As the wave of transit-oriented development (TOD) continues to sweep over the city's northwest side, another proposal has surfaced near the busy Grand/Milwaukee Blue Line Station. Located at 710 West Grand Avenue, just east of Halsted Street, the initial proposal includes eight stories of occupied space with a ninth floor penthouse and amenity space. Named River West Flats, the project at this time includes 105 rental apartments, just under 5,000 square feet of ground floor retail space and 45 parking spaces. The lobby would be located along Grand Avenue and positioned only 315 feet from the entrance of the Blue Line, allowing developer Wicker Park Aprtments, Inc. to take full advantage of the recent TOD amendment to the zoning code, allowing for a smaller number of on-site parking spaces. The typical minimum parking requirement in city neighborhoods located outside of downtown zoning districts is a 1:1 ratio, one space for each of the residential units, however with the allowable reductions, a ratio of only 0.43 is currently being proposed.
The design by Brininstool+Lynch is located on a deep, triangular shaped lot allowing for all parking located on the first floor to be set back at least 50 feet from the sidewalk. This will create a ground floor with uninterrupted retail and lobby spaces for an enhanced pedestrian experience while all vehicular traffic will use the existing mid-block alley for access to the parking, which is split between a garage at the rear of the building and an adjacent outdoor lot.
The proposal would replace three featureless single story structures and two older four-story structures. The older structures have traces of their original Victorian architecture, but have been left to decay over the years. A shared external fire escape which stretches across the front facades of the older buildings would also be lost during the demolition phase. Fire escapes on front facades are a somewhat rare sight in Chicago neighborhoods these days, as most low-rise structures here use rear porches and stairways to meet fire codes for a secondary means of egress from dwelling units.
The proposal as presented is still in the early stages of the approval process and changes to the design may still occur before zoning amendments and eventual construction begins.
— Shawn Ursini