Vacant storefronts line a stretch of West 35th Street at South Seeley Avenue in Chicago's McKinley Park neighborhood.

35th Street Upzoning Aims to Jump-Start Commercial Development

Published May 14, 2023

As one of her last acts as 12th Ward alderwoman, Anabel Abarca introduced an ordinance to up-zone West 35th Street in the heart of Chicago's McKinley Park neighborhood in an effort to jump-start commercial development on both sides of 35th from South Paulina Street to South Archer Avenue.

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After recent redistricting, the north side of West 35th Street is now in the 11th Ward, represented by Alderwoman Nicole Lee, and the south side will be represented by incoming 12th Ward Alderwoman Julia Ramirez.  Lee confirmed that both sides of West 35th Street are included in the zoning ordinance.

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"I fully support this new zoning," Lee said. "Both Alderwoman Ramirez and I will sponsor a joint community meeting on the rezoning soon."

Upzone to B2-3

In 2004, former 11th Ward Alderman James Balcer downzoned West 35th Street to mostly residential use. Following this, many properties on the stretch now require individual rezoning in order to support commercial development and use.

The new proposed zoning designation would be B2-3, also known as Neighborhood Mixed-Use District zoning. According to a presentation at a recent meeting of the McKinley Park Development Council, this designation would allow commercial or residential use on ground floors, residential use on upper floors and up to seven units on a standard city lot.

New 12th Ward Alderwoman

Generally, B2-3 zoning results in a three-story building with retail on the first floor and residential on the upper floors, presenters said.

The rezoning ordinance has not yet been introduced in a committee. The new Chicago City Council will be seated on Monday, May 15, including Ramirez.

McKinley Park Neighborhood Plan

Ramirez said an upcoming community-driven zoning process will help drive decisions on West 35th Street and other development. “It’s important to have a process in place," she said.

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The McKinley Park Neighborhood Plan, a comprehensive planning document issued in 2021 by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, highlighted the development potential of the neighborhood's 35th Street corridor.

"This corridor remains central to the community’s identity," the plan states. "There is a strong desire from residents to revive a portion of the corridor as a main street district."

Urban Planning from UIC

Urban planning students from the University of Illinois Chicago will also continue their focus on West 35th Street, they announced at the development council meeting. Last year, students surveyed neighbors and helped develop plans for a revitalized 35th Street and Central Manufacturing District.

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This summer, they will focus strictly on 35th Street, including connecting with business owners, taking inventory of building stock, making recommendations for streetscaping and providing policy recommendations to encourage building rehabilitation and help for mom-and-pop businesses.

The students begin outreach starting Memorial Day weekend from the 35th/Archer Orange Line El station, which will be included in their focus, along with the stretch of West 35th Street between South Leavitt Street east to South Ashland Avenue.

This makes me very happy to see. 35th St and Halsted should be looked at for simplification of encouraging businesses to want to take the chance to start and create something. Hopefully we'll get some nice businesses that will stand a chance at getting a foothold in the community.
Justin Kerr
I agree about this. Thanks for sharing your feedback!

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