City looks at Kinzie Industrial Corridor status as the neighborhood changes
November 2, 2018

With the neighborhood changing, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development is considering relaxing strict industrial use codes in the western part of the Kinzie Industrial Corridor.

By Igor Studenkov

The City of Chicago is considering allowing some non-industrial uses in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor west of Ashland Avenue, while slightly relaxing regulations in the remaining area without deviating significantly from what already is there.

District boundaries are approximately Grand Avenue on the North, Kedzie Avenue on the west, Washington Boulevard on the south, and the Kennedy Expressway on the east.

In 1998, officials designated part of the corridor a Planned Manufacturing District (PMD), which restricted non-industrial uses to support existing industrial and warehouse businesses. Since then, the Fulton Market District within the corridor has changed from a neighborhood of wholesalers, warehouses, and food suppliers to a community dominated by offices and restaurants. Increasingly, some are pushing to allow similar development west of Ogden Avenue, where the PMD currently starts.

An Oct. 9 public meeting run by the Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) brought divided reactions from Fulton Market District residents and business owners on both sides of Ogden Avenue. Some called for repealing the PMD altogether, arguing it stifles development, especially north of the Damen/Lake Chicago Transit Authority Green Line elevated train station. Others argued that having an industrial district close to the Loop is a major draw for businesses that needs preserving.

The DPD expects to hold another public meeting toward the end of this year, with the City Council expected to vote sometime in early 2019 on any zoning changes ultimately recommended.

Originally, the PMD stretched as far east as Halsted Street. As the Fulton Market portion of the district changed, however, the City cut the PMD back to Ogden Avenue, while designating what used to be the east third of the PMD as the Fulton Market Innovation District.

The current PMD’s borders largely follow Ogden Avenue on the east, Lake Street on the south, the area around the Metra rail yard near Kedzie Avenue on the west, and Grand Avenue on the north. The area consists of two sections: the PMD 4(B) section around the rail yard, tailored toward heavy industrial uses such as making chemicals and processing waste, and PMD 4(A), targeted to general manufacturing and warehousing.

PMD review

Earlier this year, the DPD began reviewing the Kinzie PMD as part of a broader PMD review throughout the city.

During the Oct. 9 meeting, DPD presented a proposal that called for shifting the sub-areas and changing each sub-area’s definitions. PMD 4(B) would move to the area between Ashland and Ogden avenues. Along with general manufacturing, it would allow uses currently not permitted anywhere in the PMD, such as “drinking and eating establishments” no larger than 8,000 square feet. Developers would have the option of asking the Zoning Board of Appeals to increase the floor area maximum to 12,000 feet on case-by-case basis.

This section also would allow entertainment uses and general retail so long as it does not exceed 3,000 square feet. As with restaurants, though, developers could ask the Zoning Board of Appeals for more square footage. The change would also allow “food and beverage retail sales” and “personal service uses” in spaces no larger than 8,000 square feet as well as office buildings no bigger than three times the total square footage of the land on which they sit.

The newly minted PMD 4(B) would allow restaurants and bars but restrict the size to 4,000 square feet. The proposed guidelines restrict office space 9,000 square feet. Manufacturers and other businesses could sell their products on site, but only if the store occupies no more than 3,000 square feet or 20% of total floor space, whichever is greater.

The changes would not affect zoning for properties already there, but would come to play if an owner redevelops a property.

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), whose ward includes most of the corridor, said, “I protect people who have been here first—then I work for everybody else. But at the same time, we are progressive, and we see trends that are coming along, and when there’s opportunity to make some small adjustments, we have.”

Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Fulton Market Association, thanked the approximately 150 people attending the meeting and noted his sense that participants favored repealing the PMD.

ICNC view

Steve DeBretto, Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago (ICNC) executive director, said that, overall, his organization is pleased with the proposal.

“To me, the most striking part of the proposal is that the City recognizes the importance of modern urban manufacturing closer to downtown,” he said, adding that he believes the changes ultimately would reinforce the PMD as a whole.

DeBretto pushed back at the idea the district is obsolete, pointing out that ICNC’s incubator works with around 110 businesses at any given time.

“You will often see developers and others with interests in the corridor speaking as if the PMD [is] standing in the way of development and somehow served its purpose,” he said. “What we’re seeing is that the opposite is true.”

He believes the residential and retail uses are not compatible in the area and note that, just because no commercial and residential development is happening, it does not mean there is no development or that the industrial corridor does not benefit the City’s economy. The corridor has the spaces businesses that got their start at ICNC like to rent, and he said they value proximity to the Loop.

“These are companies that are founded by people who want to be in Chicago,” DeBretto said. “Most of their workforce [lives] within a few miles of the incubator. Most of their clients are in the downtown. They don’t want to move to Elk Grove Village.”

Elk Grove Village has the largest
industrial park in the Chicago area.

DeBretto said he is not too concerned about proposed zoning changes east of Ashland. The change mostly allows more office uses, which he does not expect to affect the businesses too much, although he plans to talk with area businesses owners to get their feelings on the matter.

For Alderman Burnett, call (312) 432-1995. For the DPD, log on to www.cityofchicago.org/dpd. For the Fulton Market Association, log on to fultonmarketchicago.org. For the ICNC, see www.industrialcouncil.com.