Goal of CGNA and Alderman Moreno: Planning Grand Avenue development


Many expressed their concerns about the Grand Ave. corridor

The Chicago Grand Neighbors Association (CGNA) and 1st Ward Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno convened a meeting to begin laying out some issues regarding the Grand Ave. corridor development, focusing on the strip from Ashland to Western Avenues. Held in the West Town Library building on July 22, there were four guest speakers in addition to the Alderman. All 30 to 40 attendees were encouraged to participate. 

Jim Cox

Jim Cox

Without a land use plan for an area, manufacturing, which is important to the health of the City, can get squeezed out and a patchwork of spot zoning prevails. That often leads to no real winners and no cohesive healthy community. Jim Cox, Project Manager, Department of Housing and Economic Development, indicated that in their study of Grand Ave., they identified 67 non-conforming spot zones. Their plan will reduce that to 14. 


Ben Spies

With the loss of manufacturing along Grand Avenue, both residents and the 1st Ward Alderman's office have determined that "M1" zoning is no longer appropriate. The Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago agrees, as does the City. But, what zoning should be allowed, what do people want, what about existing usage and who are the players? 


1st Ward Alderman Moreno

The Players
The players are diverse. There are residents; business owners; industrial firms; developers; the City of Chicago Department of Economic Development, Department of Planning and Department of Housing and Economic Development; a protected manufacturing district (PMD); a chamber of commerce; a special service area; and City of Chicago Aldermen. Each has an agenda that they want fulfilled.


Bill Gold

Existing usage and current wants

Regarding Grand Ave., Ben Spies, Outreach Coordinator, Industrial Council of Northwest Chicago (ICNC), and Cox presented information about studies and recommendations. The Kinzie Industrial Development Corporation (KIDC), formed in 1984, is bound on the north by Ferdinand St.


Dan Laskowski

Spies said that ICNC has a plan that recommends C3-1.5 zoning on the south side of Grand and B2 -1.5 on the north side. The C3 zoning, which does not allow residential, would therefore serve as a buffer. 

"This provides a buffer zone between industrial and residential," said Spies. Ferdinand St. is one block south of Grand between Ashland and Claremont. Cox agreed with his statements, taking exception to a few specific parcels. 


Lyn Wolfson

Explaining why a buffer zone is advisable, Spies gave the example of a building with residential units on Grand Ave. with units facing Ferdinand St. A long time industrial business, Kennicott Brothers Company at 452 N. Ashland, is a wholesaler and retailer with semi-trailer trucks starting their floral business work at 2 or 3 a.m. along Ferdinand. The residents in the new building are unhappy with the noise. 


Architect and resident Peter Frisbee


Raymond Valadez, Moreno's Chief of Staff, clarifies a point

Some long time residents said they never heard complaints and that new residents should accept the noise, because the business was there first. CGNA's Planning and Development Committee Chair, Dan Laskowski, used people in Bensenville as another example. "People moved in by an airport and then complained about the noise." 


Jack Perno

Lyn Wolfson, CGNA President, said that they do complain and asked how to protect companies like Kennicott. Bill Gold, Gold Construction Group, Inc., suggested that the trucks be limited to different hours of operations. Gold owns four parcels on the southeast corner of Grand Ave. and Paulina St. With John Hanna as his architect, he stated that he has a good industrial look for his mixed-use building which is not anticipated to be built until 2014. 

According to Laswoski, the approval process for that project took a long time during which Gold, CGNA and Moreno worked together to agree on the project before Moreno agreed to support a zoning change to a "B" mixed-use. 


Bill Bruss and Lisa Puliese spoke on behalf of businesses

Discussions and reactions to that change caused Moreno to realize that doing  some planning would be the best approach. "I want to be proactive. Let's look at Grand Ave. as a whole. ..We need to vision what we want for that area, but we also have to realize that people want to be in that area. Industrialist, residents, developers want to be there…that is good. But at the end of the day, it is our decision as to how we want to zone that." 

If the south side of the street is zoned commercial, some people are concerned about existing residents. All existing residential would remain and be listed as non-conforming. 


Many expressed their concerns

What do people want
"It is important to think not just about today's use, but tomorrow's. For example, if you provide residential on the first floor, that pretty much guarantees there will never be commercial there ever," said Moreno. Then he encouraged people to sign up for a committee to bring the many voices together, laying out suggestions for Grand Avenue's future composition. 

Their toolset can include zoning, restrictive covenants, plans of operations and live-work, Moreno said. Issues such as parking can be planned for partially by zoning. 

They will be blending together many of the opinions expressed in the July 22 meeting including Lisa Pugliese's comments. As the fourth speaker, she represented the West Town Chamber and SSA #29, who are interested in seeing the area grow and prosper. 


Judith Gethner

Long time residents expressed fear. Sylvia Lueza is concerned about who the people are that are coming in and how they behave, while Dominy Edwards expressed fear over the quality of the developments. 

Others indicated that there are too many lots that have been empty for too long and they need to be developed. Lights and safety concerned some while many expressed the fact that they don't want Grand Ave. to look like Division St. Grand should be different and unique. 

Many opt for the design businesses already populated the area versus the bars and restaurants of Division St. Concepts of pedestrian zones and live-work units are appealing. Whatever is determined, Judith Gethner who recently transferred into the 1st Ward from the 26th, hopes the committee will give people in the other wards encouragement to deal with their aldermen. 

A subsequent meeting with Wolfson, Laskowski and Moreno has taken the process to the next step. The 8 to 10 people who have volunteered for the committee are being contacted to determine their next meeting date.



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