Monday, May 03, 2010

Ravenswood, Sears development one step closer after community meeting





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.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was at the meeting as well and liked what I saw. What I didn't like was the obnoxious behavior by many there. It's understandable why some would be upset but at least try and keep it civil. My question - If the vote were held yesterday would it have passed?

Anonymous said...

Here is another article related to this topic.
http://www.centersquarejournal.com/news/controversial-ravenswood-station-development-axes-condo-tower?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Eric Rojas said...

Yes, there were obnoxious, sarcastic people and it's hard to understand their rancor. The original project deserved a lot of the push back it got. That included a residential tower, although not necessarily a bad idea in itself, seemed very out of scale and badly timed for the economic environment.

Yet, here we have an established grocer and a pretty good looking building to be built on a land parcel the is intended for these types of things.

One guy blurted out, "How much is this going to cost us?". He was upset about TIFS, but this is a commercial TIF / private funded project.
Regardless if the money was skimmed from my property taxes, at least we'd get a nice grocery store and other retail to walk to with the family at any day/evening... no more getting in the car!

I don't think this would have passed a community vote for those who attended. It would have been close though. You only hear from the vocal opposition at these meetings who are also upset about the new Metra station slated for construction... I mean, what's up with that?
I do know that many, many of my neighbors and frieds I see on a regular basis want the store built and would love to have this new retail/transit center right in their hood.

Anonymous said...

The people along Ravenswood are not thrilled about the Metra Station being moved from the 4700 block (commercial) to the 4800 block (residential). That makes sense - I wouldn't want that foot and car traffic in front of my house either and the additional noise from the loud speakers and the trains... I understand their pain however it makes the most sense for it to move north.

I was disappointed that the part about the existing Sears store being remodelled was shelved. Other than that I thought the plan was very nice and I will encourage my neighbors (who are all for this) to attend the next meeting.

scott bloom said...

I agree. I liked everything I saw at the meeting last night and will vote for this project.

I think Schulter could be handling the communication process more smoothly. He released very little information about the project since our last meeting 13 1/2 moths ago. I get weekly emails from him and it would not have been hard to add a paragraph about the project’s slowed process sometime during the past 13 1/2 months.

I think the community really wants the Metra Station to stay south of Lawrence. I feel the best solution is this with a wider re-built bridge over Lawrence (wider to accommodate new left turn lanes on Lawrence). The New Stairs and the new ADA (Handicapped) entries could then be located on the North side of Lawrence.

Compare the new Metra Station issue to the recent Brown Line project. They could rebuild the station where it stands if they close it for a while. They could keep it open and take a lot longer. Or they could keep the old station as a temporary station, build a new one to the north and piss everyone off. Alas, this is the cheapest way.

I think the community just wants to be asked for its opinion. My guess is people feel left out of the process.

Crew Dude said...

What was needed was a better PR firm handling the situation. They needed to sell this project to the community and I don't think they did a great job in that area. I personally think it will be a great asset to the area. I honestly don't understand the nay-sayers. Really? You want more crappy corner stores?

Anonymous said...

Alderman Schulter appears committed to the Lawrence corridor. Can you imagine Lincoln Square connecting with Andersonville? This Development lies at the heart of the Streetscape project also under way by the Ward.

A few argue that reducing Lawrence to just one lane each way with a shared turn lane would increase dangerous traffic on the side streets. This is true; but only at first. As the neighborhood develops, eventually, impatient drivers will be forced to AVOID Lawrence Avenue altogether and drive recklessly on another thorough-fare... such as Peterson or Irving Park. In much the same way as we prefer to drive out to the highway on these roads already. This is elementary governing-dynamics and I don't want to hear this brought up again at the next meeting.

The community wants Lawrence Avenue re-developed and Schulter is wise to invest here.

eric said...

"Many of the questions and concerns were pretty self serving in my opinion."

Of course they're self-serving. Residents who actually live in the area and have to deal with increased traffic from Lawrence and it's feeders do care. I do agree that the increase in traffic on the current scale may be nominal, however. The sarcasm is probably coming from residents who have lived through the gentrification and seen very little increase in amenities in the area. Besides some new streets and a few new restaurants, Rave is still the same as it was 15 years ago (save for a bit less crime). Big development is completely contrary to the charm of Ravenswood overall, and it's "commercial" district are scale down store fronts that are more intimate than a large grocer.

I'd like to see what they're doing with the Metra station. The original design was absolutely horrible; an island platform in the middle of two mains with speed limit of 70mph is a recipe for disaster. Metra, the Union Pacific, and the City of Chicago really need to think this one through and possible make side platforms and leave the reservation for a third track, express main, in place.

Further, moving the station north of Lawrence requires about three-quarters of the commuters taking the train to cross Lawrence Avenue. The Ravenswood station is Metra's busiest station on the Union Pacific North line. It sounds like a recipe for some disaster with the way motorists disregard traffic signals (and please don't say enforcement or traffic cameras will solve the issue). Entrances to the Metra station should be kept on the south sides of the platforms as well as added on the north side. A new bridge would certainly help.

Please let us know where the meeting will take place on the 27th, and thanks for your update.

Eric Rojas said...

Thanks for your comments Eric.
But "residents who actually live in the area" like myself and close friends and neighbors don't see the "disaster" you've described. Our family has a good dozen neighborhood friends in the voting area (including ourselves).

I think the neighborhood has changed a great deal in the last 15 years. I've owned just two blocks northwest of the development site for four years now. My wife and I rented at Hermitage and Winnemac almost 10 years ago.

Winnemac Park, Chase Park, Damen Ave, Lawrence Ave, Wilson/Sunnyside and Ravenswood, Andersonville and Lincoln Square have all improved in our opinion over the past 15 years.
There are many more quality restaurant and retail choices to go along with staple services.

I find a grocery store and fitness center on commercial Lawrence (on a huge empty lot) far from controversial. And the Metra station plan has taken FOREVER... not excatly done in haste. People cross intersections all the time for dozens of train stops in the city (Blue Line at Western for example)...why is this different? I cross Lawrence on foot daily. Pedestrian safety is a part of any major federal or municipal project.

Our neighbors can't wait for the opportunity to stay totally hyper- local for all our needs; grocery, transit, dry cleaners, fitness center, auto shops, schools, great parks, home improvement supply, clothes etc, etc...

eric said...

" find a grocery store and fitness center on commercial Lawrence (on a huge empty lot) far from controversial. And the Metra station plan has taken FOREVER... not excatly done in haste. People cross intersections all the time for dozens of train stops in the city (Blue Line at Western for example)...why is this different? I cross Lawrence on foot daily. Pedestrian safety is a part of any major federal or municipal project."

You've written your concern off before you finished your statement. There's already concern at that intersection with the nearly blind corners in the quadrant (N to W, W to S). To fix that, a traffic signal with pedestrian priority would need to be put in on both sides of the UP tracks on the far side of Ravenswood (the street). People rush for trains, and drivers do not pay attention. It is a bad recipe (neither should do it, but it will be done and someone will be injured or killed).

Do you understand the point of having an express track on the Union Pacific railroad and how that impacts the local neighborhood? It means having better train service and less crowded trains for commuters from the Ravenswood station, downtown, in the morning. I'm not sure when the last time you rode the train was, but all trains in the 8 and 9-oclock hour are standing room only. Having an express track from Evanston to Clybourn would seriously help this concern. I encourage you to walk up to the platform at 08:30 some morning and wait for the "fly-bys" around 08:40 to understand the safety concern. Also, a concern is having tracks that must span outward around an island platform, requiring passing trains to slow. This is not efficient.

Thanks for your comments Eric.
But "residents who actually live in the area" like myself and close friends and neighbors don't see the "disaster" you've described. Our family has a good dozen neighborhood friends in the voting area (including ourselves).


I'm glad that you and your friends live in the area. I'd hate to see a blogger giving concern to something not specifically affecting them.

Our neighbors can't wait for the opportunity to stay totally hyper- local for all our needs; grocery, transit, dry cleaners, fitness center, auto shops, schools, great parks, home improvement supply, clothes etc, etc..

I can't wait either. I also can't wait to see something in this city actually done according to a good plan. While I don't discount the need for this project in Ravenswood, there are concerns that absolutely must be addressed that ensure Ravenswood doesn't become another victim of poor planning. Lawrence is an ugly street overall; it's four lanes of fast moving traffic. Perhaps the Alderman will create a streetscape project for Lawrence from Clark west to Western to decrease pedestrian crossings to less than 44-feet.

Finally, you are comparing the Western Blue line station with a commuter rail station. At any given time during peak rush, 150-200 people alighting the Union Pacific is a far greater number than alight the 'L' at Western. It's really an apples to oranges comparison that you're making and is straw-man to the point.

Anonymous said...

Eric rojas doesnt know what Metra line goes through his neighborhood:

Youtube video: 'northwest pacific'

Eric have you ever ridden the train??

Eric Rojas said...

No intention of "straw man argument". My point was a commuter train on a four lane artery. I guess I could have used Irving Park as well. I'll lose this endless debate on traffic problems.

I'm a Realtor and resident who happens to blog for my business and well aware of the commuter traffic, sardines on the train, Lawrence Ave etc... I drive or walk that location sometimes twice or three times a day for work, banking, whatever. My neighbors take the train to work daily. My wife may soon take the train downtown when her job moves to a new location. We're interested.

I make no claims to being a transit planning expert nor do I know the situation of the platform more than anyone else. I am wary of this thing getting more delays due to a handful of residents who live on the east side of Ravenswood. Sorry, but that's who I personally have herad objection from at the meetings.

Regardless, I don't have the cynicism that a bunch of dolts are planning this and that this will be poory executed. It's a big deal for the city and I think times have changed where these things get better scrutiny.

eric said...

Probably because people in east Ravenswood actually have the option to gently walking to the train station and live near it?

Hmmm, I may be onto something here...

Check out the train platform some morning when you're between clients; even better, check it out in the rain.

Eric Rojas said...

Anonymous said:
"Eric rojas doesnt know what Metra line goes through his neighborhood:

Youtube video: 'northwest pacific'

Eric have you ever ridden the train??"

Your comment is ridiculous. I clearly mispoke and said Northwest rather than North.

I refernece the Metra line on my blog all the time, going back years.

http://chicagorealestatelocal.blogspot.com/search?q=metra+union+pacific

I promote the neighborhood in a city where most people south of Irving Park have never heard of Ravenswood. Yes, I ride the train when needed.
Go waste someone elses time.

Anne Behn said...

I have been following this discussion....it seems like you are referencing them as a sales person and not as a rider. by stating that you ride the train "when needed" implies that you are not a regular commuter nor user of the system and do not understand the risks that have been presented here.

what will you do if your wife is hit by a car, or a child of yours is run down by a driver... will you feel bad?

What financial interest do you have in this project? And where in the neighborhood do you live (if not on the east side of it)???

Eric Rojas said...

Eric, I don't understand your inference.

I understand the sfaety and traffic concerns, but may not agree they won't be addressed. I also understand people on Ravenswood east of the tracks will not want a new station in front of their home. But, Ravenswood was already an industrial cooridor along the tracks, not a quiet residential street.

eric said...

There are legitimate concerns with safety that should not be mixed with the NIMBY's in the area. Due diligence is required to understand that the station/track design, safety, and access must be a concern outside of people who think an F40 locomotive will cause their homes to lose value if stopping 100-feet further to the north.

Don Sorsa said...

Mr. Rojas: as a cyclist, do you really think four lanes of traffic through the train viaduct is safe for you, your wife, children, etc.?

Eric Rojas said...

Anne, Anne, Anne (as I shake my head).
You have jumped the shark here. Now my wife and kids are getting hit by cars. I guess we've never crossed a street up to this point.

No, I don't commute regularly on the Metra line and if you have read this discussion know I'm not claiming to be as expert as possibly you are. I take all kinds of transportation in this city, including the Metra and thankfully, my car.

My finanicial interest is I'm a homeowner who lives two blocks or so from the development site and I pay taxes. Period. And yes, I sell this neighborhood every day! I want more people moving here.

You're statement and inferences are irrational and discouraging. I have no connection to any interested party, including the Alderman (who've I critisized for late meeting notices on this project).

I'd be happy to talk with you at the meeting (well, after your statement, maybe not happy) and you can meet my wife and kids. Now, I'm going to look both ways for sure when crossing the street so we all make it safely.

Eric Rojas said...

Okay guys,

I'm going to keep my family locked in the basement so Lawrence Avenue won't "get" them.

Time for me to work and I will not be responding to this thread.

Thanks!

Eric Rojas said...

Thanks again Eric,

I think your concerns are well articulated and readers will appreciate them.

Joe Criselli said...

Please do not be a coward and discount the issues at hand through your passive aggressive remarks.

Anonymous said...

When is the next meeting?

Eric Rojas said...

Joe,
Thanks for the personal attack.

This is my blog and I may respond to comments such as "Anne's" (or any) with appropriate sarcasm. I don't take myself and my opinion as seriously as others.

As for being coward, now I have to go run a hide as this thread is closed. See you in the neighborhood.

I encourage any legitimate inquiries to this development and further meetings to be made to the Alderman's office... just as I have had to do.

Dave said...

I live a block north of Lawrence on the east side of the Metra track. I am strongly in favor of the supermarket/gym/parking garage being built. While less excited about the Metra station and traffic moving north, I ride the train downtown every weekday and know first-hand that the current platform is woefully inadequate to the use it gets. I do not want the station to close for two years to get rebuilt in the same location (call me selfish).

The concerns I have about the project are largely centered around traffic flow on Lawrence. I trust, however, that the traffic experts know enough about how to configure traffic lights that they can find a solution for people to safely turn into the supermarket access road and to safely exit from there as well. It's not rocket science -- it's a couple of traffic lights!

I don't understand why people have to connect the construction in the Sears lot and the Metra station. The developer has addressed how to get people onto the station platform from the parking ramp. Other than that, how are these related? One is a private construction project on a piece of land that is currently underutlized and ugly. The other is a federally-subsidized project of a regional transportation district. The rudeness at the last meeting by some of my neighbors was quite embarassing. I hope they are more polite at this week's metnig.

Anonymous said...

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chicago/ct-x-c-ravenswood-metra-20100730,0,5638492.story

It states that north of Lawrence is zoned residential, not industrial.

"He and other zoning committee members had deferred action on an amendment that would have changed the neighborhood's zoning from residential to a transportation district to make way for the station."

Eric Rojas said...

Thanks Nimby for Life (ha) for the links!

The Metra station looks to be staying south of Lawrence. Good for the neighbors/homeowners north of Lawrence.

As for zoning, if you look at the Chicago Zoning map, the zoning along Ravenswood and the Sears parking lot is M1-2 on the east and B3-2 on the west (manufacturing and commercial). R-3 (residential) starts a block north of Lawrence on the east side. So, they'd have to change commercial to accomodate the transportation I guess. Or, the plan for the new northern station was to be a block north down from Lawrence, truly in front of the residential area?

To me, it doesn't really matter if the staion is north or south of Lawrence. However, I did not appreciate some of the ridiculous arguments/statements about my family getting hit by traffic on Lawrence because the station would be on the north side of Lawrence. Sorry, people... just sad. I also didn't understand why I had to "ride the Metra every day" to care if the station was on the north side or south side.

The station is important to my family and one of the reasons we live and buy real estate in Ravenswood.


My bottom line is infrastructure improvement to the neighborhood and I hope they get that new station built and bridge improved.

Eric Rojas said...

I meant to include the link to the zoning map:
http://maps.cityofchicago.org/website/zoning/viewframe.htm

Anyway, this is only a victory for those who did not want a train station built in front of their house. Other than that, it was residents with concerns about safety that I did not really understand or agree with.

Eric Rojas said...

I meant to include the link to the zoning map:
http://maps.cityofchicago.org/website/zoning/viewframe.htm

Anyway, this is only a victory for those who did not want a train station built in front of their house. Other than that, it was residents with concerns about safety that I did not really understand or agree with.