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Media coverage
City says HP retail to benefit from zoning rewrite

Hyde Park Herald, February 5, 2003

By Gabriel Piemonte

The impact on Hyde Park of citywide zoning reform currently underway is a mixed bag, experts said last week.

While changes to residential zoning are unlikely to affect the neighborhood, according the Tim Barton, assistant director of Mayor Daley's Zoning Reform Commission, the rewrite of what he describes as the "madhouse of use and density" that is the current business and commercial zoning code should have significant impact in Hyde Park.

"I think this does have a major impact on Hyde Park," Barton said at a meeting last week hosted by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference.

Hyde Park's retail strips, Barton said, will likely benefit through simplification of the code and through a zoning option that allows first-floor residential in retail strips, allowing sagging retail areas the option, during leaner times, of residential occupancy, rather than no occupancy at all. But Barton added that the combining the two uses on the first floors of a retail strip is a balancing act.

"You have to be very careful with the mix of active businesses and the more passive residential," he said at the meeting last Wednesday evening, attended by roughly 30 Hyde Parkers.

Peter Skosey, vice president of external affairs for development advocacy group Metropolitan Planning Council, said that the community should begin a mapping process so the city would know Hyde Park's preferences. Fourth Ward Ald. Toni Preckwinkle said it was too soon to tell if she would agree to such a move.

"My understanding is that it's a minimum of six months or nine months [before passage of the ordinance]," Preckwinkle said. "Frankly, it's a little bit away, and I haven't given it much thought. I need a better sense of what the ordinance is before I consider what I will do."

Barton said the first step of the rewrite, the language part of the law, would likely pass this June. The mapping that follows could take years to complete, he added.

 
New city zoning laws may protect 53rd Street

Hyde Park Herald, January 29, 2003

By Gabriel Piemonte

Mayor cites 53rd Street as one of city's pedestrian-friendly areas that zoning reform should protect

The city's planning department is looking to preserve the pedestrian feel of a strip of 53rd street as part of a citywide plan to protect pedestrian-friendly retail streets from dramatic redevelopment.

"The history of the city in the last 20 years is strip malls," explained Department of Planning and Development Assistant commissioner Tom Smith. "People come in and say, 'It works really well in the suburbs and we want to bring what works to the city.' But it doesn't look like the city."

If approved, the city will use a new zoning designation unique to pedestrian-friendly retail streets.

The zoning changes would add special building constraints to 53rd Street from Lake Park Avenue to Kenwood Avenue. Strip malls, drive-throughs, car lots and gas stations would be prohibited, according to Department of Planning and Development spokesman Pete Scales. Stores would be required to have a minimum of 60 percent window space as a part of their facades, Scales said, and the entrance from 53rd Street would have to be the main entrance.

Additionally, while the emphasis of the proposal is preservation of pedestrian retail space, first-floor residential would be acceptable as part of a strategy to revitalize the street, Smith said.

The designation is more an act of preservation than a spur to development, according to Smith: The 53rd Street strip numbers among 27 across the city--including a street in Chinatown and a stretch of 103rd Street--where the pedestrian quality of the street and its importance as a retail center were difficult to dispute, Smith said.

"We only wanted to choose those ones no one would argue with," said Smith.

Final determination of these and other components of a sweeping rewrite of the city's zoning ordinance are months or even years off, according to Smith, and will be preceded by public meetings.

[Announcement of the January 25 Forum comprises the remainder of this article.]

 

Zoning proposal to affect Hyde Park commerce

Chicago Weekly News, January 30, 2003

By Thane Rehn, CWN Publisher

Mayor Richard M. Daley proposed several changes to Chicago's zoning codes last week, including a set of new regulations that will directly affect residential and commercial areas in Hyde Park. The changes are intended to protect pedestrian streets, including 53rd Street between Kenwood and Lake Park, and to loosen the restrictions governing manufacturing and commercial areas.

According to the Department of Planning and Development, the new zoning rules are the next step in a major overhaul of the City Zoning Code, the first such revision since 1957.

Chicago's Zoning Reform Commission has been working on the project since 2000. It is proposing new rules based on meetings with government leaders, homeowner's groups, developers, and professional and civic organizations about the different land use issues that shape the city.

"Today's proposed changes will help us create more jobs and make Chicago a more attractive and livable city - which are two of my highest priorities as a mayor," said Daley in a press release.

A source at the Department of Planning and Development reported that the new rules send two main messages. They stress the value of commercial pedestrian areas and they allow for more residential development in manufacturing and commercial streets.

New codes, if they are approved by the City Council, would require that, in specified pedestrian shopping streets such as 53rd Street, businesses be built to the sidewalk with doors and windows facing the street. No off-street parking would be allowed in front of buildings, and strip malls, gas stations, and drive-through businesses would be prohibited.

"With these changes, neighborhood commercial areas will be more competitive, attractive places to shop," said Alicia Berg, Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) in a press release. "This will stimulate commerce from within the community while attracting new dollars from shoppers drawn to the area. It's a giant step toward improving local business districts and revitalizing our commercial streets."

The streets are centered in five neighborhoods throughout Chicago: Chinatown, Calumet Heights, Little Italy, South Chicago, and Hyde Park. A total of 27 shopping streets and eight Chicago intersections were referred to as "mini-Main Streets" by the DPD. The area in Hyde Park includes a number of important neighborhood landmarks such as the Valois cafeteria [foll. by a sic].

In addition to preserving pedestrian areas, the new ordinances reduce the number of areas in the city that are zoned only for manufacturing and commercial use. Chicago's economy no longer requires the amount of industrial and manufacturing space that it once did., which frees up many new streets for residential development.

Under the proposed plan, many streets that are currently unused will be opened up so that residences can abe built there, even on the first floor of buildings that are currently zoned only for commercial use.

"Streets go vacant when zoning doesn't allow choices," said William J. P. Banks co-chairman of the Zoning Reform Commission, in the DPD press release. "New zoning will allow residences in underutilized commercial areas while putting Chicago more in line with modern retailing practices."

Members of the Hyde Park Community welcomed the changes, expressing hope that they will help the Hyde Park neighborhood to preserve its current community and landscape. The preservation of pedestrian-friendly streetscapes was cited as particularly important.

"One of the things you look at with maintaining these streetscapes is that you don't have these strip structures that sit back with the parking out front." said Bob Mason, Executive Director of the South East Chicago Commission. "The objective is that you have the building line right up to the sidewalk."

The mayor's Zoning Reform Commission received praise for its close work with communities and members of the public. The zoning reforms of the past several years have been marked by heavy input from the citizens of Chicago.

"They started two or three years ago with a series of public meetings downtown and they have also had a series of meetings around the city..." said Mason. "I think this was done very well. They have gotten a lot of public input, not only from community groups, but also from the public at large."

Latter [sic] this year, the Zoning Commission intends to propose...more sets of changes. Th[e]y hope to examine...administration; review and approval procedures; planned developments; non-conformities; enforcement and penalties; terminology and measurements; parking, loading and access's; landscaping and screening; signs and downtown districts. Proposals will be made to the City Council every four to six weeks.