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Weigh in on Wicker, Bucktown's Future at Monday's 'Master Plan' Workshop

By Alisa Hauser | May 16, 2016 7:53am
 The 1500 block of Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park.
The 1500 block of Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

WICKER PARK —  Wicker Park and Bucktown expect to add 1,000 more residents by the end of this decade, and many renters and property owners are "cost burdened" — some paying as much as half of their income on housing —  according to a new report by an urban planning firm that wants the community to weigh in on how to make the two neighborhoods better.

Set for 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Bucktown Wicker Park Library, 1701 N. Milwaukee Ave., the MoveWPBForward community workshop is sponsored by the Wicker Park Bucktown Taxpayer No. 33 District, a volunteer-led group which recently hired a team of consultants to update its 2009 Master Plan.

Proposing a long-term vision for the area, the 2009 Master Plan identified "neighborhood values," such as "drive less, bike more, buy local, go green, inhabit the sidewalks, indulge in urban eye candy, honor the past, welcome a progressive future, and do so as a unified community," according to planners.

As part of the plan's refresh, a new website, wpbforward.org, was launched to solicit community feedback.

An online poll asks residents to select an adjective they'd use to describe the neighborhood (so far, "Energized" and "Family friendly" are in the lead) and some 42 percent of respondents say that places to eat and drink are the main reasons they come to Wicker Park.

(Take the poll here.)

"There is a desire to preserve neighborhood character while so much change is happening. How [do we] do this?" asked Joe McElroy, an urban planning consultant who says that housing price pressure has gotten more intense as the neighborhood becomes more desirable. 

The average value of an owner-occupied home in the area is $511,303 and the median rent is $1,170, according to an April 2016 report that determines most renters and home owners are "cost burdened," - a status defined by paying more than 30 percent of income for housing.

Thirty-four percent of all renters and over 50-percent of homeowners with mortgages are cost-burdened.  And 15-percent of renters and homeowners are "extremely cost burdened," paying more than 50-percent of their income on housing, McElroy said.

Creating more affordability on the housing front, as well as improving the neighborhood's entryways on commercial streets like Western Avenue and retaining local, unique businesses are among other topics that could be discussed at the community workshop.

The SSA, which levies a special tax on property owners for communal services such as snow removal, paid for the report.

Draft Existing Conditions Report by Teska Associates, Sam Schwartz Consultants, McElroy Associates.

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