Chicago Codes
Chicago Building Opportunities Under the New Zoning Ordinance

On October 12th Index Publishing Corporation welcomed over one hundred architects, developers, builders, appraisers, lawyers, brokers and financiers to the Chicago Athletic Club. The intention of this breakfast conference was to provide a clear understanding of the changes in the Chicago Zoning Ordinance and the opportunities and obstacles implied by such amendments.

Keynote Speaker Tom Smith, the City's Zoning Administrator, kicked off the event by explaining the most important changes surrounding the interests of builders, developers and investors. In particular, Mr. Smith highlighted the creation of "half districts," the zoning of open space, affordable housing incentives, reduced parking requirements and changes these professionals can expect to see in the new zoning maps. Following a question and answer session, the Administrator also informed attendees on alterations made to the zoning process. For example, notices of zoning changes are now sent First Class Mail and the City has also established criteria for Planned Developments in order to give developers a better understanding of the standards and process involved.

Alan Lev, President of the Belgravia Group, Ltd, followed Tom Smith with a short presentation on the "hot spots" for developers, builders and architects in Chicago. Lev identified some prime locations for two types of developments - mid-rise and high-rise projects and infill projects. He noted an increase influx of development in areas such as Bridgeport, Brighton Park, McKinley Park, and Edgewater, and emphasized the growing interest among investors in communities along the northwest branch of the Chicago River.

Former City of Chicago Deputy Commissioner for Zoning and Central Development, Rick Wendy, spoke next on the legal hurdles that may arise with the new Zoning Ordinance. Wendy recommended that those firms or individuals building in the City become familiar with the various processes involved when seeking approval for site plans, especially when a project involves a map or text amendment to the Ordinance, a special use permit or a variance. His advice extended even further to include reminders of the importance of establishing relationships with the alderman and the community prior to pursuing a project.

For the final piece of the seminar, Ray Graves and John Paulun, from SomerCor 504 explored various financing vehicles for development, in particular the 504 Loan Program. Certified by the U.S. Small Business Association, this non-profit development company assists small businesses in financing the purchase, construction or improvements of fixed assets by securing long-term loans. SomerCor's team also provides grants to businesses within many of Chicago's Tax Increment Finance districts through the Small Business Improvement Fund.

Building Opportunities provided professionals in Chicago with an opportunity to grasp the challenges and the advantages of developing under the revised Ordinance. In addition, this conference allowed individuals to network and explore possible relationships with one another as they tackle the continuously changing market in the City. Visit our site again to see the launch of Cook County zoning information as well as additional conferences. You sign up for current zoning information here. We are current within 60 days and often within 30 days.