The Chicago City Council recently gave the green light for the construction of an apartment building with a doggie day care on the first floor in West Garfield Park’s Madison/Pulaski commercial corridor, which hasn’t seen much development in decades.
John Gardner and his wife have lived in the community for the past seven years and they’ve owned the Fulton Market District-based Furry Paws Chicago since 2017. Gardner said that they have been impressed with the work various community organizations have been doing to improve West Garfield Park and they wanted to be a part of that revitalization process. Once it’s built, they plan to move their business into the facility at 4225-29 W. Madison St. and rent the apartments for affordable prices.
The City Council approved a zoning change on June 22 that clears the way for Gardner to build the project. Gardner said he has funds to cover about a fourth of the project’s cost, adding that he plans to apply for grants to cover the balance. Gardner hopes to break ground in the spring of 2023 and finish the project within the next 12 to 18 months.
The Madison/Pulaski corridor has historically been the commercial heart of the West Side, but it never quite recovered from the riots that erupted in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 assassination. Since then, there have been some attempts to revitalize the area. Most recently, the city approved the Special Service Area taxing district for the entire corridor to raise funds for redevelopment. While many long-time businesses, such as Out of the Past Records, have persevered, last year West Garfield Park’s Aldi location closed without warning.
While East Garfield Park is home to several dog care businesses, including See Spot Run, 2756 W. Fulton St., and VIP’s Pet Hotel, 2926 W. Lake St., West Garfield Park doesn’t currently have any.
Furry Paws Chicago offers daycare and overnight dog boarding services, as well as dog grooming and dog training. Gardner said over the seven years he’s lived in West Garfield Park, he’s grown to appreciate the community’s potential.
“I see a lot of people, a lot of organizations pushing to make the community safer and more prosperous, and just a nice place to be,” Gardner said. “I just feel that it’s inspiring and I feel like my calling is to play a role in that, in helping that. Obviously, it takes more than one person, but I’d like to be able to be a part of redeveloping West Garfield Park”
According to the zoning change application submitted to the city, he plans to build a three-story building with 2,659 square feet of commercial space on the first floor and four apartments on each floor above it. The building would have eight parking spaces. The zoning change is to allow them to have larger units than what the current zoning allows.
While the application notes that the project isn’t subject to the city’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance, Gardner said he plans to make the rent affordable to an average resident.
During the June 21 meeting of the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Zoning, Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) whose ward includes the entire Madison/Pulaski corridor, said he supports the project.
“I had a chance to meet with the applicant,” he said. “This lot has been vacant forever and this will enhance residents’ quality of living and bring new retail [to the corridor].”
Gardner said he didn’t want to do much community outreach until the project was more of a sure thing. Now that the zoning change has been approved, that process can start, he said. Gardner said that he has been in conversation with Ervin and Mike Tomas, the executive director of the Garfield Park Community Council.
Gardner declined to give a specific figure for how much he expects the project to cost, citing inflation and ongoing supply chain issues; however, he expects costs to be at least $1 million. Part of those funds he and his wife will raise by selling their home, he said.
“Right now, there aren’t many developers who are really putting in anything on that corridor, so it’s like, ‘Here I am, give me a little help,’” he said. “I’m bringing the housing—that’s a very big plus—and just trying to bring it more, giving [the corridor] a different look, more modern look, more prosperous look [and] hopefully encourage more developers to come in and join to give West Garfield Park a different image.”