Vote may rezone Damen Avenue on Shake-It block

Damen Avenue street view.Rezoning could limit 814-820 N. Damen Ave. to residential use.

A proposal to rezone part of the 800 block of North Damen Avenue is on the agenda for the April membership meeting.

Members can vote on the zoning recommendation or propose alternatives during the 7pm April 10 meeting at Roots Pizza West Town, 1924 N. Chicago Ave.

Properties at 814 N. Damen, 818 N. Damen and 820 N. Damen would allow multiunit residential construction of up to 4 floors without storefronts. EVA board member Neal McKnight recommends the rezoning as consistent with surrounding uses. The first two buildings are residential; 820 N. Damen is the vacant Grace Auto Body location and a potential redevelopment site.

If Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) adopts the proposed EVA recommendation, zoning would change to RM-5, a residerntial designation. The current B-3 zoning calls for first-floor business use, with residences permitted on upper floors. RM-5 would allow more residential units then the mixed-use designation.

Burger bar goes cold

Land use debate has centered on 820 N. Damen since 2017 plans for a burger bar at the site with outdoor seating. In 2019, operators presented their business plan to members of EVA and the Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Organization. Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) backed the patio licensing at the time, but construction stalled last year.

In November, after City of Chicago outreach the two community groups opened a zoning review. In December 2023, the 820 N. Damen property fell into foreclosure. EVA members reviewed land use along Damen from Chicago Avenue north to Thomas Street.

There is little demand for commercial or business zoning here and substantial pushback for alcohol-related uses," says McKnight, EVA's planning committee chair. Last month, he notes, the owner of 828 N. Damen asked for permission to waive the first-floor commercial space requirement.

"The demand for commercial uses is very low here," McKnight says. "Apartments, houses and condos that are not above a commercial use are more attractive and valuable." However, rezoning to solely residential uses over a larger area on Damen would create nonconforming retail uses, which McKnight says the city discourages. The switch to exclusively residential zoning in this block eliminates nonconforming uses, impacts no existing retail or commercial uses and will likely spur residential development that is in higher demand.

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