JEFFERSON PARK — The City Council Wednesday approved a plan authored by Ald. John Arena (45th) that would prevent strip malls from being built on vacant plots of land near Lawrence and Milwaukee avenues.
Members of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association who opposed the measure, which passed without discussion by the council, said it would hurt the area by encouraging denser developments and create a parking crunch.
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 along Milwaukee Avenue from Higgins to Giddings avenues and along Lawrence Avenue from Long to Laramie avenues.
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.
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.
Developments within 1,200 feet of transit centers in a designated pedestrian district do not have to include as many parking spaces as typically required.
New shops smaller than 10,000 square feet would also be allowed to provide fewer parking spaces than typically required by city ordinance.
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.
Arena said the 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.
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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