In 2012, Wheeler Kearns Architects released plans for an 11-story residential tower in Chicago that eschewed parking requirements because of its location next to the Division Blue Line stop. Tenants moved into 1611 West Division last year, and ground floor commercial tenant Intelligentsia Coffee opened its doors in July.
The building, which replaced a drive-thru Pizza Hut, took advantage of a city ordinance passed specifically to allow for transit-oriented development on the site. Now the designers of mixed-use projects across Chicago are building on a broader ordinance, passed last fall, that allows any residential building within 600 feet of a transit station (or 1,200 on certain “Pedestrian Streets”) to cut its parking requirement in half.
Brininstool + Lynch are touting a new development at 1515-17 West Haddon Avenue—also steps from the Division Blue Line stop—as the first built under the amended zoning ordinance. They broke ground in July. The building will have 40 apartments (four studios, 24 one bedrooms, eight two bedrooms, and four two bedrooms), 2,500 square feet of commercial space, and 21 parking spaces—roughly half the amount of parking it would have been required to supply otherwise. “Not having to put all these cars in there,” said firm principal David Brininstool, “this is such a win-win for the city, the streetscape, and the developer.”
Developer Wicker Park Apartments secured 16 percent more space by cutting parking—square footage that Brininstool said was a boon to the design team as they tried to shoehorn 40 apartments and commercial space into a triangular site with just 33 feet of street frontage. The angular site plan would have hamstrung the development’s density, which now boasts a 3.5 FAR at five stories tall. The project is targeting LEED Gold.
Chicago’s new transit-oriented development ordinance is a reaction to broader trends. Americans are driving less. Over the past decade, per capita vehicle miles driven have sunk more than nine percent since peaking in 2005, according to data from the Federal Highway Administration. Wicker Park is not the only Chicago neighborhood where developers are seizing on this trend.
Since AN first wrote about a 90-unit apartment building planned for the northwest corner of Clark Street and Belmont Avenue, that project’s parking footprint shrank from 120 to 39 spaces. During negotiations with neighbors and city officials, developer BlitzLake Capital Partners cut down the project’s total size and slashed parking to take advantage of the new ordinance. The building, designed by Hirsch Associates, was approved by the Plan Commission in May. It will replace a Dunkin’ Donuts on the busy intersection, which is one block from the Belmont stop on the CTA’s Red, Brown, and Purple lines.
Brininstool + Lynch are working with developers at Property Markets Group to put up another apartment building light on parking at 2211 North Milwaukee Avenue. Since it is more than 600 feet from the California stop on the CTA Blue Line, the project needed to win “pedestrian street” designation to forego 50 percent of its parking requirement. Alderman Joe Moreno introduced such a measure last year.
Brininstool said he is confident it will be one of many such developments along Milwaukee Avenue, which is among the city’s busiest bike corridors. The no-car lifestyle is clearly on the rise, which designers say is helping repair streetscapes marred by decades of automobile-centric development. The trick, Brininstool said, will be sustaining ground-floor commercial activity in an era of declining brick-and-mortar retail. “The urban challenge is how do we occupy the first floor?” said Brininstool. “It used to be bookstores and things like that. How many more breweries can we handle?”