability and production of housing and of affordable housing, not to mention limit who and how many people have access to good transit and schools.
Fully 70.2 percent of the 35th Ward (map) already doesn’t allow the construction of apartments or multi-family condo buildings because it is zoned as RS-3 and RS-2 (which requires single-family houses to be built on larger lots than RS-3 requires). The 35th Ward includes portions of Hermosa, Avondale, Albany Park, Logan Square, and Irving Park community areas.
Citywide, 40.8 percent of the area requires single-family housing to be built.
Already there are hundreds, if not thousands, of apartments and condos that exist in RS-3-zoned districts, so it’s not the case that 70 percent of the current housing in the 35th Ward is single-family. These are legal but nonconforming uses.
It means that a vast majority of the ward doesn’t allow any new multi-family buildings, despite that a block may already be majority two-flats (or bigger). To build something in one of these areas, you would need to get a costly zoning change.
Less than four percent of the 35th Ward is zoned RT-4, which is the most common multi-family zoning classification in Chicago and allows residential-only buildings with 2–4 units. Furthermore, 14.2 percent is zoned for various other multi-family buildings, some allowing businesses on the ground floor and the same density as RT-4 above (the largest of these is B3-1, at 5.7 percent), while others allow slightly larger apartment buildings (collectively, less than 0.5 percent).
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Zoning analyses for other areas
- The Logan Square community area has zoning that’s slightly friendlier to multi-family residences: Only 53.1 percent is zoned RS-3, and 12 percent is zoned RT-4 (2–4 flat, although 4-flats is rarer).
- The Avondale community area, on the other hand, has only 1.4 percent of the land zoned as RT-4 (2–4 flats), and 52.6 percent is zoned RS-3.
- It should be noted that multi-family housing is allowed in B and C mixed-use districts, but the most common B and C districts in the three areas discussed here are of the lowest density (dash 1 or “B3-1”, for example), allowing a number of units at the same density level as RT-4.
It’s illegal to build 2-flats or bigger in most of Avondale, Logan Square was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Monday, November 13, 2017
As I showed in the previous post, the RS-3 district is the predominant district in the 35th Ward, Logan Square, and Avondale and it only allows single-family houses to be built. It’s also the predominant zoning district in many other northwest side and north side wards.
RS-3 actually allows two-flat apartment or condo buildings to also be constructed but I left out this detail because I believe it’s impractical to use that part of the RS-3 rule to build two-flats. These are the conditions under which building a two-flat is allowed in RS-3 districts:
- There must be at least 2,500 square feet of lot area per dwelling unit
- The FAR is 0.90, meaning that the maximum area allowed in the building is 90 percent of the lot size.
The typical Chicago lot is 3,125 square feet (25 feet by 125 feet), which isn’t enough for the required 2,500 square feet of lot area per unit. To build a two-flat you need 5,000 square feet of lot area; then the units can be of any size combination adding up to 4,500 square feet (90 percent of 5,000).
There’s one exception that allows the two-flat to be built on a smaller lot, but still larger than the typical one: If 60 percent or more of the buildings on the same side of the block have two or more units, then the minimum lot area per dwelling unit is reduced to 1,500 square feet.
That’s just the right exception to build the two-flat on a typical lot size, since you only need 3,000 square feet on the lot. Then, you can build the units of any size combination adding up to 2,812 square feet (90 percent of 3,125). But why aren’t these blocks zoned RT-4, which allows 2-4 flats by right?
(Note that none of these calculations include required setbacks or required car parking, which will reduce the size of the building and its units.)
I’m going to summarize all of that…
You can build a two-flat on a lot in an RS-3 zoning district if either is true:
- You’re going to build on a typical lot size and 60 percent or more of the buildings on the same side of the block are two-flats or denser.
- You’re going to build on a double wide lot.
Strategy to allow more two-flats
Since single-family housing is the least affordable neighborhood pattern, and hurts transit ridership — especially in Chicago neighborhoods with ‘L’ service that used to be denser — there should be a strategic pattern of upzoning.
- Upzone areas around CTA and Metra stations and intersections with two high-frequency (12 minutes or lower) bus routes
- Upzone areas around schools (there will be pushback about overcrowding, but adding slight density is really not the harbinger people make it out to be, for one because it will take a while for density to increase) — on the other hand, many schools have declining enrollment, as does the school district as a whole
- Upzone blocks that have 60% or more of two-flats (really, this should have been done by the planning department in the first place — the zoning code already has exception in it that makes it like an RT-4 zone anyway); this kind of upzone should also allow a granny flat or coach house (accessory dwelling units, currently illegal in all districts), and would allow a basement unit that homeowners can rent out to earn some extra cash
Restrictive, single family-only zoning district actually allows 2-flats under extreme conditions was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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