Strip Mall Ban? Alderman Seeks To Make Northwest Side Streets More Walkable

By Heather Cherone on August 20, 2014 7:55am 

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  The measure would prevent strip malls from being built in the Jefferson Park Business DIstrict.
Milwaukee and Lawrence Pedestrian District
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JEFFERSON PARK — A new measure introduced by Ald. John Arena (45th) would prevent strip malls from being built on vacant pieces of land near Lawrence and Milwaukee avenues in the Jefferson Park Business District.

When it returns from its summer recess, the City Council will consider Arena's request to designate Milwaukee Avenue from Giddings to Higgins avenues and Lawrence Avenue from Long to Laramie avenues a pedestrian overlay zoning districtwhich is designed to protect walkable shopping districts.

Heather Cherone says the busy intersection attracts businesses that are more car-friendly:

The extensive regulations, which aim to promote transit, economic vitality and pedestrian safety and comfort, are also in place in the Six Corners Shopping District near Cicero, Irving and Milwaukee avenues.

The designation does not change the width or the length of street or the sidewalk, or the zoning on any lot, Arena said in a letter to residents of the 45th Ward.

It would, however, require that new buildings be built within 5 feet of the sidewalk, that the facade facing the street be at least 60 percent transparent glass, that buildings have a primary entrance facing the street, and that all parking be in the rear and not be visible from the street, Arena wrote.

The rules, if approved, would prohibit new driveways and drive-thrus, Arena wrote.

Had the pedestrian district rules been in place when the CVS drugstore at Lawrence and Milwaukee avenues was built several years ago, the building would look very different, Arena wrote.

"It would not have a driveway, it would need more windows, parking would be in the rear, and the building would need to be close to the sidewalk," Arena wrote.

A public meeting will be scheduled in the coming weeks to gather input from residents who live in the area, which has struggled to fill empty storefronts.

"The purpose of the designation is to protect the existing, pedestrian-friendly shopping district we have in downtown Jefferson Park," Arena said.

Vacant parcels — now used as overflow parking lots for the Copernicus Center and parking for a limo company — dot Lawrence Avenue east of Milwaukee Avenue, a reminder of an ambitious redevelopment effort by city officials in the mid-1990s and early 2000s.

Before the plan, backed by Mayor Richard M. Daley and former Ald. Pat Levar (45th), fell apart, several buildings were torn down to make way for a condominium development that was scuttled by concerns it was too tall and would create too much traffic.

The lots, owned by Mega Realty Group, have been vacant since.

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