City Council approves Kinzie Corridor changes
October 4, 2019

Courtesy City of Chicago
Development proponents hope zoning changes within PMD 4(A) and PMD 4(B) will open the area to other kinds of businesses while preserving industry in the area.

By Igor Studenkov

The Chicago City Council voted unanimously on Sept. 18 to change the Kinzie Industrial Corridor’s zoning. The corridor’s section between Ashland and Ogden Avenues now is open to a wider range of uses, and its remaining portion is open to more commercial businesses while retaining its largely industrial character.

The full council approval became little more than a formality after the changes successfully cleared the City Council’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, & Building Standards on Sept. 10. During the meeting, local residents, business owners, and community organization members came out in force.

Several speakers argued the new changes did not go far enough and that keeping many of the restrictions in place would stifle development. Others argued keeping most of the corridor industrial helped local businesses that otherwise might have a hard time setting up shop so close to the Loop. Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), whose ward includes most of the corridor, said he backed the ordinance because it would preserve jobs.

The Kinzie Industrial Corridor has been around since the early 20th century, but it was not until 1998 that the City specifically designated it a Planned Manufacturing District (PMD), which created zoning guidelines severely limiting non-industrial use. Originally, the designation included the area bound by Lake Street on the south, the area around the Metra rail yard near Kedzie Avenue on the west, Grand Avenue on the north, and Halsted Street on the east.

As the Fulton Market District changed to be less industrial, officials cut back the PMD to Ogden Avenue on the west. They divided it into two sections, with the portion west of Western Avenue reserved for heavy manufacturing and the rest reserved for lighter manufacturing and warehouses.

Since a new proposal’s unveiling in fall 2018, the City changed the original plan. The version approved by the City Council divided the PMD into two sections: PMD 4(A) and PMD 4(B).

PMD 4(B), mostly located east of Ashland Avenue, except for a portion north of Hubbard Street, which extends as far west as Damen Avenue, now allows non-industrial uses and square-footage caps. Permitted uses include offices larger than 9,000 square feet, retail outlets up to 3,000 square feet, and personal service businesses and food and liquor stores up to 8,000 square feet. The guidelines cap restaurants and taverns at 8,000 square feet, but owners can ask the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals to increase the cap up to 12,000 square feet. Property owners also may apply for a special use permit to put in a shooting range.

PMD 4(A) no longer allows new heavy industrial uses such as container storage, manufacture of hazardous substances, and waste processing. The zoning also limits larger restaurants that serve alcohol, taverns, event venues, medical services, sports and recreation facilities, food and liquor stores, and personal services. While earlier versions also ruled out daycare centers, the final version took that off the list.

As is usual with zoning laws, existing businesses that do not fit the new zoning restrictions are not affected and can continue operating. The new rules come into play, however, if the owner redevelops the property.

Kelli Lenox is director of operations at Wright Auction House, which has been based in what became the PMD’s 4(B) portion, at 1440 W. Hubbard St. She said her business has operated in the area for as long as the PMD existed, and she favored revoking the designation for that portion of the corridor.

More development

“We’d like to allow this area to get the same development that has been allowed to occur” in Fulton Market District, Lenox said. “This area between Ogden and Ashland is perfect for new businesses to provide commercial services.”

Lenox said she also supports loosening restrictions on PMD 4(A) to allow medical offices, chiropractors, pet care, and fitness training, arguing they would complement the industrial businesses.

“We want makers, we want industry, we want blue-collar jobs to remain, and we want existing businesses to grow without restrictions,” Lenox added. “Current businesses within the corridor are restricted in their growth.”

Kelly Deady, director of operations at another longtime business in PMD 4(B), Kunz Glove Company, disagreed, arguing for preserving the PMD because it is vital for keeping her business and others in the community.

“The reason we stayed within the PMD is for closeness of our employees to get to and from work,” Deady said. “Without the PMD, it would be hard for our business to survive. My fear is that, if we move out of the city, we would lose our workforce.”

John Hall, founder of Goose Island Brewery, located at the west end of PMD 4(A), said that, without the PMD, his business might have moved to the suburbs. “Businesses like Goose Island need to know that they can grow and be supported by the City,” Hall said. “The PMD is vital.”

David Avram, owner of Great Central Brewing Company, based near the east end of PMD 4(A) at 221 N. Wood St, supported the changes, saying the PMD designation helped his business, and would help other businesses that otherwise may find it cost prohibitive to operate this close to the Loop.

“PMD and the entitlement it provides cultivates the environment of entrepreneurship,” Avram said. “Preservation of the PMD also provides a stable land use policy, which will encourage and increase investment for businesses already in this community.”

Organizations divided

Area organizations are divided as well. Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Fulton Market Association, said he had no issue with keeping the PMD west of Ashland, but he urged removing the designation from the east portion. Keeping it would stop the development that would occur there naturally, he said.

“While we value Kunz Glove and other remaining industrial firms, they’re in the minority,” Romanelli said.

He also urged the City to allow more types of businesses in PMD 4(A).

“We need to fill up the West Side with businesses,” Romanelli said. “We’ve seen within Fulton Market that commercial and industrial businesses can coincide and thrive.”

Steve DeBretto, Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago executive director, said plenty of development is happening, but it tends to fly under the radar because it is industrial in nature, and removing the PMD would hurt that.

“Our PMD is doing exactly what it was designed to do,” DeBretto said. “It protects modern industrial uses from retail encroachment. It keeps them from being priced out or cast out as nuisances.”

Burnett said the PMD ultimately benefits residents and businesses alike.

“As Mr. DeBretto said, there are a lot of developers who want to make a lot of money, and they want to turn this area around at the expense of people’s jobs,” he said. “People are getting living wages, they work hard, and we want to help them keep their jobs.”

Burnett is aware some of his constituents would not be happy.

“You learn that, in this business, you can’t satisfy everybody, but you have to do what’s best for most people,” he said. “And it’s right for the majority of people to keep their jobs, to keep their business.”

Ald. Daniel LaSpada (1st Ward), whose ward includes the small portion of the corridor not in the 27th Ward, said he appreciated comments from all sides and was inclined to agree with Burnett.

“Ultimately I was convinced of the merit of the plan we’re looking at today,” he said. “The fact is that manufacturing is evolving, and it’s on the way up, in terms of productivity and in terms of jobs being created.” He noted that the plan clarifies what businesses can operate in the area and provides “stability and predictability. I see it as a plan that helps businesses succeed, and it also opens commercial opportunities, particularly in PMD 4(B).”

For Burnett’s office, call (312) 432-1995. Log on to https://fultommarketchicago.org for the Fulton Market Association. Log on to www.industrialcouncil.com for the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago. For LaSpada’s office, call (872) 206-2685.