Planning, Preservation and Development Committee Report

by Scott Rappe

Pizza Hut/Walgreens

The East Village Association expects to receive a letter from Department of Planning & Development in which the department will take a position regarding vacating the alley which presently bisects the Pizza Hut property. We also understand that Alderman Flores has asked the Department of Planning & Development to extend the Division Street ‘Pedestrian Designation’ to include the Wendy’s and Pizza Hut properties. This will correct an oversight dating from the adoption of the 2004 zoning ordinance.

Bear Stewart

The possible development of the Bear Stewart property on Damen, just north of Augusta was mentioned in last month’s newsletter. This elicited some conversations about whether this property, one of the last large undeveloped parcels in East Village would serve the community better as green space.

Alderman Flores commented that the purchase of this land might compete for resources needed to build a new branch library adjacent to Commercial Park. The Thirteenth District Police Station on Wood Street is the other major undeveloped parcel. It is already owned by the City, and has building which could potentially be adapted to serve as a library or fieldhouse. Alderman Flores noted that the Police property is not large enough to build the City’s prototype new police station if and when this becomes necessary.

1916-24 Chicago Avenue

As a result of a quirk in the zoning map, this property has two zoning classifications, RT-4 of the residential lots to the north
and B3-2 consistent with Chicago Avenue. In order to develop it, the entire property must be changed to one or the other classifications.

In general, Ranquist Development and EVA agree that the property should be zoned B3-2, but doing so would free the developer’s hands to demolish the attractive building at the northeast corner of Winchester and Chicago. In an effort to discourage demolition and spur renovation of the building, Alderman Flores has floated the idea of giving Ranquist Development a zoning change to R3-3, in exchange for preserving the Chicago and Winchester facades of the corner building.

Unfortunately Ranquist Development still intends to demolish the building behind the facades. This is not in the spirit of preservation and is a terrible waste of resources. Although the proposed B3-3 classification would allow a building much larger than would be appropriate on the site (31 units, 65’ height, 37,500 SF), EVA would insist on a covenant to restrict these parameters.

A representative of Ranquist Development has stated that they would increase both the height and number of units in the proposed building if they are to keep the existing building facades. In addition to concerns regarding demolition, EVA members have been vocal in their concerns regarding traffic congestion, alley access and parking. There is also the question of whether building a five story building on this block of one, three and four story buildings is appropriate. It is important to note that Ranquist Development has a contract for, but does not own the property.

Comments regarding these issues are welcome, as always.
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