Over two hundred voices discuss the future of one Rogers Park lot - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Over two hundred voices discuss the future of one Rogers Park lot

A unique community engagement process listened to Rogers Park residents' desires around the development of the community's only publicly-owned vacant parcel

Small group in-person design charrettes were held in October with COVID-19 precautions.

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Amidst a pandemic, the Metropolitan Planning Council worked with the 49th Ward Alderwoman Maria Hadden's office and local stakeholders to ensure that the future of the only city-owned lot in Rogers Park was conceived with the community, not for the community. The site on the corner of Howard and Ashland is beloved as part of the Peterson Garden Project since 2014.

For years developers had submitted proposals to the city on the lot's future but rarely included any transparent and equitable engagement. COVID-19 offered an opportunity to reimagine community-based planning in a hybrid model of engagement reaching over 200 residents in a three-part process between October and December 2020. Over two town halls and several types of design charrettes, residents had multiple ways of providing input: virtually, in-person, or with a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kit from the comfort of their own homes.

In an effort for the community input to be as reflective of the full community as possible, many local community stakeholders were able to do unique and adaptive outreach in the time of COVID-19. “It is imperative that the North of Howard community see their ideas and desires reflected in any development at Howard and Ashland. It has to be a space made by us, in order to feel like it’s for us. It has the potential to symbolize a larger movement towards justice and our voices are being heard,” said Ashaki McClain from Family Matters.

Four different scenarios were created with pro bono design and development finance consultants to show the variety of interests and needs that the lot can become. 

The final Corridor Development Initiative (CDI) report can be viewed here

The CDI report is a compilation and summary of the results from the engagement process. The 49th Ward Office, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD), the Department of Housing (DOH), and other city agencies will release a Request for Proposal (RFP) for developers in the spring of 2021, where there will be additional opportunities for feedback from the community. Any development proposal will go through the DPD and Plan Commission approval processes, and the community values highlighted in this report will be used to create a review framework.

So what did the community express? It is imperative to ensure that Community Values that are emphasized be throughout the next steps in the process. The following values should be front and center during the review process. Here's what we heard:

  • Economic Justice: create a use on this site that will provide an economic benefit to residents.
  • Social Integration: design a place that serves all ages and backgrounds during all seasons.
  • Equitable Access: foster equitable access to essential items like affordable groceries and housing opportunities for all.

The scenarios outlined in this report provide context for what is possible on the site, but are only one facet of a variety of factors to consider when developing and reviewing proposals. Community members developed guidelines that can inform any future development. These guidelines consider market realities, economic impacts, and how site design could improve the health of residents and preserve green space.

  • Maximize retention of publicly-accessible community garden, balanced with economic feasibility.
  • If existing green space is displaced, develop a plan to ensure the residents who use the land may continue to benefit. Reserving a portion of the site for a community garden would depend on economic feasibility of any proposed development.
  • Locate new construction at site boundaries to maintain the Howard streetscape.
  • Provide a community-based economic generator, such as an incubator, community space, urban farm, etc.
  • Introduce a residential component to the site, with a mix of market-rate, affordable, and unit sizes.
  • City should explore offsetting land acquisition cost for development.
  • Leverage residential square footage to pay for other uses on site.
  • Consider efforts to attract retail and commercial tenants that are aligned to the neighborhood aesthetics and will strengthen the local business corridor.

The Corridor Development Initiative (CDI) in Rogers Park is only the beginning. What ultimately is built should be decided with the community. The final report is a guiding document that informs the next step of the process. Please join the ward office in learning about the next steps by registering for the Report Launch on March 16 on Zoom at 6-7:30 PM. Resources from the process can be found at www.metroplanning.org/rogerspark. Questions should be directed to Debbie Liu (dliu@metroplanning.org).

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