Height and Milwaukee Avenue (Part II)

I think the preference expressed at the Milwaukee Avenue Corridor Development Initiative workshops for three- to four-story new buildings reflects a respect for the existing buildings and the existing character of the Milwaukee Avenue corridor.

New and old, side by side

As I previously mentioned (see What the real estate experts may not know), one of the sites chosen for constructing a hypothetical development during the workshops, was the Pay Half building at the northwest corner of Spaulding and Milwaukee Avenues.  This site is located just south of the Milwaukee-Diversey-Kimball Landmark District buildings.

So, what if a new building were to be constructed next to these historic buildings?

Scenario 1 marked up B

Hypothetical Milwaukee Avenue Development:
Scenario 1 (in context)

I can speak more to Scenario 1 (image above; click on image for slightly larger and clearer view) as I was part of the group that developed it.  As previously noted, in the context of the site, we provided an element of interest to open up the space next to the “el” entrance.

In the context of the site, we also proposed a three-story building fronting Milwaukee Avenue that steps up to a four-story building in the rear next to the alley.  The three stories make a gradual transition from the (high) two-story frontage of the existing historic buildings (shown in grey above), which also step up to three stories and even a small corner of four stories off Kimball Avenue.

For your additional information, we proposed retail on the first floors of both the new and existing historic buildings, office and/or institutional use (one suggestion was a culinary school) on the second floor of one or more of the buildings with residential or residential amenities such as a gym on the second floor of the others, and additional residential use on the third and fourth floors with roof decks/green roofs as amenities for the building occupants.

While the proposed stepped up height might be visually appealing, one of the real estate experts at the workshops noted that the design adds to development costs.  I wonder though if the desirability of the roof deck/green roof view from the highest floor and the higher rents or prices might balance the increased costs.

Scenario 2 (image below; click on image for slightly larger and clearer view) suggests a different mix of uses with retail on the first floors and residential on all the upper floors.  It too creates some breathing room for the too tight “el” entrance in the form of a pocket park fronting Spaulding Avenue.Scenario 2 marked up B

Hypothetical Milwaukee Avenue Development:
Scenario 2 (in context)

Scenario 2 supposes a slightly more dramatic transition on the Milwaukee Avenue frontage from old (two stories) to new (four stories stepping up to five stories in the rear).  You can make your own determination of whether this is too much or just right.

Scenario 2 marked up C

Hypothetical Milwaukee Avenue Development:
Scenario 2 (side by side historic buildings)

Scenario 1 marked up C

Hypothetical Milwaukee Avenue Development:
Scenario 1 (side by side historic buildings)

Seeing or imagining these hypothetical new buildings side by side the existing historic buildings (click on above images for slightly larger and clearer views) allows us to better judge how they might fit.

Design matters

One of the real estate experts at the workshops made the point that a difference of one story would probably not make much of a difference in our experience of Milwaukee Avenue.  While probably true for a well-designed, attractive building, one more story of a poorly designed building or one we see as ugly, can make all the difference.  Unfortunately, right now, as a neighborhood, we have no mechanism for design review of proposed new developments no matter what the height.

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