JEFFERSON PARK — In an effort to protect manufacturing on the northwest side, city officials want to designate a 3.4-mile stretch of Northwest Highway and Avondale Avenue as an industrial corridor.
The proposed zoning change covers an area of 143 acres that houses 43 businesses that employ 756 people, according to a city presentation.
“We want to hold this ground for manufacturing businesses and jobs,” said John Riordan, Arena’s director of economic development.
The industrial corridor would start at Northwest Highway and Milwaukee Avenue and stretch north along Northwest Highway and Avondale Avenue, to Oliphant Avenue.
“This area is under-utilized,” said Jason Hernandez, senior advisor to O’Connor. “We need balanced economic growth if we are going to fill up the empty storefronts and vacant lots in this area.”
Nearly 90 percent of the proposed corridor is already zoned for manufacturing or commercial use, with only about 6 percent of the area zoned residential, according to city records. It includes parts of Jefferson Park, Gladstone Park, Norwood Park and Edison Park.
The proposed designation would not affect existing land uses, which would be protected as legal non-conforming uses, said Peter Strazzabosco, the director of communication for the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development.
The Northwest Highway Industrial Corridor must still be approved by the Chicago Plan Commission. It would be the 25th such corridor in the city, Strazzabosco said.
“The designations have proven to be a successful tool in protecting manufacturing businesses from land-use conflicts,” Strazzabosco said.
Manufacturing jobs have a positive effect on the local economy because skilled workers make enough income to buy homes and shop at local businesses, Riordan said.
“Manufacturing has a long tradition in Chicago, and the base has eroded over the years,” Riordan said. “We want to hold on to this land for manufacturing, regardless of economic boom or bust.”
Only 18 percent of the land in Chicago is zoned for manufacturing, according to city records.
The plan was presented at a meeting for residents on Oct. 12. The plan commission is scheduled to review it in December.