By Rick Romano
Historic Fulton Market and the surrounding manufacturing district in the 27th Ward is about to experience a new level of transformation, as a result of recent City Council approval to allow residential development.
The council’s action green lights residential development north of Lake Street between Ogden Avenue on the west, Halsted Street on the east, and Hubbard Street on the north. The area is part of the Fulton Market Innovation District (FMID), which extends south to Randolph Street.
Community leaders applauded the move with the caveat that residential growth needs to include careful planning to enhance the quality of life for those who move there.
The City Department of Planning and Development earlier held a webinar regarding the anticipated approval. Webinar attendance included approximately 100 area residents, 140 others who work in the district, and 120 property owners.
Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. (27th Ward) offered opening remarks that focused on Fulton Market’s attraction.
“This is one of the hottest places in the country,” Burnett said. “We’ve been very blessed to see this area grow and develop and change. It evolves every day. It has helped enhance properties north, west, east, and south of here. So, it is only fitting that we continue to look at it and its possibilities because we consider this area to help not only this community but to help the rest of the City of Chicago.”
While Burnett did not respond to interview requests Gazette Chicago made since the City Council’s approval, Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th Ward), a member of the City Council’s Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards Committee that previously approved the measure and whose ward sits adjacent to the 27th, said residents need to be part of any transformational process.
“We want to see planning that includes local residents and those who want to move to the area,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “We have to think about how manufacturing can have an impact on residential development. You can’t put a bike trail for example in an area where there is heavy manufacturing with a lot of truck traffic.”
He ranked traffic, lack of parking, and high-density manufacturing as critical.
“It is very important that we consider these factors,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “We have to make significant changes in density. Sometimes it takes years of planning before a community is transformed. Quality of life is important.”
Transformation away from manufacturing and industrial already has paved the way for residential growth in the FMID, said Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Fulton Market Association. He said the association has been involved in shaping the area since before area planning ramped up in 2014. He noted a number of food wholesalers, including those having late-night hours, moved out, creating an environment ripe for housing, offices, restaurant and entertainment venues, and other retail businesses.
“So, the question with residential is, what is it going to look like?” Romanelli asked. “Condos? Apartments? Traditionally, if apartment owners come into a community, they are not as involved in community development efforts as are condo owners.
“We are looking for standardized guidelines for things like public space,” he continued. “There’s a real lack of open space. Parking ratios also are important. If you build an office building, you need this ratio.”
Infrastructure such as transportation also remains critical, Romanelli said.
“We think a huge missing piece is the #16 Lake Street bus, which went away in 1997,” he said. “Our community wanted it. It had a massive effect. The bus was able to move people between el stations. There’s a big need to safely move people to and from here.”
Safety issues include streetlights and lighting along Lake Street, he added.
Illustrating his infrastructure concern, Romanelli pointed to his involvement as coordinator of a coalition promoting a $2 billion infrastructure plan to appeal for State and Federal funds to address transportation, lighting, and other infrastructure for the West Side and connecting with the western suburbs. The plan is outlined at www.fixthewestside.com.
Rod Burch, executive director of the West Central Association Chamber of Commerce, also expressed infrastructure concerns and supported residential growth.
“Bringing in residential definitely will bring a different vibrancy,” Burch said. “It will be interesting to see what types of commercial business will invest to serve that residential population. Right now, a lot of smaller commercial is south of Lake Street.
“We’ll also see if there are any housing requirements, whether there will be challenges to providing green space and parking,” he added. “Unrestricted parking tends to choke off business, so there will have to be metered parking.”
Burch said he hoped the mixed-use area will see office space and hotels return in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Developers have taken notice of the residential approval. LG Developments is sending two residential projects through the approval process, beginning with a Plan Commission review that was scheduled for late June.
Michael Ezgur, the development’s zoning attorney, said the two proposals consist of 665 units at 1150 W. Lake St. and 414 units at 210 N. Aberdeen St. Plans for Aberdeen Street designate 102 parking spaces and approximately 20% of the units as affordable; at 1150 W. Lake St., plans call for nearly 300 parking spaces and 133 units of the units designated affordable.
Ezgur said the City’s approval for residences opens up development possibilities. He believes that, with the pandemic still on everyone’s mind, residential growth probably will outpace office and hotel construction.
“This approval by the City is definitely an opportunity to build a variety of housing in the district,” he said.
To reach Burnett’s office, call (312) 432-1995. For the Department of Planning and Development, call (312) 744-3653. For the Fulton Market Association, log on to fultonmarketchicago.org. For LG Development, log on to lgdevelopmentgroup.com. To reach Sigcho-Lopez’s office, call (773) 523-4100. For the West Central Association Chamber of Commerce, log on to www.wcachicago.org.