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Chicago Plan Commission votes to loosen North Branch zoning restrictions

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The sweeping ordinance was one of several notable developments approved at today’s meeting


After approving a Framework Plan to guide land use, transportation improvements, and open space goals within the North Branch Industrial Corridor back in May, the Chicago Plan Commission voted to approve a measure that would repeal or revise the area’s multiple Planned Manufacturing Districts (PMDs). Co-sponsored by Mayor Emmanuel and 16 Chicago aldermen, the piece of legislation clears a path for developers to eventually rezone large portions of the 750-acre riverfront corridor between Kinzie Street and Fullerton Avenue to new uses.

Specifically, the ordinance repeals PMD 1 and amends the boundaries of PMDs 2, 3, and 5 to focus primarily around Goose Island. Parcels in the southern portion of the corridor will be incorporated into the downtown zoning boundaries and given the designation DS-5 Downtown Service District. The northern segment of the corridor will return to its underlying zoning designations—the majority of which are still industrial. Though the plan will allow developers to propose dense, mixed-use projects in the corridor, the plan also includes a pair of new value capture mechanisms for the City of Chicago.

Developers looking to change a parcel’s underlying zoning to non-industrial uses would pay a new ‘Industrial Corridor System Fee.’ Funds collected would be reinvested in other Chicago corridors where heavy industry makes more sense. A second mechanism known as the ‘North Branch Corridor Bonus system’ would allow developers to pay for additional density. Payments collected here would go towards financing transit, open space, and other public improvements.

With the Commission’s OK, the plan will go to the Joint Committee on Finance and Zoning for a vote on July 24th. If given the nod by that group, the ordinance will finally go before the full Chicago City Council for approval on July 26th.

While the North Branch ordinance is the most sweeping measure approved today by the Chicago Plan Commission, a number other developments received the official nod today. He’s a quick look at some of the other items that passed this afternoon:

2037 North Milwaukee

↑ Known as the John Pennycuff Memorial Apartments at Robert Castillo Plaza, this 80-foot-tall Logan Square development was approved for the corner of Milwaukee and Campbell avenues. The LGBTQ-friendly project will rise seven stories and contain 88 new residences, including 48 Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) units and 40 affordable-rate apartments. Developed by CSA Partners, the building will include amenities such as a community room, an outdoor picnic area, and 2,500 square feet of new ground floor commercial space.

4022 North Elston

↑ The Plan Commission approved the first of two collaborations between the Chicago Housing Authority/Chicago Public Library system. The so-called ‘Independence Branch’ development at 4022 N. Elston in Chicago’s Irving Park community consists of a six-story building with a civic space on floors one and two topped by 44 elderly housing units above. The rectangular design comes from John Ronan Architects and features an upper massing clad in corrugated metal punctuated by colorful insert balconies. The plan also calls for 29 dedicated parking spaces.

2402 West Pratt

↑ Slated for the corner of Western Avenue and Pratt Boulevard in Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood, a second public library/housing also was approved. Known as the ‘Northtown Branch,’ the four-story project comes from architecture firm Perkins+Will. The development’s glassy, single-story library space will topped by 44 senior housing units. The Planned Development document also specifies 40 on-site parking stalls.

2753 North Hampden

↑ After a plan to build a 17-story, 78-unit condo tower at the corner of Diversey and Hampden in Lincoln Park was abandoned due to a lack of aldermanic support, the owners of the land formerly occupied by the Market Place grocery store are back with a new two-building plan. Though being built “as of right,” a 15-unit building with 27 parking spaces proposed for 2751 N. Hampden Court still required the Plan Commission to sign off on amendment to Chicago’s Lakefront Protection Ordinance.

521 West Diversey

↑ A second building proposed to replace the old Market Place grocer was also approved today. Located at 521 W. Diversey Parkway, the development will rise six stories and contain 30 dwelling units, 36 parking places, and ground floor retail. Like its neighbor at 2753 N. Hampden, the project comes from Chicago architect Sullivan, Goulette & Wilson.

Daley City College Pedestrian Bridge

↑ Daley College at 7500 S. Pulaski on Chicago’s southwest side received an amendment to an existing planned development to allow the construction of a new pedestrian bridge over 76th Street. A new two-story academic building is also part of the plan.

8535 West Higgins

↑ Not far from Chicago Marriott O’Hare and Cumberland Blue Line stop on the Chicago’s northwest side, a plan to construct a new seven-story apartment building was also approved. Designed by FitzGerald Associates Architects, the E-shaped structure would feature 297 rental units and amenities such as fitness center and pool. It will connect to a 233-stall parking garage.

701 North Kingsbury

↑ Though Chicago’s Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus system was adopted mainly to allow large-scale developers to seek greater density for downtown projects, the owners of this single-family home in River North are using it as a mechanism to expand their existing residence.

Pilsen & Little Village Action Plan


↑ Jointly drafted by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the “Action Plan” designed to guide new development in Chicago’s Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods was deferred to August meeting of the Plan Commission. A draft of the plan can be viewed here.