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Master Plan in the Works in an Effort To Bring New Life to Jefferson Park

By Heather Cherone | November 3, 2015 6:07am
 Plans to install a pedestrian crosswalk and traffic signal outside the Jefferson Park Transit Center will move forward as part of a federally funded effort to improve traffic along Milwaukee Avenue, said Ald. John Arena.
Plans to install a pedestrian crosswalk and traffic signal outside the Jefferson Park Transit Center will move forward as part of a federally funded effort to improve traffic along Milwaukee Avenue, said Ald. John Arena.
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DNAInfo/Heather Cherone

JEFFERSON PARK — An effort to craft a master plan that could shape the future of development in the Jefferson Park Business District is set to start in the spring, officials said.

While the final price tag will depend on the scope of the plan — which has yet to be determined — the Regional Transit Authority will pay 80 percent of the tab, with funds from the Jefferson Park Tax Increment Financing District covering the rest, said Owen Brugh, chief of staff to Ald. John Arena (45th).

"There is considerable activity happening in Jefferson Park, and our community needs a long-term strategic and economic development plan," Arena said.

The plan will take six months to a year to craft, and "multiple" public meetings will be held to allow residents to contribute to the plan, Brugh said.

The master plan will focus on the business district centered around Lawrence and Milwaukee avenues, where two major developments are working their way through the city bureaucracy with Arena's support. One would build 39 apartments and 10 shops on Lawrence Avenue, while the other would build a 12-story tower next to the Jefferson Park Transit Center.

In addition, the City Council is expected in the coming weeks to consider an effort to hike taxes in the Jefferson Park Business District to fund beautification efforts and spur economic activity.

"The community and commercial district are ready for a strong and guiding vision to rejuvenate an area that is on the cusp of vibrant economic growth and major revitalization," Arena said.

The master plan could call for transit-oriented development projects to be built near the transit hub. Developments within a short distance of public transportation can be denser and provide fewer parking spaces, under a new city ordinance that has been a flashpoint of controversy in Jefferson Park.

Arena vowed to make the revitalization of the Jefferson Park Business District his highest priority after winning re-election in April.

The alderman has said the key to revitalizing neighborhood shopping districts — like the one in Jefferson Park centered at Lawrence and Milwaukee avenues — is to increase the amount of people living there to attract the shops and restaurants that will benefit the entire community.

But others — including the majority of members of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association — contend the effort to make the area less dependent on cars and more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists will do nothing to fill long-empty storefronts while inconveniencing residents of the neighborhood who depend on cars to get around by slowing traffic and removing parking spaces.

A similar master plan, completed in 2013 for the Six Corners Shopping District, concluded that the district must become more dense and walkable to reclaim its status as one of Chicago's premier shopping districts.

Arena has credited the master plan with spurring the ongoing revitalization of Six Corners, where two major redevelopment projects are in the works and two dozen new shops and restaurants have opened during the last 1½ years.

Efforts to revitalize the Jefferson Park area will follow the path blazed at Six Corners, Arena said.

The effort to craft a master plan also comes as the Chicago Transit Authority is preparing to begin a $25 million renovation of the Jefferson Park Transit Center as part of a larger effort to reduce travel times along the Blue Line.

It is not clear precisely what improvements will be part of that project, although it will include a resurfacing of the bus depot, a piece of public art as well as a thorough cleaning and new paint job, Brugh said.

"The transit center will play a central role in the redevelopment of the area and must be incorporated into economic development plans," Arena said.

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