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Strip Mall Ban in Jefferson Park Advances

By Heather Cherone | October 28, 2014 3:30pm
  The proposal 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 plan authored by Ald. John Arena (45th) that would prevent strip malls from being built on vacant pieces of land near Lawrence and Milwaukee avenues won approval Tuesday from a Chicago City Council committee.

The measure drew opposition from members of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association who said it would hurt the area by encouraging denser developments and create a parking crunch.

Strip mall construction would be prohibited under a proposal to create a "pedestrian district" on Milwaukee Avenue from Giddings to Higgins avenues and Lawrence Avenue from Long to Laramie avenues.

The measure is expected to go before the City Council Nov. 5.

The proposal would require new buildings to be built within five 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, according to the proposal.

That would ban strip malls by prohibiting new driveways and drive-throughs, which can hurt walkable shopping districts, Arena said.

Arena, who is running for re-election, has said the plan would help reverse decades of decline and fill long-empty storefronts in the Jefferson Park Business District by making the area safer and more welcoming for pedestrians. Those using the Jefferson Park Transit Center to commute to work and school would especially benefit, Arena said.

"This is a preemptive measure to protect the community," said Owen Brugh, Arena's chief of staff.

Opponents of the measure contend it would do nothing but inconvenience those who have lived in the area for decades and rely on their cars to get around.

The City Council is expected to reduce the amount of parking spaces required in new developments within 1,200 feet of transit centers regardless of whether they are in a designated pedestrian district, Brugh said. Before the change, developments had to be within 600 feet of a terminal or 1,200 feet away in a pedestrian district to get a break from the city's typical parking requirements.

Under Arena's plan, new shops smaller than 10,000 square feet would be allowed to provide fewer parking spaces than typically required if the measure is approved by the council.

Arena's measure is designed to shape the future of the area as proposals begin to be developed for vacant parcels east of Milwaukee Avenue along Lawrence Avenue, Brugh said.

Arena has said he would support a plan to build a relatively dense condominium development of "reasonable height" on the parcels, which have been vacant since an ambitious redevelopment effort by city officials in the mid-1990s and early 2000s was scuttled by fierce community opposition.

No formal proposals for the vacant land have been made, officials said.

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