Redeveloping neighborhoods highlight importance of zoning mapping process - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Redeveloping neighborhoods highlight importance of zoning mapping process

An industrial group is investigating creating a buffer district for its industrial corridor, which borders on a rapidly redeveloping neighborhood. The mix of uses along Grand Avenue in Chicago highlights the need for a comprehensive approach to the zoning remapping process.

Grand Avenue is a busy street with a jumble of manufacturers, restaurants, used car dealerships, residential buildings, and vacant lots. The street remains a heavily used Class 1 truck route serving the longtime industrial district, but a large, new condominium development on Grand Avenue just west of Hoyne Street underscores the changing nature of this area and some of the challenges it represents.

Grand Avenue is located in Chicago’s West Town community, a series of neighborhoods that has begun experiencing a residential building boom in the last decade. New condominium developments abound north of Grand and west of Ashland avenues. Yet the south side of the street remains a dividing line for the Kinzie Industrial Corridor, home to many viable industries, which are protected from sharing space with other uses by a special zoning category known as a planned manufacturing district (PMD). As residential development continues to enjoy a rebirth in this neighborhood, can these diverse users remain friendly neighbors into the future?

It is a common dilemma urban areas face — finding enough space to accommodate a variety of uses in close proximity to one another. In many of Chicago’s redeveloping neighborhoods, uses such as industrial, retail, commercial, and residential co-exist, sometimes tenuously, side-by-side. A healthy mix of uses can create a vibrant, thriving neighborhood. This mixture of uses, with their varying space requirements, parking needs, and traffic levels, highlights the need for a comprehensive approach to rezoning on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis. Chicago’s zoning rewrite process, the text of which should be complete the first half of this year, will also determine where new zoning rules apply on the city’s official zoning map. Areas like Grand Avenue pose a particular challenge. Should the City creating zoning that reflects what is on the ground today, or zone for the future — a future defined by the neighborhood and users of the space?

MPC, in conjunction with the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago (ICNC), seeks to answer those questions. ICNC represents the manufacturers in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor, and is concerned for the future of Grand Avenue, which it sees as a buffer zone for the industrial area to the south. ICNC conducted a visioning exercise in 2003 to discuss the future of Grand Avenue, which included manufacturers, business owners, and residential developers. Zoning issues and the impending remapping process became a common concern among participants.

Although ICNC is an industrial organization, its leaders recognize the market forces acting upon their neighborhood, and envision the north side of Grand Avenue as a business and commercial district. Using Grand Avenue as a buffer, ICNC’s strategy is to zone for a lasting relationship with surrounding residential neighborhoods. ICNC asked MPC to help identify zoning issues like these using its Zoning Change Strategy, a process that readies communities for zoning remapping by identifying assets and challenges in their neighborhoods. MPC will conduct a building survey with members of ICNC and make recommendations for future zoning categories on Grand Avenue.

Complex areas like those surrounding Grand Avenue illustrate the types of issues the city is likely to face as the zoning rewrite process moves from the text phase into the mapping phase. For more information on the Zoning Change Strategy process, click here .

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