WEST LAKEVIEW — A proposed Whole Foods in Lakeview could cause a tenfold increase in traffic on a residential side street near the store during peak shopping times, a new traffic study shows.
But developers say traffic-flow changes on the street — approved by the city since last week's meeting with Melrose Street Concerned Residents — should help handle the new traffic the Whole Foods at 3201 N. Ashland Ave. would bring.
Portions of a traffic study for the proposed Whole Foods at 3201 N. Ashland Ave. show existing traffic volumes (left) and project traffic (right). Morning rush hour, evening rush hour and Saturday midday peak hour are shown, respectively, along each intersection. [Provided/44th Ward]
Following Monday's meeting, West Lake View Neighbors will host a special meeting Aug. 10 to vote on whether to recommend the project to Ald. Tom Tunney (44th). If approved, the 75,000-square-foot Whole Foods would replace the current supermarket at 3300 N. Ashland Ave.
The approved traffic study discussed Monday recommended converting Melrose Street to one-way traffic going west from Greenview Avenue to the alley and adding a traffic signal at Melrose Street and Ashland Avenue.
The study projected multiple increases in vehicle traffic on the streets surrounding the store, with Ashland Avenue bearing most of the brunt. For example, during the Saturday noon hour — when consultants said Whole Foods traffic would hit its peak — 230 additional vehicles per hour would turn from the Melrose Street parking garage exit onto Ashland Avenue.
At that time, it is estimated an additional 190 vehicles would be turning from Ashland onto Melrose, up from 18 at current traffic volumes. Greenview and Belmont avenues would see some modest increases, as well.
Neighbors said they were concerned traffic flow on Melrose Street would change dramatically with a Whole Foods parking garage entrance/exit on the residential street. In a study detailing projected traffic volumes, increases in volume are highlighted. Morning rush hour, evening rush hour and Saturday midday peak hour are shown, respectively, along each intersection. [Provided/44th Ward]
Currently, around 26 vehicles drive through Melrose Street at peak Saturday traffic, while between 147 and 183 travel north on Greenview Avenue from Belmont Avenue. Those numbers are not expected to change significantly with the addition of Whole Foods.
"We expect some traffic on Melrose, but we believe that's more local in nature — the people who live in the neighborhood and go to Whole Foods," said Luay Aboona, a consultant with Kenig, Lindgren, O'Hara, Aboona, Inc., which conducted the traffic study.
The one-way conversion is designed to prevent drivers exiting Whole Foods from driving down the residential Melrose Street, although neighbors feared vehicles to the grocery store would clog the street.
Neighbors resurfaced ideas for a cul-de-sac on Melrose Street and fewer parking spaces, both of which developers previously said were not viable for Whole Foods.
Several neighbors said they were satisfied with the changes made following multiple meetings with developers, although one pointed out that the changes were thanks to the Melrose Street Concerned Residents and their insistence that Whole Foods could do better.
On Friday, the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce board of directors voted to support the plans, said executive director Lee Crandell.
"We heard from a lot of businesses that are anxious to see activity restored to this corner after a decade of stagnation. We know businesses are tired of looking at a hole in the ground and are ready for development," Crandell said.
The traffic issue was the last hurdle after developers last week announced improvements to the proposed facade and an additional park in response to neighbors concerns.
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