Mariano’s Meeting Recap

Happy New Year! I know it’s been awhile so I hope that everyone had a lot of fun during the holiday season…
On December 19th, I attended the third and final community meeting about the proposed Sears Lot development, including the Mariano’s grocery store. Here are my notes, which generally reflect the proposals and pitch from the developers and Alderman Pawar–not necessarily my own views. By the third meeting, the developers had already responded to many of the neighbors requests, which is great!

Financing: Tax Increment Financing (TIF) will provide $3.3 million to this $42 million development.* The area currently generates $100,000 in taxes–once developed, the Alderman says, it would provide $1m in taxes distributed to schools and other city agencies. The TIF would be paid back in 5 years. Some of the TIF money will pay for the “road diet”(see below) necessary for the construction.

Community partnership: The Alderman and the developers, Barrett & Porto, have brought the plan to the community to address issues. One concern from neighbors was increasing pedestrian friendliness. The project has evolved significantly over the past five years, responding to community concerns and changing drawings, including during the past few months. The developer’s goal is to partner with the community–for instance, they are pledging $250,000 for a local urban agriculture project and $100k for a public school in the ward. They are also creating a shuttle bus for seniors when they open which is proposed for Spring 2013. There are 60 contracts associated with the project. They’ll partner with the Chamber of Commerce, and ideally get local bids. There are significant employment opportunities: 200 retail jobs employing people within 2 miles of store.

The developers have split up the Sears Lot into two parcels of land. Retail will be near Lawrence Ave. and residential set away from tracks on the northern end. Construction projects will happen sequentially. The hope is to start construction Spring 2012–groundbreaking by July, open in March 2013, incrementally.

Mariano’s Development: The core of the development is a Mariano’s, a new (to Chicago) grocery chain. The store’s approach is a customer-friendly collection of boutique areas, hand picked fresh produce, and open large windows for transparency. The development would have a cafe and other retail stores on the ground floor–a total of 35,000 square feet of retail. It will have parking on the roof and the grocery store will be on the 2nd floor. They are also trying to attract a health club operator and other small stores. Sears auto center will renovate and inhabit 10,000 sq ft behind the Mariano’s store. It is a LEED-rated design, and the hope is that it will stimulate the economy.

Parking and traffic: There is a traffic distinction between the street and the parking lot. It will have 160 parking spots on the street level, and nearly 200 on the roof (357 total stalls). They are working with Metra and the Alderman’s office to create a pedestrian flow and streetscape. Some of it will be covered to get to Metra from Wolcott. It will have a signaled intersection, center turn lane, and a bicycle storage area under a covered sidewalk. They are changing Lawrence to one lane each way, widening the sidewalk and bike lane. They’re also adding a center turn lane from Western to Clark. These changes, called a “Road Diet,” are aimed at stimulating community and economy.

Residential vs. Commercial: Residential development is still on the table. But this development is part of the Alderman’s plan to move beyond homeowners for city revenue, to get large commercial owners to help pay for taxes and relieve the burden of homeowners. This extends the Lawrence Avenue commercial area to diversify the tax base, and would potentially increase the value of homes.

Residential developers: Belgravia Group is the potential developer. They have $3B in development properties. The residential unit would be 125,000 sq feet–similar to Alta Vista Terrace. A ratio of 0.7 parking spots per resident. The buildings will be six-flats on two sides. They’ll have a mansionette feel but would house 6 families, similar to many of the six-flats already in Ravenswood. There will be one larger elevator building with five floors on the east side of the development, so there is no shadow on the neighboring buildings. Potential rent is $1200 for one bedroom and under $2,000 for two bedroom. It would be about $835 average for affordable housing. They would have guest parking on one side of the street, with a resident parking lot accessed through a gateway on the other side of the buildings. They’ve shifted the lot away from the tracks for acoustics. They would be dog-friendly buildings, with a dog run in back and laundry in the basement. They expect to hold this as a rental building for the long term, with no anticipation of condo conversion.

***Note from Rebecca: I shared some comments regarding Area 5’s perspective–from our meeting at All Saint’s it seemed that neighbors are supportive of the grocery store, but many are concerned about the development making an already difficult parking situation worse. 

The Alderman and developer’s response: Because of the potential spillover effects, permit parking will be available. The lot will be monitored and towing will occur. Adding an additional parking level would cost $7m and increase liability insurance, in addition to being expensive to maintain. A revamp of permit parking is also on the table for the entire area around the Metra station.They are not thinking all-day permits, just making it consistent throughout the areas. For instance, “morning-only,” or something like that…it still needs to get figured out.

In fact, permit parking is one of the major items on the agenda for the next Ward Council meeting (Tuesday, January 17, 6:45pm – 8:15pm at Bethany United Church of Christ, 4250 N. Paulina – Fellowship Hall – downstairs).

Our last East Ravenswood Neighbors meeting covered everything that is in the current agenda (because the Mariano’s discussion replaced the meeting we prepared for). So our next block club meeting will be on Monday, January 30–details to come in a few weeks. In the meantime, please feel free to email me with any more thoughts about permit parking–or come to the Ward Council meeting on the 17th.

*Two primers on TIFs:

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