Home of the 43rd Ward Democrats - Michele Smith Committeeman

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2527 N. Lincoln Avenue - 773-661-2133

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Detailed Analysis of Revised Proposal for Lincoln Park Hospital

To repeat some background from a previous newsletter , the Lincoln Park Hospital site contains 42 city lots and, based on the underlying residential zoning for the surrounding area, would support up to 330 units of housing – a mix of single family homes, townhomes, and 3 and 4 story apartments.

The revised proposal, based on plans posted on the Lincoln Central Association site , would contain:

• 120 residential units in a twelve story building
• 40 units in a 55’ high building on Grant
• A 20,000 square foot store (more on this later), and parking garage with 255 spaces
• Over 95,000 square feet of medical and professional office space – leaving this leaves the building on Geneva Terrace as office space, instead of the originally-proposed senior housing.

The Commercial Portion

The community has been strongly against creating a retail corridor on Webster. In response, the developer has proposed that just one store would be built in the existing parking garage: a 20,000 square foot grocery store.

The new Apple Store on North Avenue is 6,500 square feet. The proposed store is more than three times that size. Will this really be a “walkable” type of store, when the principle amenity of the site is 255 parking spaces? Common sense tells us that this is a “destination” type of grocery store, bringing not only residents, but many others who will drive to the store.

We know that there are 750,000 square feet of vacant retail in our area already. Should we take this occasion to create a new retail center in a different area, surrounded by townhouses and an historic district? Further, take a look at this drawing from the developer’s presentation. It shows , to scale, the size of the delivery trucks that will be coming to Webster Ave. The backing up of these trucks alone will stop traffic on Webster. And the new customers coming to the stores and offices will further congest this residential street.

The plan adds a truck loading docks on Webster just to the west of the main garage door. Plus, there is a new garage door on the north side at the very east end of the tower building. All of these moves are contrary to the prior agreements with neighbors (the idea previously was one garage door as far west as possible to minimize noise and congestion in the neighboring residential area). And while we always have to be careful pushing strollers, this does create a truck and car intensive use just east of Oz Park.

Ultimately, more and different retail is possible on the site. According to the draft ordinance, the “underlying zoning” for the site would be “B2-3.” B2 zoning permits the following uses:

Elderly housing
Restaurants
Banks
Food and Beverage Retail sales, with liquor sales as an accessory use
Offices
Medical
Hair Salons, Nail Salons
Dry Cleaners
General Retail Sales – groceries, pharmacies, clothing, etc.
Children’s Activities Facility

The proposal, as drafted, does not prohibit retail on Grant or on the north side of Webster, and our zoning code makes no differentiation among the uses listed above.

There are no size limitations on any single business in this kind of district up to 25,000 square feet. So, although the proposed plan limits the store in the parking garage to a single 20,000 square foot store, the “underlying zoning” would permit stores, and more than one store, in the buildings across the street.

The Overall Density of the Site

Just to give you an idea of the scale of this development in contrast to the immediate neighborhood, the proposal contemplates up to 395,487 total square feet of development, almost one third more than if the site was entirely residential. And it packs 170 new houses on a block that today contains fewer than 10 houses.

What does the “-3” in “B2-3” mean? The “-3” stands for limits on density, height and bulk.
In a “-3” area, all development is measured the Floor Area Ratio (FAR), which is 3. That means that the total square footage of all development is three times the lot size. That means that the total square foot of the retail, residential, office and parking on the site is allowed to be 3 X 131,829 sq. ft = 395,487 total square feet of development. This is huge and is the largest FAR allowed.

Parking rules for “-3” zoning is: “None for first 10,000 square feet then 2.5 spaces per 1,000 square feet.” That means for a 20,000 square foot store, there would only have to be 25 parking spaces. This proposal has over 225 spaces, which initially sounds ample. However, this is a double edged sword. It means that the development could support much more retail and be completely legal under the code.

What About the Future?

Under our city’s zoning code, if a planned development is initially approved, no further approvals are needed to change the planned development if “the development involves only reuse of an existing building and the building’s height is not being increased.” Therefore, even if the current developer claims that the development will have “only” one store, there is nothing that the community could do in the future should an additional store or stores be installed on the site. This is all the more apparent because the development indeed contains enough parking under our city code for more than one 20,000 square foot store.

But, fundamentally, the issue is: should there be retail and office space on this site? The area has transitioned to residential uses over the decades, and the proposed use of Webster would add multiple loading and access drives (over 150 linear feet of curb), which is not compatible with low density residential use. At the same time, we know that the large Children’s Memorial site, on Lincoln Avenue, a commercial street, will be developed soon.

Our alderman, Vi Daley, has said, to date, that commercial use here is not appropriate. What do you think? Let me know.

The Residential Portion

The developer’s plans show a twelve story building, under the claim that this would be no higher than the current building. The twelve stories are achieved by adding two floors to the building to match the height of the current utility tower on the hospital. The mechanical penthouse is not currently visible from the street, as would be these 2 additional floors. Instead, the developer adds his own mechanical penthouse, increasing the height even further.

The Height of the Building

Under the city’s zoning code, any building over 110’ is considered a “tall” (hi-rise) building. This building would be 152’ 5” high, before mechanicals, backing immediately over historic homes on the same blocks. In addition, the bulk of the buildings would be expanded substantially from their current configuration.

In contrast, in a B2 district, which the developers state would be the “underlying zoning,” the maximum height for residential space over commercial space is 65 feet, which better reflects the character of the surrounding area. These contradictions do make it seem like the developer is trying to have it all.

The Number of Units

While the developer’s fact sheet only shows 160 units, the zoning they seek would allow them to build up to 330 units. 1

Summary

It seems as though this development is a large scale, mixed use development, in sharp contrast to the low rise residential that entirely surrounds it – a two story townhouse development to the south, and 3 and 4 store houses to the north. Do you think it is appropriate here?

1 Although the fact sheets states that the number of proposed residential units is 160, the number of residential units allowed is based on the “minimum lot area” per unit, which is 400 square feet per unit for “-3” zoning. To figure out the number of units, you take the total area of the development (131,829 sq. ft.) and divide by 400 sq. ft. = 330 units. In other words, even under the “revised” proposal, the developer could build 330 units – perhaps convert the office building on Geneva Terrace to housing later? This would be a major change to the development and would seem to require full planned development procedures.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

255 parking spaces: you do not need an "expert" to tell you how incredibly inadequate that would be: for the full-time professionals and staff (approximately 400 people) of the 100,000 sf of offices, for the hundreds and maybe thousands of visitors to those offices, for the 100 or so promised new-job-holders, for visitors and guests, for the community, for the shoppers to the "boutique" grocery, etc, etc... The "overflow" -- or those who simply do not want to pay for parking -- will simply drive around and around in the hopes of finding something. Some may walk or take public transportation, but we all know full-well that the vast majority will drive. It will not be pretty and should not be allowed to happen in one of the already-most-congested areas and intersections in the city.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm naive. The neighborhood already panned a very similar proposal in January. The Alderman announced that the developers would need a consensus of the neighborhood. The developers now propose an even-more unsafe and congested development (eg 70,000 sf more of office space instead of the original proposal for senior housing). Instead of compromising -- which is what the alderman requested-- they hired a public-relations expert to try to create the "illusion" of neighborhood support. Who is going to be fooled? Certainly no one who will be affected by the long-term consequences of such a massive project.