Lake-Kedzie redevelopment plan seeks to improve West Side’s story

Three teams have been shortlisted in an effort to bring much-needed new housing and retail to the area near the CTA’s Green Line stop at Lake Street and Kedzie Avenue.

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One of three finalist proposals for a city plan to redevelop an area near Lake Street and Kedzie Avenue in Garfield Park.

One of three finalist proposals for a city plan to redevelop an area near Lake Street and Kedzie Avenue in Garfield Park.

City of Chicago

A long-vacant commercial area in the East Garfield Park community could come alive again under a redevelopment effort detailed by the city this month.

A trio of teams have been shortlisted by city officials and community residents to bring new housing and retail to three sites around Lake Street and Kedzie Avenue, all within the shadow of a Green Line stop.

The winning proposal will be selected later this year.

It would be good to see a spark of revitalization lit in this long-neglected part of the city. West Side residents have been wrongly deprived of public and private resources for 60 years — and the utter lack of investment has left many of the area’s neighborhoods, including East and West Garfield Park, in near-tatters.

Editorial

Editorial

Residences, retail and restaurants

Under the city’s plan, nine parcels around Lake Street and Kedzie Avenue — each site contains three lots — would be redeveloped.

The city-issued Request for Qualifications (RFQ) seeks a team that can design and build mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly developments that will take advantage of the site’s proximity to the Green Line L stop at Kedzie Avenue.

The RFQ calls for rental housing, retail stores, restaurants and neighborhood amenities designed to help residents “to access most of their basic, day-to-day needs within a 15-minute walk of their homes.”

Restaurants would be a nice touch. The project would sit close to The Hatchery, a 67,000- square-foot food and beverage incubator — designed to help developing restaurateurs — that was built at 135 N. Kedzie Ave. in 2018.

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Also, housing built as part of the Lake/Kedzie plan would be affordable for those who earn up to 60% of the area’s median income, which is $62,520 for a family of four.

Such low-cost housing is needed at a time when rental costs have escalated throughout Chicago neighborhoods, increasing by an average of $275 a month since last year. However, we wonder how many families with children will consider moving to the redeveloped area, given the nearest elementary school, Beidler, at 3151 W. Walnut St., is a chronic under-performer.

Improving Beidler should be among the city’s priorities for the development.

We do like that the city is seeking multi-story, mid-rise buildings that have residences on top of ground floor commercial and retail for the Lake/Kedzie project.

The city’s best and most vital main streets were built this way, and the results often come up short when developers deviate from this formula in rebounding neighborhoods. One example is the stretch of suburban-style, single-family houses built on East 63rd Street in Woodlawn.

Two decades after they were built, the two-story houses still float in a void caused by 63rd Street’s width and the amount of still-undeveloped vacant land around the dwellings.

Hopefully, new developments planned for East 63rd Street won’t make that mistake, if the results so far of another RFQ also making the rounds this month are any indication.

‘Don’t play with us’

The next steps of picking a winning team and getting the project built are critical.

That’s because over the years, West Side communities have been promised little —and have ultimately received even less than that.

“Don’t come over here playing with us, because we’ve been played with so many times before and we want to support someone who supports us,” Angela Taylor, the Garfield Park Community Council’s Wellness Coordinator, said during a stakeholder virtual meeting on the Lake and Kedzie project.

She’s right. The West Side deserves better. And the time to deliver is now.

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