Shopping for solution to Trader Joe's traffic

A Trader Joe's grocery store is proposed for the southeast corner of Division and Honore. The consultant Kenig Lindgren O’Hara Aboona submitted a draft traffic study.

East Village Association minutes for May 12, 2014
Submitted by Catherine Garypie

Neighborhood associations

Neal McKnight represented EVA in a meeting with the Wicker Park Committee, Bucktown Community Organization and Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association. (Chicago Grand Neighbors Association will join soon). Main discussion: More festival transparency is necessary. CGNA is considering the letter McKnight circulated to the board on May 8.

Festival issues to be addressed include: Where is money is being spent, distributing safety and traffic plans beforehand to groups, consistent donation amounts, specifying gate or net for the donations, etc.

Other issues to be addressed by this group of neighborhood associations: Ashland Bus Rapid Transit, Special Service Areas, police issues. More SSA meetings are needed in the evening, Requests For Proposals. There's a group consensus that SSAs should stay but there should be management changes.

Anything else to bring to this group of neighborhood associations? Let McKnight know.

Developer proposals

McKnight suggests: EVA will not consider a development proposal based upon a donation to EVA or another neighborhood organization. Wicker Park Committee has told developers the same thing.

Fifield Cos. said to EVA recently: We will give $200,000 to Commercial Park for the park if EPA will agree to upzone. This approach tends to split the neighborhood (“Why won’t EVA let the developer give money to the school?”).

So a developer with a proposal can give money, but if they present it as an “either or” EVA will turn the developer away. The developers use the money as a “carrot or stick” approach. Also, the donation agreements are unenforceable. Michael VanDam will draft a proposal for the development committee to consider:

Please note: The East Village Association will not take into consideration any promise of donations, pledges, or other monetary or non-monetary "soft dollar" arrangements to any community organization or institution in its evaluation of a proposed project. If such a donation is offered to the East Village community, it should not be contingent on any decision by EVA and should be made in writing to the community through a letter to the relevant Alderman with a copy to EVA. If a contingent donation is presented to EVA, EVA policy is to decline to review the developer’s request and immediately deny notify the relevant alderman that EVA does not support the developer's request.

What happened to $400,000 from developers of 1611 W. Division? There was no promise for $400,000. The promise was for a traffic study for an island on Division west of Ashland. An island would mean no left on Division into bank or Wendy’s, no left from Division onto Marshfield OR into CVS. McKnight is following up.

Walkways around Wood are not painted and some corners don’t have curb cuts. Does Alderman Moreno have menu money for this?

Stop signs for pedestrians on roadway: Can we get maintenance on those?

Trader Joe's traffic study: Smithfield Properties (Kevin Henning, Jim Houlihan), Kenig Lindgren O’Hara Aboona (Michael Worthman)

S: Smithfield bought the property on the southeast corner of Division and Honore, and planned a 5-story residential mixed use building with 52 apartments. The community objected, and Smithfield downsized its plans to a 4-story residential mixed-use building with 7,700 square feet of commercial on the first floor. The property was rezoned to support this density (“Type 1”), with rezoning completed in early 2013.

In late 2013 or early 2014, Lettuce Entertain You had a disagreement among partners and stepped away from first floor commercial space. At the same time Trader Joe’s approached Smithfield regarding the property, looking for a spot in Wicker Park. It's now spring 2014 and the proposal is rolling out.

We’re having meetings with LaSalle II school to understand how Trader Joe's can fit in. We’re proposing a 14,000 square foot store. This is slightly smaller than some TJs, but is a common size for city locations. The total square footage for commercial space on the first floor will be 4,000 square feet plus two other commercial spaces on the east side of property (1,800 square feet each). TJs parking will only be for TJs customers.

EVA: West Town Chamber of Commerce's last newsletter said a significant chunk of TJs parking will be available for other businesses for up to 90 minutes.

S: That is incorrect. However, TJs doesn’t police their lots, there are no gates, and TJ customers can still use the lot to go to both TJs and other businesses. At Diversey TJs, they rarely find more than 35-40 cars (except on weekend) in their 80-car lot.

We changed zoning from B-3-2 to B-3-3 (Type 1, so the zoning will be specific only to the plans submitted) in early 2013. We want to go back to B-3-2 zoning. Truck loading and unloading will be on Honore. Similar to Diversey TJs, we’ll have between 73 and 77 parking spaces – still working on final number. There were concerns raised at the LaSalle II LSC meeting in March 2014, mainly traffic.

KLOA: Traffic surveys were done in March 2014.

EVA: This isn’t really peak time. Peak time is May 1 to Oct. 1: Sidewalk seating, pedestrian and bike traffic will be higher in warmer months). Early March traffic study is not accurate. Shouldn’t you do the study again?

KLOA: Our Saturday survey was done on in March on the first day of the NCAA tournament.

EVA: Traffic was stopped on Division all this past weekend. It’s hugely different in the summer. We live here.

KLOA: We increased the traffic allowance for the Ashland BRT and the impact of the development itself.

EVA: But your existing number base is just wrong.

KLOA: We get it. I took Chicago to get here instead of Division. Division is busier.

EVA: A suggestion: Broaden the survey to get a more accurate depiction of what’s going on in the area in warmer months.

KLOA: We know traffic is heavy (600+ cars/hour). There's a poorly functioning intersection at Division & Honore, which is further complicated by school dropoff/pickup (Division, Wolcott, Honore, Thomas). We’re proposing Honore 2-way from Division to Thomas, similar to what was done on Diversey).

EVA: Why not 2-way only south from Division to the garage?

KLOA: The Chicago Department of Transportation wants the 2-ways between controlled intersections.

EVA: Your traffic study addresses traffic flow but not wear and tear on the residential areas. CDOT's traffic study for BRT sends cars through the same streets. This plan sends traffic into the heart of East Village. We’re already having problems with pedestrians around Wood. Wood is already congested. Also, you are proposing semi-trucks on Augusta to north on Honore. Augusta is a boulevard. The Municipal Code states that commercial traffic is not allowed on boulevards.

KLOA: Ordinance would have to be changed or Augusta will have to lose its “boulevard” status.

EVA: Also “favored” bike lane status would have to changed. That's too much to ask. The average semitruck in the U.S. is 53 feet long. How will they turn from Augusta onto Honore?

KLOA: It can be done.

EVA: Also on Wood we have three community gardens including a Montessori garden with 30 kids per day walking down Division and down Wood. Are you eliminating the crosswalks on Division?

KLOA: Big issue with Honore, Marion Court and Division is that they’re offset, so the crosswalk's in the middle of intersection and it’s big. It slows cars. Our solution: make Marion Court 1-way north.

EVA: But if you’re going east on Division will you allow left turns onto Marion at the 4-way stop?

KLOA: Yes.

EVA: Do you really think a left turn across the street is pedestrian friendly? Are you willing to put a signal up?

S: We’d like to talk about a signal.

EVA: People will use Marion as a cut-through to Wicker Park, up to the 5-point intersection.

KLOA: We’re just looking at existing conditions. We may go back out in May. We understand this is a challenging project. We hear your complaints. We think there are a lot of merits to this traffic plan.

EVA: According to this plan, the level of service will remain poor at the poor intersections and good at the good intersections; there will be no overall improvements. It also seems you are “low-balling” the community: This is a suburban model grocery store for an urban area. You should not come to us with the bare minimum. Big issues here are that this plan means more traffic volume, and you are only changing directions on streets & repainting some lines. Pointing out the bad points of this plan is not difficult. We’d like you to come back with something else.

Other issues include pedestrians and school including a 3-story brick wall across from the school. At Diversey TJs, people with cars can go to other nearby TJs. This will be the only TJs on the entire West Side. The Lincoln location is for cars. The Diversey location is for pedestrians.

S: Diversey is one of TJ’s busiest stores in the city.

EVA: Why isn’t TJs attending this EVA Board meeting? Too short a notice?

S: Yes, the notice was too short.

EVA: How about a building with no parking, like in New York or Washington? It may reduce some of your issues. If TJs said it will follow the Chelsea model, you’d get less opposition. They could do it here and get a better reception from the community. EVA has a written agreement with the alderman regarding liquor moratoria in East Village. He’s agreed not to ask EVA to agree to lift the moratoria until May 2015.

KOLA: TJs compared transaction data and car data for its Diversey store. Weekdays, 17% of the transactions were associated with car traffic. Saturday, 20% were associated with car traffic.

EVA: TJs could add an amenity to the roof. People would like that. Can you be prepared to talk about TJs without parking at this location? That would more acceptable. What you're proposing would be an unbearable burden. You’re asking to change zoning, change boulevard status of a street that runs through the heart of the community, change direction of two streets, change state law on liquor near schools, and change city law on a license moratorium. That’s a lot.

S: For city law on liquor, we’ll ask only for the package moratorium to be lifted, two blocks both ways, for one year.

EVA: Ashland to past Damen.

Secretary's Note: Board discussion presumed the moritoria run from Ashland to Hoyne, but that's not the case. The two package liquor moritoria run as follows: (1) on the south side of Division Street, from Wood Street to Hoyne Avenue and (2) on both sides of Division Street, from Wood Street to Damen Avenue.

S: State liquor law forbids sales 100 feet from school. So we’d need to amend state law.

EVA: Does that happen a lot? A liquor moratorium will affect Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village. You need to look at our developmental guidelines, and we need to talk to a representative of TJs with authority. Another issue is the written agreement between the alderman and EVA; he’s agreed not to ask EVA to lift the moratorium until May 2015. It’s a 2-year agreement. How long is TJs lease?

S: It’s a 10-yr lease with TJs.

EVA: We do not want a covenant restricting development on that parcel; at Ashland & Division many types of businesses are restricted. Please let us know if there will be a restriction on use of the land after TJs leaves.

S: What do you mean by restrictive covenant?

EVA: The prior owner leased it and entered into a restrictive covenant. The owner sold the land but the restrictive covenant still stands. We worked through this process with your previous residential-commercial plan. People will be more friendly to a restaurant, and you can sell or rent the units above. We can help you with an economic study. We’d like a more diversified business in the neighborhood. You know TJs has been looking at other commercial properties in Wicker Park, right?

S: We know TJs has been looking at other locations for some time. This was their first choice.

EVA: TJs needs to compromise.

S: Are there other issues that we can try to run through?

EVA: There are many problems with the moratorium lift. We'll need to look at zoning too, what’s C (and not C) on that stretch of Division. It affects rents on the street. The feel of the street will change with big-box or chain stores. This use would be contrary to the SSA study, which discourages big-box stores on that stretch of Division.

S: 14,000 square feet's a CVS size, not a Jewel-Dominicks size. TJs runs stores locally, not from headquarters.

EVA: In your presentation on May 19, please have TJs consider adopting an urban model.

S: What are your issues again?

EVA: (1) Zoning change; (2) change boulevard status of Augusta, which runs through the heart of the community; (3) change direction of two streets; (4) state liquor law; (5) city liquor law and moratorium; (6) alderman’s agreement for no moratorium lifts until May 2015. We'll insist on hearing from TJs since they’ll hold any package liquor license. They have to come before us and present. What has CDOT or CTA agreed to?

S: Discussions with CDOT are preliminary. They haven’t reviewed the study in any formal way.

EVA: Try googling “Trader Joe’s traffic.” Even limit your search to 2013 and 2014. There are huge traffic problems at TJs around the country. If the parking lot is bad, people won’t go there. Look at Clybourn. EVA has taken extraordinary steps to bring in businesses we like. We got a citywide ordinance change to allow for the Ashland/Division development.

Other business

West Town branch needs 100 prizes for chess tournaments. EVA board is looking at funding needs and will meet with the library. Funds must go through library foundation to go directly to local library. Last time, $6,000 paid for two yrs of library programming.

Proposals for business minutes for June: Onyx (dress shop), Coco’s (Greek, corner of Wood & Chicago Avenue). Speaker in July? Please pass around suggestions.

Start considering an EVA block party: Close the street, not the same day as the festivals or the Marshfield or Augusta-Wood block parties

Sam Sabolchick and Stephen Rynkiewicz are continuing work on the website.

Wounded Warriors is coming in to help redo Commercial Park gardens on May 16. Jazz music in the park is 7-9pm July 25: Martin’s International Culture Concert in the Park. Families are invited to enjoy an evening of free entertainment. Bring your lawn chair or blanket.

Tonight’s meeting was an hour on development, and just a few minutes on the library and website. Let’s try to change that balance.

McKnight is sending letter shortly to the alderman regarding Forbidden Root.

The General Membership meeting last week left no time for debate among members, just questions for presenters, primarily due to time constraints. We need to think about how we set agendas for future meetings.

Meeting from 6:44pm till 8:23pm at West Town Bakery & Diner, 1916 W. Chicago Ave. Board attendance: Neal McKnight, Dan Johnson, Catherine Garypie, KK Goh, Gladys Alcazar-Anselmo, Meghan Delong Quinn, Robert Schickel, Tom Tomek; also Ronda Locke, Sam Sabolchick, Michael VanDam.

Tom Tomek business card
Anselmo @properties business card,
Ask Nagel business card.

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