Last week, I attended the community meeting on the proposed redevelopment of the parking lot west of the Ravenswood Metra station. By all accounts, and judging from the pulse of the meeting & the Alderman’s comments, this looks like it will green light.
Known as Ravenswood Station, this is the 3rd plan for this space and features a Mariano’s grocery store. Previous, unsuccessful designs called for between 135-138,000 square foot of retail, with 600-700+ parking spaces and at points, 0-400 condos.
This parcel is being developed in 2 phases, by 2 separate entities. This meeting’s topic was phase 1, the retail component. This Mariano’s plan is comprised of no residential, 123,000 square foot of retail and 380 parking spaces (most of which will be on the roof of the 3 story structure), and will use $4 million in TIF (tax increment funding). Previous proposals called for as much as $13.5 million in TIF funds. Mariano’s will occupy 70,000 square feet, with another 53,000 square feet for additional retail (the developers are hopeful for a fitness center)
So that’s what’s good. Here’s the bad. The construction is projected to coincide with the expansion/refurbishment of the Metra tracks & overpass, as well as the Lawrence Avenue street scape. It all but guarantees that Lawrence, during this construction, will be a mess. What’s more, after all this development is done, the projection is that traffic on Lawrence – long a convenient route to head East or West, with its 2 lanes – will increase substantially. At the meeting, anywhere from 5-15 minutes of extra travel time were projected & discussed for the area between Western and Clark. Translation: find another short cut.
Of course the pretty pictures depict a utopia-like shopping district, and most community members in attendance seemed to be in favor of the plan (actually, several gushed about Mariano’s coming in and helping the neighborhood).
But if you live in the 4800 or 4900 blocks of Wolcott, I suggest you attend another meeting. The most important points of discussion, I think, are the light that will be cast from the roof top parking structure, and the fencing that will border the loading zone. The current discussions called for a 6′ high metal fence. Let’s be real here folks – a semi trailer is nearly double that height. So, that rinky little fence they are talking about isn’t going to shield anyone from the sights or sounds of the loading dock. And, with proposed hours of operation from 6 or 7am till 10 or 11pm in the evening, it’s safe to assume that loading dock will be active in the wee hours of the morning (4-6am). I used to work in the grocery industry, so I think that’s a safe bet.
That said, the Alderman wants this to happen, and seems open to resident feedback. Similarly, so do the developers of the project. So, speak up and be heard!
Back to the retail components of this…Sears Auto will remain, and the developers talked about creating spots for 80 bicycles. One point of question and concern – Metra currently leases 50 spaces from Sears. Where will those 50 people park once construction begins & is complete?
Residents raised concerns over safety on pedestrian walk way and traffic flow, as well as roof top parking.
Some questions that weren’t answered at the meeting but were posed by residents:
-What percent of the surface parking lot material will be permeable pavers?
-How will 3 projects communicate to ensure Lawrence isn’t a total disaster during this construction.
The next community meetings are December 15th and 19th. Visit chicago47.org for details & locations, as well as pictures of the entire project and street scape.