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Thread: Chicago's New Neighborhood Mixed Use Zoning District

  1. #1

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    Chicago's New Neighborhood Mixed Use Zoning District

    The City of Chicago recently completed a massive revision of its zoning ordinance, and it goes into effect this November. The previous ordinance was a real nightmare -- it was written in 1957, when the general assumption was that Chicago would grow from 3.5 million residents to 5 million, and the predominant form of commercial development would be the strip arterial pattern that developed with streetcars. There were thousands of amendments to the ordinance, but no rewrite until this year.

    What might be the biggest innovation in the new ordinance is the new B-2 Neighborhood Mixed Use District. The new district allows ground-floor residential uses by-right, adjacent to a wide range of business uses. The City of Chicago is selling this as something that will stimulate new development in under-performing business corridors, will drastically reduce rezonings and eliminate requests for special use permits in business districts, and be an effective residential infill tool that will save existing businesses as well.

    This strikes me as being pretty unique. Has any member of the Throbbing Brain (tm) heard of anything like this? Is something like this used in your home or work community? Would a mixed-use district be useful in your home or work community? Is this an innovation in typical Euclidean zoning that would allow/create the kind of mixed-use development that planners seek through PUDs, form-based codes, and even New Urbanism?

    Or am I just showing my lack of knowledge here?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    I didn't think the B2 was particularly interesting. Residential uses are permitted by-right in every commercial district except the one that's used as a buffer against industrial (C3 ?) above the ground floor. I took B2 to be used like in situations where they'd like to have commercial, but they're not sure if the market will support it, so they're just going to remove all use restrictions and see what gets built.

    Anyhow, I wrote a ten page summary of the new zoning code. I might put it up tonight if anyone's interested. (It doesn't cover industrial, signs, landscaping, or most procedural stuff, just residential and commercial).

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    I didn't think the B2 was particularly interesting. Residential uses are permitted by-right in every commercial district except the one that's used as a buffer against industrial (C3 ?) above the ground floor. I took B2 to be used like in situations where they'd like to have commercial, but they're not sure if the market will support it, so they're just going to remove all use restrictions and see what gets built.
    You are right, residential is permitted by-right above the ground floor in almost every business/commercial district. And in viable commercial corridors (Milwaukee Ave., Clark St., or Lincoln Ave., for example), this works -- most of that above ground space is used as residential or oftentimes as office.

    However, many non-viable commercial corridors (like Roosevelt Rd., 47th St., 63rd St., 79th St., Cottage Grove Ave., S. Halsted St., S. Ashland Ave., etc.) have TONS of unused or underused commercially zoned land, with vacant first-floor commercial AND vacant residential, obsolete structures, and little opportunity for additional affordable housing infill. There are likely developers who 1) know that commercial development is never coming back (at least like it was) to some of these streets; and 2) would love to build new housing there, but are scared of the City's lengthy special use approval process.

    I took B-2 to be a real attempt to create viable mixed use development in transitional areas, and not as a catch-all to see what gets built. If that's the case, it could lead to an interesting new look in some communities.

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