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Mapping the Parking Lots That Need to be Developed Pronto

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In a bustling, downtown metropolis with the kind of real estate market we're in right now, a surface parking lot is a sign that something's not right. A parcel of land big enough to fit a few cars could be worth a lot more than you'd ever earn from pay-parking, so when you see them it usually means there just hasn't been a good development proposal for it yet. Or, in the case of a few River North businesses, it could mean that the property was developed in a different time, when a surface parking lot didn't seem like such a bad idea, and the times just haven't caught up with them yet. Either way, as we enjoy our current construction boom (with 18 highrises under construction right now) and wonder what the next surprise development announcement will be, a good place to look is at downtown parking lots.

Several projects have already been announced that will be replacing some of the most notorious downtown parking lots, but there's still quite a few lots that we haven't heard a peep about. In this map, we've compiled some of the worst space-wasting lots in the downtown area that don't have any active building proposals. Hopefully, some developers will be able to use this as a guide for where they can stick their next architectural masterpiece without having to demolish anything existing. Or, if the owners of the lots have just been sitting on the properties hoping the market will warm up, maybe this will serve as a wakeup call. Whatever it is, these surface parking lots hurt the pedestrian flow and need to be dealt with.

All images via Google Streetview


An "Honorable" Mention goes to the entire Near West Loop (between the Kennedy and the River), which has several humongous parking lots that turn the precious-little land between the highway and the water into a confusing mess. They don't make the list because they've all got planned developments, mostly owned by local developer Steven Fifield, who has been trying to woo tenants to hypothetical office buildings, but says nobody will sign because there's no parks in the area. Fifield has a plan to cap the Kennedy and build a park atop it, and it seems those parking lots wont be developed until that happens.

Did we miss something? If you have a parking lot that drives you crazy, let us know in the comments or drop us a line.

·Curbed Maps archives [Curbed Chicago]

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1. Ed Debevic's Lot

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One of several River North tourist-trap destinations that uses its small parking lot to cater to visitors who haven't figured out the downtown parking situation yet. Developing the parking lot would kill the restaurant's visibility from Ontario, which is probably why they're hanging on to it.

2. Carson's Ribs

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618 North Wells Street
Chicago, IL 60654

Just across from Ed's, Carson's has a small lot right on the corner that would be an easy sell with all of the new residential developments in the area.

3. Rock'n'Roll McDonalds

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Perhaps the capital of the tourist-friendly stretch of Ontario street, which feels more like Orlando at times, this flagship McDonalds has a surface parking lot with about 50 spaces taking up prime River North land.

4. Walgreens Parking Lot

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Walgreens is responsible for some of the best contextual retail architecture we've seen in Chicago in the last few years, but this location is a clone of any suburban location, complete with a street-hugging parking lot.

5. Holy Name Cathedral Parking Lot

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Hopefully it isn't sacrilegious to say that this parking lot, which fills up an entire block along State Street and Chicago Avenue, could be better serving the community as something else. The huge lot would make an attractive parcel for a highrise development, which could offer parking garage space to the church as part of the deal.

6. Columbus and Water

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320 East North Water Street
Chicago, IL 60611

There are a handful of parking lots in Streeterville that are only placeholders for planned highrises, but this lot right on the riverfront doesn't have any plans behind it as far as we know. With the rest of the riverfront being developed like crazy, this lot will hopefully be the site of something new before too long.

7. Wabash Between Adams and Jackson

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South Wabash is home to the most parking lots on this list, and it's a good bet that the L tracks are to thank. Hopefully with the Chicago Loop Alliance working on a plan to bring some life back to Wabash, these lots will start turning into towers.

8. Dearborn Between Van Buren and Congress

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Sandwiched between the Metropolitan Correctional Facility and the Old Colony Building, this lot has been slow to see any kind of development despite lots of new activity around it. It could be that nobody wants to live or work next door to a jail, but since it's so close to the Loop it's bound to get bought up eventually.

9. Wabash and Van Buren (North West)

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Another Wabash lot, one of three on the same corner.

10. Wabash and Van Buren (South West)

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These two lots have doubly bad luck of being bound on two sides by L tracks, but with all of the university activity nearby it's surprising nobody has plopped a campus or student housing development here.

11. Wabash and Van Buren (South East)

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Speaking of campuses, here's a lot right next door to Roosevelt University's new Vertical Campus tower that nobody's done anything with yet.

12. Wabash and Harrison (North West)

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This lot would be challenging to develop due to the L tracks curving right through it, so it might take a serious land rush for this corner to transform.

13. Wabash and Harrison (North East)

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No design challenges here, this huge lot is a perfect square and wouldn't have to hide an entrance under the L tracks.

14. Dearborn and Harrison

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This narrow lot kills the cohesiveness of Printer's Row, one of the hotter sections of the South Loop. It might be too narrow to any developers to pounce on it, but we'll be glad to see this lot bite the dust.

15. Wabash and 9th (North)

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Just next door to the brand new East-West University campus, here's a perfect contender for a South Loop residential development that would be steps from Grant Park and the revitalizing Roosevelt Road business district.

16. 1000 S Michigan

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1000 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605

Here's the only empty lot on Michigan Avenue anywhere near downtown. There have been proposals for ritzy highrises on this site before, but things have been quiet since the condo crash.

17. Jewel Osco Parking Lot

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As Roosevelt Road in the South Loop continues to develop into a strong retail corridor to cater to the growing residential population, this surface parking lot for the Jewel Osco seems more and more like a mistake. That space could easily be used by some ground-floor retail with apartments on top.

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1. Ed Debevic's Lot

41.893411, -87.634510

One of several River North tourist-trap destinations that uses its small parking lot to cater to visitors who haven't figured out the downtown parking situation yet. Developing the parking lot would kill the restaurant's visibility from Ontario, which is probably why they're hanging on to it.

2. Carson's Ribs

618 North Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60654

Just across from Ed's, Carson's has a small lot right on the corner that would be an easy sell with all of the new residential developments in the area.

618 North Wells Street
Chicago, IL 60654

3. Rock'n'Roll McDonalds

41.892865, -87.632083

Perhaps the capital of the tourist-friendly stretch of Ontario street, which feels more like Orlando at times, this flagship McDonalds has a surface parking lot with about 50 spaces taking up prime River North land.

4. Walgreens Parking Lot

41.893471, -87.630838

Walgreens is responsible for some of the best contextual retail architecture we've seen in Chicago in the last few years, but this location is a clone of any suburban location, complete with a street-hugging parking lot.

5. Holy Name Cathedral Parking Lot

41.896151, -87.628733

Hopefully it isn't sacrilegious to say that this parking lot, which fills up an entire block along State Street and Chicago Avenue, could be better serving the community as something else. The huge lot would make an attractive parcel for a highrise development, which could offer parking garage space to the church as part of the deal.

6. Columbus and Water

320 East North Water Street, Chicago, IL 60611

There are a handful of parking lots in Streeterville that are only placeholders for planned highrises, but this lot right on the riverfront doesn't have any plans behind it as far as we know. With the rest of the riverfront being developed like crazy, this lot will hopefully be the site of something new before too long.

320 East North Water Street
Chicago, IL 60611

7. Wabash Between Adams and Jackson

41.878990, -87.625765

South Wabash is home to the most parking lots on this list, and it's a good bet that the L tracks are to thank. Hopefully with the Chicago Loop Alliance working on a plan to bring some life back to Wabash, these lots will start turning into towers.

8. Dearborn Between Van Buren and Congress

41.876245, -87.629508

Sandwiched between the Metropolitan Correctional Facility and the Old Colony Building, this lot has been slow to see any kind of development despite lots of new activity around it. It could be that nobody wants to live or work next door to a jail, but since it's so close to the Loop it's bound to get bought up eventually.

9. Wabash and Van Buren (North West)

41.877378, -87.626582

Another Wabash lot, one of three on the same corner.

10. Wabash and Van Buren (South West)

41.876681, -87.626538

These two lots have doubly bad luck of being bound on two sides by L tracks, but with all of the university activity nearby it's surprising nobody has plopped a campus or student housing development here.

11. Wabash and Van Buren (South East)

41.876749, -87.625753

Speaking of campuses, here's a lot right next door to Roosevelt University's new Vertical Campus tower that nobody's done anything with yet.

12. Wabash and Harrison (North West)

41.874882, -87.626481

This lot would be challenging to develop due to the L tracks curving right through it, so it might take a serious land rush for this corner to transform.

13. Wabash and Harrison (North East)

41.874743, -87.625393

No design challenges here, this huge lot is a perfect square and wouldn't have to hide an entrance under the L tracks.

14. Dearborn and Harrison

41.874081, -87.628924

This narrow lot kills the cohesiveness of Printer's Row, one of the hotter sections of the South Loop. It might be too narrow to any developers to pounce on it, but we'll be glad to see this lot bite the dust.

15. Wabash and 9th (North)

41.870815, -87.625482

Just next door to the brand new East-West University campus, here's a perfect contender for a South Loop residential development that would be steps from Grant Park and the revitalizing Roosevelt Road business district.

16. 1000 S Michigan

1000 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605

Here's the only empty lot on Michigan Avenue anywhere near downtown. There have been proposals for ritzy highrises on this site before, but things have been quiet since the condo crash.

1000 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605

17. Jewel Osco Parking Lot

41.866951, -87.626842

As Roosevelt Road in the South Loop continues to develop into a strong retail corridor to cater to the growing residential population, this surface parking lot for the Jewel Osco seems more and more like a mistake. That space could easily be used by some ground-floor retail with apartments on top.