LINCOLN SQUARE — Some neighbors want a city-owned lot in the heart of Lincoln Square to be redeveloped to include affordable housing while others want to keep it as is, continuing a long debate over the future of the property.
The recent community survey from Ald. Matt Martin (47th) and Andre Vasquez (40th) is the latest effort to map out possibilities for the lot at 4715 N. Western Ave., which sits next to a U.S. Bank branch and behind Merz Apothecary and other businesses.
The most recent effort to build on the lot fizzled out. Last year developer Community Builders proposed a six-story affordable housing development at the parking lot. As part of their plan for the site the developer applied for highly competitive tax credits from the city for low-income housing.
The city didn’t award the developer the tax credits it sought and the plan didn’t move forward. The move to develop the property also prompted backlash from some neighbors who want to preserve the lot — one of two metered lots near that commercial area — for the parking and the festival space.
No new development has been proposed at the site but Martin and Vasquez have been gathering neighbor feedback and suggestions. At a community meeting Thursday, their third on the issue, they said the majority of Lincoln Square neighbors said in a survey they favor affordable housing or some sort of resource for local businesses to be located at the lot. Others reiterated they want to keep the parking.
Community surveys like this combined with most recent master plan that was completed for Lincoln Square in 2019 help guide aldermen when a developer does submit a formal proposal for the parking lot, Martin said.
For example, if a development proposal is submitted for the parking lot, Martin said he would explain the neighborhood’s concerns about losing festival space for German American Festival and Maifest.
“If you’re dealing with a developer you want to provide feedback, proactively or reactively, and it’s helpful to have those terms in mind where we’re saying ‘the community has said X, Y, and Z,’” Martin said. “I know that’s been really helpful with developments in the past.”
During the meeting, one attendee shared a link to a petition created by Spyners Pub owner Maureen Sullivan saying that building on the lot would hurt local businesses. Sullivan faced backlash in June after making racist statements on her personal Facebook page about Black Lives Matter.
The petition had 155 signatures as of Friday.
Anthony Qaiyum, Merz Apothecary’s owner, lives in the neighborhood and said he doesn’t see why expanding housing affordability, preserving parking access and supporting local business should be an “either or” decision.
All are needed to help the community thrive and supporting these larger community goals shouldn’t lead to “scorched earth” arguments where people elevate one at the expense of the others, he said.
Community Builders’ unsuccessful plan for the parking lot had more metered public parking spots than are currently available, said Scott Friedland, owner of Timeless Toys. He said increasing density is more important to him as a business owner than parking because it could entice more people to shop locally.
He also said many of the people who already work in Lincoln Square but can’t afford to live there would benefit from expanded affordable housing in the neighborhood.
“I do think there is a middle ground here,” Friedland said.
You can watch a video of Thursday’s presentation here.
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