Uptown Corridor Development Initiative wraps up with feedback from developers - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Uptown Corridor Development Initiative wraps up with feedback from developers

Alderman Cappleman addresses community members at MPC's final CDI workshop.

Last Thursday, 100 residents and stakeholders attended the third workshop of the Metropolitan Planning Council’s Uptown Corridor Development Initiative (CDI), a public process designed to encourage participatory planning around the future of several sites in the neighborhood.

Completing the series of workshops, this third meeting brought together the community visions for the future of the neighborhood discussed in the first meeting and specific development plans for the former Stewart School and the areas around the to-be-renovated Wilson Station, discussed in the second meeting. The meeting was covered in articles in DNAinfo and Curbed.

In preparation for the third meeting, MPC staff worked with architects from Gensler and developers from U.S. Equities to develop in-depth design and financial models of each of the projects community members had created in the second meeting. These models were displayed on boards at the entrance to the meeting and now are available online. In addition, several proposals were studied in depth and presented for community discussion at the meeting.

Three developers, Mikki Anderson of The Michaels Company, Nick Anderson of Related Midwest and Todd Cabanban of CR&M, provided feedback about the proposals to the meeting’s participants. They provided useful insight about potential projects.

Here were some of the major points made by the developers: 

  • The “sweet spot” for developing affordable housing is probably somewhere between 70 and 80 units, which is an attractive number for investors and the Illinois Housing Development Authority, which provides the most common source of financing and subsidies.
  • Taller, denser buildings result in more residents walking around the community—providing more “eyes on the street”—and often leads to a safer, more vibrant community.
  • Retail works best when it faces heavily trafficked streets. In the development proposals, retail would likely work best if it faces Wilson or Broadway directly.
  • Given the vacancy in nearby office buildings, it may be unrealistic to expect much demand for new office space in the neighborhood, though medical office space that works with Truman College may be effective.
  • Environmental cleanup around the Wilson Station may make project development there complicated and expensive.
  • Additional sources of subsidies to fund the projects, particularly the community components, could include donations tax credits or social impact investments. 

For those who did not attend the final meeting, MPC has posted an online survey for people to weigh in on the issues discussed at the workshop.

Over the next few weeks, MPC staff will be working to compile the results of the three CDI workshops and develop the draft report for Uptown, which will be shared for comment with the alderman, local stakeholders and members of the community who signed up throughout the process. The final report will be used by Alderman James Cappleman to inform his work with Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Transit Authority as they release requests for proposals for parties interested in developing the sites discussed at the CDI workshops.

Additional updates about the CDI process will be posted at metroplanning.org/uptown.

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