Parking garage proposal for Sheridan Road in Chicago sparks discussion of parking, New Urbanism, and a past golden age

A recent proposal for a new parking garage on Sheridan Road in Rogers Park has prompted further conversations about the neighborhood:

“Sheridan was a beautiful lakefront boulevard, a model of urban design that should be reclaimed, not transformed into a suburban highway,” said Susan Olin, a community activist who would be a neighbor to the 250-car garage proposed by prominent real estate developer Jennifer Pritzker.

But the local alderman, Joe Moore, not only supports the project, he also thinks its opponents have a wildly romantic vision of what Sheridan Road once was…

Moore said the Sheridan Road of yesteryear was a hodgepodge of gas stations, billboards and empty lots, in addition to stately and substantial family homes…

To some residents, that blend of a natural landscape and an urban skyline is Rogers Park’s aesthetic trump card, said John Norquist, president of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

“Against that backdrop, Pritzker’s garage would be way, way out of scale,” said Norquist, who lives nearby. “It could fit in the Loop. Maybe in Schaumburg, but not in a city neighborhood.”…

Pritzker’s designers declined the suggestion for mixed use, and the latest plan shows parking spaces from top to bottom. According to a representative, Pritzker was traveling and unavailable for an interview.

This is a great example of the conversations that erupt with urban development:

1. A set of current residents wants to preserve the neighborhood as it is and a parking garage does not fit their image of a cozy neighborhood that will meet their interests in rising property values.

2. The alderman thinks the project has merit because it will add parking but also possibly because a new development might help bring new money into the neighborhood.

3. The discussion of the parking garage leads to conversations about whether the neighborhood should harken back to a golden era or plan for the future.

4. This isn’t just about the parking garage; residents are worried any such project (or a fast food joint or a big box store) will open the floodgates to lots more new development.

5. Attempts to make the garage more palatable by including retail space on the first floor or some kind of mixed use have been rebuffed so far by the developer.

Perhaps the only question left is how this episode will conclude. Based on what is in this article and what the alderman says at the end of the article about the neighborhood support and disapproval for the garage running 50/50, I suspect the garage will happen in some form.

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