Chicago planners have introduced a deregulation drive designed to revive the city’s declining commercial strips by spurring their conversion into live/work units.
The city council has approved a Business Live-Work Ordinance to encourage the use of ground floor business units for combined residential and work uses. The aim of the ordinance is to both fill vacant units and make it more affordable to live in and operate a small business in Chicago.
Under the city’s existing planning rules, live/work units require a special use permit in main street locations. The ordinance states that business owners will be allowed to combine residential space and work space in ground floor units in all of the city’s B together with C1 and C2 districts.
It says the live/work units must have a floorspace of between 800 sq ft and 3,000 sq ft. It also specifies that the commercial space must cover either a minimum of one-third of the unit or 400 sq ft, whichever is greater.
At least half of the unit’s total floorspace must be residential. Live/work units will continue to be prohibited in strip centres and those using the units will have to prove that the new use does not impair the retention or creation of commercial uses in the surrounding neighborhood.
The city council says the ordinance has been drawn up in 'response to the financial crisis that began in 2008 and continues to affect Chicago’s residents, businesses and economy today.
'The economic downturn has had a devastating impact on housing, but is also visible in vacant storefronts along many of the City’s commercial corridors.'
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