On Tuesday evening, The Community Builders showed Lincoln Square residents its latest plan to turn the city-owned parking lot at 4715 N. Western Avenue into a mixed-use building featuring retail, public parking, and mixed-income housing.
The nonprofit developer has been exploring plans to revitalize the underutilized parcel across from the Western Brown Line station since 2019. After failing to receive tax credits to finance the project, the team recently went back to the drawing board to redesign the proposal and re-engage with the community.
The updated plan calls for a five-story building with 5,000 square feet of ground-level retail topped by 51 apartments for residents earning 80 percent or less of the Area Median Income (AMI). Fifteen of the units will be set aside as preferred housing for artists.
There will be 40 parking spaces available to the public in a second-floor garage plus nine ground-level residential and ADA-accessible spaces off the alleyway. The site's current parking lot has 47 spaces and 43 are available to the public.
Envisioned as a new "gateway" to the neighborhood's small business corridor along Lincoln Avenue, the proposed structure comes from Chicago architecture firm DesignBridge. The masonry building gradually "steps down" to the street with setbacks on the second and fourth levels. The plan includes a rooftop terrace and streetscape improvements such as wider sidewalks, new trees, and a small plaza at the corner of Leland and Western.
According to The Community Builders, the current proposal incorporates the development goals and best practices established in the Lincoln Square Master Plan, which was adopted in 2019, as well as feedback received from previous community meetings and a "visioning survey" led by Ald. Matt Martin's office in March.
Parking, however, remains the number one issue for some Lincoln Square residents. An online petition opposing the development at 4715 N. Western urges neighbors to "sign this petition to let the 47th Ward Alderman, Chicago Department of Housing, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot know that there is an urgent need to save our parking in order to preserve our local businesses and authentic culture." The petition has collected more than 3,200 signatures.
The development team took extra care to try to address the NIMBY pushback and correct "misinformation" regarding the project. The presentation devoted multiple slides to show the proposal will preserve public parking and will not threaten street events like the Apple Fest, Square Roots Fest, and the local farmers market.
"We've never spent more time refining parking at this design phase than we have on this concept," said Will Woodley of The Community Builders. "We understand the importance of parking," said architect Gabriel Dziekiewicz. "We understand the culture of the neighborhood."
Like before, the developers are counting on receiving Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) for 4715 N. Western, which is a two-step application process. The team submitted its LIHTC application for the site to the Department of Housing in 2019 but was not selected to move to "phase two." The team intends to resubmit their concept and stage one application in the summer.
"We weren't selected but we still felt encouraged that we had a good concept and one that we should continue to advance," said Woodley. "Resources are scarce and it's incredibly competitive, but it's been well documented and communicated that the city is supportive of this concept of equitable transit-oriented development and improving affordability."
If the developers receive funding, the project would then go through the 47th Ward's community-driven zoning process, according to Ald. Martin's chief of staff Laura Reimers. "The point at which our office would be in a position to make a decision here would be if the proposal receives funding and we would receive the [zoning] application," Reimers explained.