Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ravenswood New Development in Sears/Metra Parking Lot

A grocery store in the heart of Ravenswood?!

Proposed development site east of Sears on Lawrence.

Thanks to neighborhood tipsters Dan and Sarah for sending me information on the Community Meeting this Tuesday March 24th, 7:00PM at McPherson Elementary 4728 N Wolcott Ave (proof of residency required if vote is taken). Please contact the 47th Ward for details at 773-348-8400.

I first heard about the latest push to get this deal done from Alderman Schulter awhile back at a Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce networking event. The meeting will contribute to its progress.

The Ravenswood Metra stop across from the proposed development is wanting for a new station.

Excuse me while I spaz on this one. The Rojas family is breathless in anticipation of the mixed use development plans located at the Metra/Sears parking lot at West Lawrence and North Ravenswood in the Ravenswood neighborhood. The online plans show a grocery store and fitness center in the retail spaces. Awesome. Just awesome. We'll NEVER move.

Please attend the meeting on March 24th.


Anonymous said...

That is awesome. As a prospective buyer in the Ravenswood area it adds value

Anonymous said...

Hey, I spaced out and missed the meeting last night. What was the outcome? Any retailers expressing interest in the space at this point? Do I hear Whole Foods or Trader Joe's?

Anonymous said...

I couldn't make it either. Anyone?

Eric Rojas said...

Sharon, thanks for the comment.

I will have a post about this later, but the main concerns were the proposed 11 story condo building (to be built in a second phase well into the future and dependent on market conditions) and increased traffic activity for the neighbors surrounding the site.

The crowd at these meeting are many times suspicious and do not want development or change. But many points are valid of course. Last nights attendance generally thought that this meeting notice was last minute and no one has seen anything about this condo building etc... until now.

I like the idea of density near commuter trains. Businesses would also be better supported in the neighborhood.

As for the grocery, it would be a Milwaukee company called Roundy's. They have Chicago connections and their representative had renovated/built the Fresh Store Dominic's at Western and Roscoe.

The store offered full service Deli, Bakery, produce, liquor sections... fresh and ready made foods etc...

Attendees were annoyed that more time in the presentations was spent on the Sears store renovation (good) and the grocery store than on the impact of the housing units and retail traffic.

Unknown said...

Last night, there was a lot of concern that the project was pretty much moving forward without community input - Schulter heard people's disappointment. However, the developers did listen to the numerous concerns regarding traffic in the neighborhood and the looming 11-story condo building. I think a structure like this would be huge eyesore in our neighborhood, because there are any mid-rises in this area. I still think that the Metra stop was not addressed. The move would really bring a lot of noise/traffic to the more residential side of Lawrence/Ravenswood.

Anonymous said...

Eric gave a pretty accurate description of what took place. There was no vote last night and if there were, I am guessing it would be voted against. It does not help that the developers made it clear that these plans can change, except for the fact that they will keep the 11 story condo building. The plans they showed last along with the numbers they discussed (parking spots, ect.) do not match what their website shows ( Most importantly between the 11 story condo building, 3 story parking garage and 3 story grocery/work out building the whole north block of Wolcott will be in it’s shadow. That would immediately decrease the values of pretty much all those properties, not to mention adding to an existing surplus of units for sale in an area that already has plenty. So there will definitely be resistance. That being said I think most people love the idea having a grocery store & work out place. I personally think the 11 story building will be an eye sore in this area. I can see it closer to the lake, but not in Ravenswood.

Eric Rojas said...

Thanks for the comments.
Shilpa, I think it's a little over the top for neighbor's living along the Metra Line on an industrial corridor to complain that the Metra stop move will be a nuisance.
An ADA compliant, new train station would be a huge boon. I also feel it's mostly located in front of the commercial building and parking.

I can see the "shadow issue" for Wolcott neighbors. However, the grocery and fitness retail would need the density to support it eventually and I figure the tower will end up a little shorter. Transit oriented density just makes sense and that is a prime under-used location.

The building will be an eye sore if poorly executed. With it's exposure, they have a chance to create a stand out building and make something look really terrific.

As for adding the condo units, things are a "little" slow at the massive 1800 W Grace and Ravenswood loft conversion across from Trader Joes. It will be awhile.

Eric Rojas said...

I just had an anonymous post making some unqualified claims.

I reserve the right to post factual information.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, a lot to think about. Thanks for the information on the meeting. I'm glad they are taking the feedback and coming back for another round prior to voting. Hopefully, we will some modifications to their plans to address the community concerns. Overall, I think this would be great for the area, won't displace anyone due to the location, and will actually increase property values on Wolcott and elsewhere due the draw that this development will have in the area. Personally I'm not opposed to larger devlepments on main thoroughfares like Lawrence if they done with an eye to aesthetics and ample parking...

Anonymous said...

I don't think people are against a new metra station, they're against moving it from it's current location.

If you look at the trains that stop, currently the engine stops right in front of Newark which is a good thing. If the station was moved further north, the engine along with its noise and smoke will be right in the resedential section of the street.

This will make the residents south of lawrence happier, but the residents north of lawrence will be less happy. The difference is the owners south of lawrence had a choice to buy or not buy knowing they would be next to the train station. The owners north will not have a choice in the matter.

A good compromise would be to just move the station slightly north so that it stradles lawrence avenue. This would keep the train engine in front of newark.

Anonymous said...

The whole project came out of nowhere and residents seem generally surprised and angered about it.

While the whole renovation of Sears sounds great, but the residential plans just seem ridiculous. Who's going to buy these units and what type of housing will it be? Remember the Uptown Target development with that housing, anyone?

The existing area is nice, but certainly an 11-story building with no details about usage and the reasoning for such a HUGE building does not sit well with those of us who've decided to live in an area without tall buildings.

I agree with Anonymous 11:23AM - there's no reasoning to moving the stop in the middle of a residential development...they can walk a little. Moving the Metra to just north of Lawence to straddle it, would be fine.

Oh, and as far as the supermarket - we can all say goodbye to having a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's like other areas, Roundy's is really Pick N' Save, just take a look at the website:

If there was a vote today, count mine as "no."

Unknown said...

Thanks for clarifying my comment about Metra, Anonymous. Believe me, nobody should be against rebuilding that Metra station - it is literally falling apart, and is not ADA compliant (it's barely anything compliant - those stairs are dangerous). However, I think Anonymous said it best - when I bought my place, one of my biggest concerns was the Metra, but when I realized that the station was far enough that I wasn't as disturbed with the noise as I thought, I was much more comfortable with the decision. It doesn't sound like much, but when you a concerned about resale of your property, all of that DOES make a difference. I don't know if there is anything to prevent Sears from building a 3-story structure on that lot (which means that some of my sun is lost), but I feel like there is a good argument against moving the Metra station.

Eric Rojas said...

I think we are concerned with the lack of information on the development housing and the late notice for this community meeting. I ask everyone email, call, write the Alderman's office about these issues.

I apologize, but I don't agree the Metra Station is in play over a handful of residential units to the North. It's still going to built along Metra's track. I think it will be a change, but not a disaster. The planning crosses several layers of Government and Metra. With clarification, I'm sure there are engineering concerns to build a station and make it ADA accessible on the north side rather than right over Lawrence etc...

Does anyone know who has a stake in wanting the Metra moved that far to the North? Even if someone did, that would be some major clout.

I'm on Winchester... If I bought on a stretch backed up to the commercial zoned area on Damen, I could not complain if they knocked down a residential building and built a more active commercial building with several dumpsters at some point. Well, I could complain.

I'm not excited about "Roundy's" and I have emailed the Alderman's office to ask about any set asides for mixed income in the residential etc...

I think most people are fair here and believe development should and probably will happen in that lot. But once again the important information is too hard to get and the lead up to this was short sighted and questionable.

awesomedylan said...

I went to the meeting on the 25th and I am very discouraged by the presentation and its' lack of transparency. The 11 story tower was not even addressed until the question and answer period. The tower would not be in keeping with the community architecture and what about the glut of condominiums? The tower would put in shadow the solar panels on the net green house built on Ravenswood and Ainsle. How could it be that the owner has been in coversation with the alderman for over a year about his home and the day of the meeting was the first the owner heard of the proposed development.
The moving of the metra station to the north side of Lawrence, was also an issue glossed over. On the northside of Lawrence, once you are passed Newark Electronics it is all residential. What can't the train stop be left where it is?

Anonymous said...

Other than the 11-story building, I like that plan. It'd be nice to see the tower paired down to maybe 6 stories. But if an 11-story building is what it takes to get that area developed, then bring it on.
Our neighborhood sorely needs development like that. There are vacancies left and right on Damen and on Lawrence. Maybe this project would be a spring board to spur commercial tenants moving into these vacant storefronts.
Additionally, I'd be happy to see that the area properly constructed to handle the rain. Currently, the parking lot dumps a lot of rainwater into the sewer.

ryan said...

Following your link to the developer plans, it looks like the 11 story building would be in the middle of the development, oriented east to west. If this is really the plan, that seriously diminishes my fear that it would be out of scale - it's set behind residential buildings that are already 4 stories - tall enough to create a canyon effect for 1st story residences on Wolcott.

Of course, I'm not clear on the scale of the drawing -- the whole thing is two blocks long, or roughly 1,300 feet. How wide would the 11-story building be? Unless it's like 70-feet wide, the drawing underestimates its footprint.

Still, I tend to agree with Eric -- next to a train station is where dense development belongs, and compared to having a Sears Auto Center and a parking lot, or whatever commercial development MIGHT have been planned there, there is little to complain about here. I live about 1.5 blocks away, and I generally like the idea

Marcus Twain said...

Thanks for the update. Is noise concern really a critical issue for property owners? Why did they buy along train tracks if they don't want to hear an engine while the train is berthed 20-25 times a day for 90 seconds?

It sounds like the case of the NIMBY's to me.

Certainly moving the station further north shouldn't matter that much, but keep pedestrian traffic away from Lawrence/Ravenswood would be a good effort in safety since the viaduct under the UP-N tracks at Lawrence is very blind, and often people running for a late train tend not to "look both ways" when crossing such intersections.

Schulter needs to remember that a large part of his constituency commutes downtown via Metra and either keep an entrance at Leland to the platforms or slow down traffic on Lawrence (or both).

Eric Rojas said...

Anybody email the 47th Ward office with their questions? I emailed a few questions about 3-4 business days ago and have not received a resonse.

Maybe I got bounced to spam... and I will call to follow up with my questions. Any other "success" stories on this?

scott d. said...

I was at the meeting and liked a lot of what I heard with the exception of the height of the tower and lack of information about the Metra bridge over Lawrence. No one objected to the amount of units in the development, it was the tower height. My issue with the 130 foot tall 11 story condo tower is that they plan to build it some time in the future after the retail section and parking deck are constructed (when the residential real estate market improves) and the only way they thought they could get the amount of units needed was to build a tower next to the parking deck. I don't see why they can't put some of the condos over the parking deck and lower the tower height down to 6 stories. They would have accommodate for the future structure above the deck similar to what the Blue Cross building is doing on Randolph Street downtown, but it is possible.

They never mentioned if the Metra bridge was being replaced, but it makes sense to me that it will need to be replaced if the station becomes center loading as they said at the meeting. If so, they should add a stairway on the south side of Lawrence and shift the station slightly south. This will keep many pedestrians from having to cross Lawrence and alleviate some creep to the more residential section on the north.

Sharon said...

Eric, I did email the alderman to ask about the outcome of the meeting and got the following reply from Dan Luna: "Hi Sharon,
The plans were unveiled and the community had many q's and concerns. No vote was taken and the developers are going back and taking the community's comments and concerns under advisement and will adjust. There will be a future follow up meeting but no date has been set."

Eric Rojas said...

Hi Sharon,

I wrote them as a "homeowner and Realtor" who was positive about the development. However I stressed that the neighborhood felt this was short notice and skimpy on details prior to the meeting (and at the meeting). I also asked if there were set asides for affordable housing etc...

I received the same can letter as you after about 5 days.

Unknown said...

Good news.
Schulter said the housing proposal will have to be reduced.,CST-FIN-roundys09.article

Unknown said...

The plans look ok, although those graphic renderings can be deceptive. I wonder why they do not do something with the existing Sears at Lawrence and Winchester, condo conversion perhaps and reduce the requirement for a tower block further east. I really think the existing Sears is quite an eyesore.

Anonymous said...

emurtagh1, they are planning on renovating the existing Sears.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if people are still looking at this thread because it started a couple months ago, but here is a link from the Metra site.

It lists the Lawrence bridge repairs and the Ravenswood station rehab as official Metra projects.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering if anyone has any updates on this? I've noticed that the white building across from the Sears parking lot and immediately west of the metra line has been sold and there are permits lining the window. Does anyone know whats going in there? It's an ideal location - too bad it's gone to waste all these years.

Megan the Plumber said...

Can't wait for that new fitness centre to open! My thighs are a bit wobbly, rofl

Anonymous said...

Any Updates on this??

Eric Rojas said...

Concerning updates, I just emailed the Alderman's office this week asking the same thing. I have a lot of clients interested in the area and when/if the retail will be coming. In this environment, people don't think any development will happen.

It would be nice to say, "yes, this will be completed within a year's time", or... at least know if it's up in the air.

Anonymous said...

At a meeting at the Lincoln Square library, Alderman Shulter presented ideas for 'completing' Lawrence Avenue between the river and Clark Street; effectively linking Andersonville and Lincoln Square by way of Ravenswood. The Ravenswood Metra Redevelopment plays a major role in this project.

Metra will begin Phase 1 of the UP Bridge work shortly as published in the 'Bi-Level' of May 2009.

From that issue, "The relocation of the Ravenswood station is actually part of the UP North bridge replacement described in our
cover story. The bridges are
terribly old and in bad shape.
The 40-month schedule is for
the entire project. One reason
why it will take 40 months is
that we will have to schedule
construction so as to not disrupt
service on the line.
Right now the Ravenswood
station south of Lawrence can
only accommodate six train
cars. As you know, ridership
has grown at that station and
we want to put in a modern
station that can handle an
eight-car train. Moving the station
just north of Lawrence
gives us room to handle eight
cars, and it also allows us to
keep the old station open while
the new one is being built. The
new station will of course be
ADA accessible, but that is not
the sole reason for the project.
The station will have a center
platform with exits at Lawrence
and, at the north end, Ainslie
(the leg of Ainslie to the west of
the tracks)."

Fait Accompli

Anonymous said...

Ravenswood Station - New community meeting Monday, May 3rd 7PM at McPherson.

nimby for life said...