Over the previous five years, interest in the Old Town neighborhood has rapidly increased. New businesses are hanging their shingles at a rapid pace, and new residents – both from within Chicago and without – are opting to buy or rent new homes or apartments. And developers have been eager to construct new projects to support the continued growth of each.
Formed in 1971 at a time when, some would say, this district had hit a low point, the Old Town Merchants & Residents Association sought to support and direct economic development in the area so as to create the strong, successful neighborhood its earliest members knew it could be. Over the years, OTMRA has become a trusted resource to the City of Chicago for its knowledge, experience and track-record of effectively vetting and guiding development of new businesses, public way enhancements and new buildings on Chicago’s near north side.
Here are examples of some recent or upcoming developments in Old Town, with links to recommendation/request letters:
1544 N. Wieland: Wieland is very much a residential street, and so, when first floor office space was suggested as part of a proposed new development at 1544 N. Wieland Street, OTMRA wanted to ensure it would only be used as office space, and only available to residential tenant(s) of the building. The final plan calls for a four story building containing two (2) units and the aforementioned commercial space, not to exceed 550 square feet.
227 W. North: This project would solve an irksome issue that has persisted for years on North Avenue. Between 235 and 237 N. Wells exists a tiny alleyway that is extremely difficult for City service vehicles, movers and deliveries to navigate. Over the years, this has resulted in traffic jams as east bound traffic waits for trucks to successfully maneuver into it, and damage to the buildings when those same trucks fail to do so. OTMRA hopes to have solved that problem once and for all, as the developer has agreed to vacate five feet of its western property line at ground floor level to increase the width of the public alley, and improve surface/lighting conditions for its length.
1415 N. Sedgwick: At the request of 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. , OTMRA facilitated three public meetings to discuss the proposed Planned Development of the property which, until recently, housed the Noble Horse Theater and Stables. At these meetings, the public effectively laid out its concerns with the project, encouraging developers to improve exterior finishing design and materials, and increase the average size of its smaller units. After acquisition of an additional parcel, the developer was able to reduce the building’s height event further, to a total of seven floors (85’). In addition, OTMRA was able to negotiate a $250,000 investment by the developers to support a community enhancement project for the adjacent area under the elevated Brown Line tracks.
1437 N. Wells: As a proposed replacement to the shuttered Bistrot Margot and adjacent property, this project calls for storefront retail of up to 7,205 square feet, and fifty units total in the five floors above. OTMRA is currently addressing the exterior design, setbacks and parking ratio with developers. As it relates to parking, this project (and most projects going forward) will be considered through the lens of the City of Chicago’s Transit Oriented Development ordinance, which may affect requirements for allowable height, floor area ratio and parking ratio going forward.