What a difference a year makes. The Ravenswood Station mixed use development at West Lawrence Avenue and North Ravenswood is one step closer after tonight's community meeting. Much has changed from the original retail and residential plan. Most notably, the residential component (and most controversial eleven story tower) was entirely scrapped. The mood of the meeting was less contentious than last year. However, and unfortunately, many came to the meeting to oppose whatever was presented to them. These particular neighborhood folks would have scoffed at "The Mother Teresa Absolutely Quiet School for the Blind" had it been proposed.
However, I would agree the development presentation did lack details that were obviously going to be brought up by residents. Mostly, this related to traffic flow and scale of the project. Then, the presenters AGAIN brought up a Roundy's grocery store guy to "show and tell" slide after slide of pictures of store departments. Both sad and hilarious the crowd even asked for him to knock it off and get on with the question/answer period concerning the overall development.
Long story short: Magellan is the new developer and most known in Chicago for it's $4 billion Lakeshore East in the New East Side of downtown. The Ravenswood Station development will consist of two buildings taking up half of Sears parking lot. The three story retail building fronting Lawrence Avenue will feature a two story "Mariano's" full service grocery store owned and operated by Roundy's of Wisconsin. The entire third floor will be occupied by a major health club company. There is also room for one more 7000 sq ft retail store on the first level.
The rear building will be a four story parking deck and also house the Sears Auto Center. The parking structure will accommodate 400 cars for the retail and 180 additional designated spots for the Metra parking. Right now, there are only 50 designated parking spots for Metra. Huge increase! The development is seeking LEED Certification (which even one continually rude resident complained this was not enough!)
The verdict: I like the development and I'm glad it can move ahead without the residential component. If everything moves ahead, we are still looking at two years before the stores would open. There were many of the usual concerns raised about parking, traffic, delivery truck access, bike racks, etc. I was satisfied by the answers and size of the project. Look, this is a nice looking full service grocery store and fitness club building being built on an existing unsightly commercial and industrial zoned parcel of land on Lawrence Ave. The buildings are well within scale of surrounding residential and commercial buildings of the location. As one neighbor friend put it, "They are actually building something on Lawrence that won't scare people".
The next meeting and community vote on the development is scheduled for May 27th of this month. The date is on the Thursday before the Memorial Day weekend which received the groans and complaints from the audience. People were also upset that they will vote on this development without knowing the extent of the new Metra Station to be built north of Lawrence (which is a federal initiative and much needed). Many of the questions and concerns were pretty self serving in my opinion. It is hard for many neighbors that support the retail development to understand continuing complaints about increased traffic from those living along a Metra line, a major commercial artery and industrial corridor. This location is actually underused right now.
I'll be there and will ask the neighbors with their arms crossed, frowns and shouts to hold the sarcasm and be civil. This is huge progress and a major amenity for the neighborhood. Imagine walking to a full service grocer and fitness club anchoring a neighborhood that features a brand new Metra station (accommodating disabled riders and increased service capacity). Many of us can.