by BRIAN NADIG
Three organizations in the Six Corners business district agree that the underutilized 111-space city parking lot at 4050 N. Laporte Ave. should not be sold for a possible residential development because of existing revitalization plans for the commercial area.
“I’m going to do everything I can to advocate on behalf of the best interests … of our businesses, especially in such a challenging time for them,” Alderman James Gardiner (45th) said.
Last month, Ryan Companies, developer of the 10-story Clarendale senior housing complex at 4747 W. Irving Park Road, sent the alderman a letter calling it “essential” that that the lot remains for customer and employee parking.
“The revitalization of Six Corners is just now taking shape and attracting new businesses and supporting the expansion of existing business should be the top priority,” the letter states. “Land is scarce in this neighborhood and replacing the parking will be extremely difficult (if at all) and very expensive.” Ryan said that it is planning to lease 30 to 35 spaces in the Laporte lot for employees.
City officials said that the sale of the parking lot would be contingent on rezoning the site from B1-1 to RT-4, which would allow for up to 37 residential units on the property, but the zoning proposal has been held up for months in committee at the request of Gardiner.
The city reportedly has been targeting the approximately 37,000-square-foot site for a townhouse development, and it is one of four parking lots that the city wants to sell. Alderman Matt Martin (47th) has expressed concerns about a plan to sell a lot in his ward as well.
The city Department of Planning and Development, which is overseeing the sale of the parking lots, has said that the Laporte property may be sold without any redevelopment parameters for the buyer, meaning that anything could be built there as long as it would conform to the RT-4 zoning.
The Six Corners Chamber of Commerce has opposed the plan to sell the lot since the summer, but the Six Corners Association and the Portage Park Chamber of Commerce recently sent the city letters calling for any plan to sell the site to be put on hold.
“In anticipation of increased commuter traffic with several new housing developments, the number of employees that will be working at the Clarendale, and the possible revival of the Portage Theater, we feel that a decision to sell and redevelop would be in haste. Portage Park and the Six Corners shopping district have spent more than two decades in flux. We are finally seeing millions of dollars being invested in the district. Without knowing how this redevelopment will impact the parking situation in our community, we believe the city of Chicago should continue to operate the parking lot,” the association said.
“Between permit parking on nearby side streets and limited parking along the major streets, the need for additional parking spaces has never been greater,” the Portage Park Chamber stated.
Six Corners Chamber president Mike DiMeo said that there are plans to install new signage on lampposts to bring more awareness to the parking lot.
Given the permit and snowfall parking restrictions on some area streets, “there’s pretty much always a need for that” parking lot, DiMeo said. He added that some businesses buy passes for their employee and company vehicles to park there.
It costs $2 per hour to park in the lot, and in 2019 there were on average 42 monthly parkers who had purchased passes to use the lot, according to the department. Some business owners allocate passes to their workers, and some residents have bought passes to park in the lot overnight.
In 2019, the overall utilization rate was 4 percent for the Laporte lot, the department said. However, according to the Six Corners chamber, there is often 30 or more vehicles in the lot.
A department spokesperson said that the city is reviewing purchase offers for the parking lot.