250-Car Parking Garage

Colonel Jennifer Pritzker, one of Chicago’s wealthiest, most influential residents, is a historic preservationist and a bicycle advocate.

As an heir to the Pritzker family fortune and longtime Rogers Park resident, the billionaire has used his money in creative ways to help revitalize the community.

In 2004 his investment firm Tawani Enterprises began buying residential properties in the neighborhood, renovating and leasing them. Some of the company’s holdings include the Mayne Stage theater, Act One gastropub, Cat’s Cradle bed and breakfast and the Emil Bach House, 7415 North Sheridan, a Prairie-style home by Frank Lloyd Wright, currently undergoing a faithful restoration. As an avid cyclist, he bankrolled the latest edition of Active Transportation Alliance’s Chicagoland Bicycle Map, and he occasionally pedals in Critical Mass, the anti-car bike parade.

The garage would largely serve Bach House visitors and residents at Farcroft by the Lake, a twelve-story tower at 1337 West Fargo, built in 1928, which Tawani is currently renovating into eighty-four upscale rental units. Both buildings are located only a few minutes walk from the CTA Red Line’s Jarvis Station. Eighty-four spaces would be set aside for short- and long-term paid parking for the general public.

The firm would build the 181-foot-long, four-story garage on three parcels of land at the southeast corner of Sheridan and Sherwin. The land is currently occupied by a small surface parking lot, a vacant lot where vendors sell pumpkins and Christmas trees in season, and a handsome, ninety-year-old house built of cream-colored brick. The two-story home currently houses the Shambhala Meditation Center, which is moving to the West Loop, and it sits on a pretty little yard with several tall trees, a rare patch of green along highway-like Sheridan.

Representatives from Tawani gave a presentation on the garage’s features, touting its environmentally friendly building materials and possible inclusion of parking spaces for I-GO or Zipcar vehicles, charging stations for electric cars, and bike racks. Traffic consultant Tim Doran said their study shows that the facility will have minimal impact on neighborhood traffic. “We didn’t just make these numbers up,” he said. “Remember, a lot of this traffic is already circulating in your neighborhood looking for other parking places.”

When the floor was opened to comments, a few attendees voiced support for the structure. In one of Chicago’s most ethnically and economically diverse communities, where poverty and homelessness are major issues, several people stated that parking is “the biggest problem in the neighborhood.”

But judging from applause levels, about three-quarters of the crowd opposed the plan. “It’s just too big guys,” one man said to the developers. “I’ve lived on Sherwin for eighteen years and now I’m going to have to walk my kids past all those cars. It’s going to inject a ton of traffic onto our streets.”

“Does this neighborhood have a parking problem?” asked a woman. “It could. Is it the worst problem in our community? I don’t think so. You know, there’s a song about paving paradise to put in a parking lot. And so you’re taking the last remaining place where there’s open space and a yard and a pumpkin patch and paving that over from lot line to lot line.” She argued Chicago is still negatively impacted by the auto-centric planning policies of the Urban Renewal era. “Why don’t we use what we’ve learned and not do that again?”