Plan Commission adopts Western Ave. corridor study

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Chicago Construction News staff writer

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The Chicago Plan Commission has adopted the Western Avenue Corridor Study, looking at land use, development patterns, and population growth along a northern 5-mile stretch of Western Ave.

The city retained Site Design Group, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, Latent Design, Sam Schwartz, and Borderless to draft the study and envision a corridor with “thriving places, safe and attractive streets, and resilient communities.”

Five neighborhood centers were identified as part of the study – Irving Park, Lawrence, Bryn Mawr, Devon, and Lunt.

The final zone is the commercial transition zone, which would be predominantly commercial uses with some potential for residential or office above. This lower density model would suggest an FAR of 2-3 and a B3-2 zoning.

A key finding was that due to population growth, there is increasing demand for a range of housing types in the city – including apartments, condominiums, and single-family homes – and a need for various affordability levels.

Feedback from residents indicated they want to see more housing along Western. As a result, the report recommends increased density and high foot traffic in strategic mixed-use neighborhood centers, with lower density housing infill in between centers. Buildings would be setback along narrow sidewalks and a toolkit has been prepared for activating underutilized storefronts.

Also, the study identifies three main drivers to create resilient neighborhoods:

  • Environmental – improvements in air quality, disaster resilience, stormwater, heat island effect, biodiversity, and noise pollution.
  • Economic – income equity, employment, business success, neighborhood amenities, storefront and site vacancy, and activation.
  • Socioculture – equity, accessibility, mental health, physical health, safety, and community cohesion.

DPD developed a Renovation and Development Toolkit to go along with the study’s materials. To be used in addition to typically required zoning standards, the toolkit supplies inspiration and identifies best practices for the corridor.

Next steps include identifying and allocating resources for projects based on study recommendations.

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