The Chicago Plan Commission once again deferred action on its proposed plan for Woodlawn after Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) asked for more community engagement to take place.
The Woodlawn Plan Consolidation Report, put together by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD), takes elements from more than a dozen past plans for the neighborhood. DPD officials also held a series of community meetings, culminating in an open house this past January. It had already been deferred once, in a February meeting where DPD staff said they would ask for more community feedback.
But at Friday’s meeting, Taylor said that she still didn’t think there had been enough input from the community, particularly to connect the DPD’s work to concerns around housing affordability and displacement.
“This does not need to be separate, to me, from housing. Those need to be conversations that are kind of tied together,” she said. “My pushback is us having a longer conversation and waiting to pass this through. There are a lot of constituents that come to my meeting and support what’s going on but don’t have access to this platform right now.”
The Plan Commission members, which include DPD head Maurice Cox, voted to defer action on the plan until the May 21 meeting, with the tentative understanding that Taylor and the DPD would gather more community feedback in a meeting before then.
“I simply think we have to give ourselves a time frame. If (Taylor) feels comfortable if we hold a forum virtually — and we’ve seen hundreds of people part in virtual forums even during this Covid crisis — then we can bring this back in the May Plan Commission and actually take action,” said Cox.
He also emphasized that the plan, if it passes, is primarily a guiding document. “The consolidated plan is really advisory to the community, advisory to alderman, and advisory to the DPD staff …. It does not replace the alderman’s ability to influence the outcome of subsequent projects,” he said. “When all is said and done, and someone proposes something the alderman doesn’t agree with, or the community doesn’t agree with, we have a document that we can go back to.”
The consolidation report notes that the city is key to any new development that takes place in Woodlawn, since it owns 27% of the vacant land in the neighborhood. The Cook County Land Bank Authority also owns 88 vacant parcels out of a little over 1,200 total. Much of the land is located within a quarter-mile of public transit — the report suggests that “these lots may provide an opportunity for increased density and mixed-use development that could support neighborhood-serving commerce.”
The report also recommends the creation of a form-based zoning code in Woodlawn; unlike traditional zoning codes, a form-based code places more emphasis on shape and scale than use.
Past plans have also called for the redevelopment of vacant land along 63rd Street in order to turn it into a commercial corridor with local business as well as the addition of more open space, better streetscapes and community gardens.