Brewpub, day care — along with new housing — among proposals to transform vacant lots on West, South sides

The city is seeking input until the end of February on the potential transit-oriented developments in East Garfield Park and Woodlawn near the CTA’s Green Line.

SHARE Brewpub, day care — along with new housing — among proposals to transform vacant lots on West, South sides
A vacant lot at Lake Street and Kedzie Avenue.

A vacant lot at Lake Street and Kedzie Avenue could be transformed into a mixed-use, affordable housing development. The city is seeking input from neighbors and others who work or spend time in the area about which of three proposals they prefer.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

When stepping off the Green Line on the West Side where his family lives, M Cohran knows he’s sure to see one thing beneath the elevated platform — vacant lots.

Chicago has plenty of them, “and this one’s right by the main street,” said Cohran, pointing to the southeast corner of Lake Street and Kedzie Avenue in East Garfield Park.

The 55-year-old musician was surprised to learn that could soon change, as the city-owned lot — for now, filled only with litter and trees — has been selected for a new housing and retail development meant to capitalize on its proximity to the Green Line.

Similar plans are in the works for another city-owned lot in Woodlawn on the South Side.

The Chicago Department of Planning and Development is looking at three potential plans for each of the two sites and is using an online survey to learn what neighbors and others who work or spend time in those areas think of the competing proposals.

Cohran imagined the possibilities for the Kedzie site.

“A full-fledged grocery store, something like that would be beautiful for the neighborhood,” he said. “We don’t have nothing like that.”

The planning department began the process of developing the lots last summer by asking development teams interested in the sites to submit their credentials, portfolio and experience in the community.

Out of 40 potential development teams for the two lots, the city chose six finalists — three for each lot — last fall. The finalists submitted proposals for the sites around the start of the year.

M Cohran waits for the bus near the intersection of Lake Street and Kedzie Avenue.

M Cohran, 55, waits for the bus near Lake Street and Kedzie Avenue, where a vacant city-owned lot will soon be redeveloped.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

To make the opportunity available to smaller developers, the city adopted a “request for qualifications” model instead of requesting complete proposals, which can be prohibitively expensive. The cost of creating the designs for the finalists was then covered by $25,000 grants from The Chicago Community Trust.

Applicants were assessed based on factors such as affordability, amenities and whether the design would fit the neighborhood.

Mixed-income housing sought for 63rd Street

The criteria for the South Side lot, on 63rd Street between Ingleside and Greenwood avenues in Woodlawn, emphasized developing mixed-income housing, anticipating growth from the nearby Obama Presidential Center now under construction.

That site is also on the Green Line, about three blocks west of the Cottage Grove stop.

“They’re both communities that are rich in different ways but both could really use these developments as a way to kick-start development,” said Gerardo Garcia, a deputy commissioner of the planning department.

Garcia said the online survey is intended to give communities “ownership” of the developments. Also playing a role in which projects are selected are community evaluators chosen from each neighborhood.

“They have a choice and really good choices here, so they should try to understand the proposals as much as possible,” Garcia said.

A vacant lot at the intersection of Lake Street and Kedzie Avenue on the West Side that will soon be transformed into a mixed-use, 100% affordable housing development. The city is calling for residents and those who work or spend time in the area to respond a survey about the proposed developments for the site.

A vacant lot at the intersection of Lake Street and Kedzie Avenue on the West Side that will soon be transformed into a mixed-use, 100% affordable housing development. The city is calling for residents and those who work or spend time in the area to respond a survey about the proposed developments for the site.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Housing, retail proposed on West Side

All West Side proposals are for mixed-use developments with housing and ground-floor retail space. The housing would be affordable for those earning up to 60% of the area’s median income, or up to $62,520 for a family of four.

The biggest difference is the proposal led by Chicago-based Imagine Development and Evergreen Real Estate group offers about one-third as much retail space than the other two proposals. The developers all offered a similar number of apartments, although the proposal from Citizens Building a Better Community, a development group based on the West Side, included no three-bedroom apartments.

The proposed South Side developments would be larger, offering between 7,000 and 10,000 square feet of retail space. Two of the developers already suggest tenants for that space. Imagine Development, a finalist for both sites, proposed a day care for the South Side project, while DL3, a developer based on the South Side, proposed a brewpub.

The Garfield Park Community Council has been focused on the Lake/Kedzie site for some time.

“We’ve been trying to program those spaces, to bring people back to the Kedzie corridor,” said Mike Tomas, president of the council.

The white-barked aspen trees on the lot today were planted by the council years ago, but Tomas said many in the community are excited to see development there.

At community meetings since the finalists were announced, Tomas said dozens of residents made known what they wanted — locally owned essential businesses, such as grocery stores or laundromats; locally owned affordable food and entertainment; and culturally relevant creative spaces, such as art galleries.

And they want a beautiful design for the building that will serve as a gateway to their community.

Tomas, a longtime Garfield Park resident, said the council submitted their hopes for the site — a “vision document” — to the development teams around the start of the year.

“We’re hoping that whoever gets selected would refer back to this and at least use this as a starting off point as they flesh out their ideas,” he said.

Michael Loria is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.

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