planning & development Vision statement


Heart of Lincoln Square’s Planning & Advocacy committee developed the following vision statement in anticipation of the 2019 municipal elections, which includes aldermanic races in both the 40th and 47th wards.

We have distributed the statement to each candidate and have asked for their comment on it.

The Lincoln Square neighborhood is recognized — by its residents, its business owners, its visitors and city planners — as having distinct characteristics that make living, walking, shopping, and dining a unique experience in Chicago.

Although each person has their own ideas about what makes the neighborhood special, the members of Heart of Lincoln Square Neighbors Association (HOLS) believe that these characteristics include:

  • A diversity of residents and neighbors

  • Vibrant commercial streets (including Lincoln, Lawrence, Foster, Wilson, Montrose, and Damen avenues)

  • Walkability

  • Abundant public transit and multi-modal transportation options

  • Community driven public schools

  • Anchor institutions (the Old Town School of Folk Music, DANK House, Davis Theater, Sulzer Library, etc.)

  • Public parks and spaces (Giddings Plaza, Welles Park, Winnemac Park, etc.)

  • Community programming that activates the public way (festivals, concert series, farmer’s markets)

  • Mixed housing types

  • Locally owned and independent businesses

HOLS’ goals include preservation of these defining characteristics. We recognize that all neighborhoods change over time and that we cannot completely control market forces. However, we do not want to see the success and growth of Lincoln Square ruin what has made it special in the first place.

HOLS strives to be a leading force in inclusiveness and diversity, and hopes to allow as many people as possible to enjoy the neighborhood we love. Recognizing this, we believe that parts of the neighborhood are appropriate for higher density development, as long as that development is accessible to people of diverse economic means.

For any sizable development that requires discretionary zoning approval (e.g., a zoning change, planned development or special use approval, or a variation) the owner/developer should be prepared to explain how that development contributes to the character of the neighborhood and describe the “public, social and cultural amenities the development creates for workers, visitors and residents” (City of Chicago Zoning Code, Section 17-8-0910).


Transparency and Community Input

We question whether “aldermanic prerogative” is good public policy, but as long as Aldermen have functional control over local zoning decisions, that control should be exercised in consultation with responsible and representative community groups. We consider HOLS to be one such group and expect to have input in discretionary zoning.

Details regarding proposed developments should be shared with the community at the earliest practical time. Following Alderman Pawar’s example, we believe that the Alderman should employ a “Zoning Advisory Committee” (or similar body) comprised of interested and knowledgeable community residents. We ask that a representative from HOLS be a member of such a body for the 40th and 47th Wards that make up Lincoln Square.

All plans regarding proposed developments (zoning applications, site plans, renderings) should be posted online and be easily accessible to the public. Notice and details of proposed new developments should be provided to neighboring residents with such notice going beyond what is strictly required by the City’s Zoning Ordinance.

The public should have the opportunity to comment before any decision of support, even an informal one, is made by the Alderman, Public meetings should be an opportunity for true public input and should not be dominated by the developer.

Proactive Planning and Zoning

Growth should not occur in a series of ad hoc decisions in reaction to proposed developments. Thoughtful planning should precede development. Planning should be carried out by professionally trained experts, including the City’s Department of Planning, with significant input from the community. The on-going “master plan” process undertaken by the Lincoln Square / Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce is one example of thoughtful and creative community planning.

A systematic survey of existing zoning classifications, and what is functionally allowed under those classifications, should be made so that the community can understand if current zoning aligns with community vision. If necessary, blocks should be proactively re-zoned

Commercial blocks should maintain their current character, comprised of independent retailers. To support and encourage those retailers, HOLS asks its members to explore the neighborhood and shop local. Economic incentives, including menu and TIF funds should be provided to desired and deserving businesses.

Activation of dormant spaces is a priority for HOLS. Land owned by public bodies (e.g., Western Ave. “L” stop and surrounding land) should be upgraded to provide welcoming public spaces. Landlords should be encouraged to fill vacant storefronts with “pop-ups” and other short term uses as bridges to long-term leases.

New Development (in Appropriate Locations and with Appropriate Housing Opportunities)

Given the extensive network of public transportation options and the convergence of arterial streets, HOLS believes that Western, Lawrence, Damen, Montrose and Lincoln Avenue (north of Lawrence) can be developed with taller and denser buildings, under the right conditions with certain constraints.

These transit-oriented developments should have the following characteristics:

  • Contain a mix of unit sizes, rental/owner occupied units, and price points, including units affordable to current Lincoln Square residents

  • Set aside requirements for affordable units contained in the City’s Affordable Housing Ordinance should be met in full with on-site units. Where there is discretion, developers should not be allowed to “buy out” these requirements

  • Innovative architecture and design, which may reflect the prevailing style and building materials seen in the neighborhood or may introduce new forms and concepts, including green-friendly technology

  • Contribute to the neighborhood’s social and cultural amenities

Preservation of Existing Housing Stock and Character

At various times during the past two decades, residential neighborhoods in the City have come under a threat of teardowns, where by existing housing stock is demolished in favor of lager and pricier housing. We expect our Alderman to do what is necessary to prevent widespread tear downs that change the fabric of the neighborhood.

In-fill development on residential streets should complement existing housing stock in terms of size, floor area, footprint and character and not adversely affect neighboring properties.

Front yard and side yard set-back requirements should be preserved. Creative use of the public way should be encouraged.


Questions about this vision statement? Contact us.