B2-2 Zoning and Live/Work Space in Chicago
Melissa Stanley Baird & Warner
ArtHouse Chicago Real Estate Services
As a real estate agent I might see studio and live/work space in a different light than most artists. I am more interested in it as a housing and development issue. I believe strongly that promoting housing for artists is the quickest and most beneficial way to revitalize a community. I also strongly support artists owning property so they will not be displaced by the improvements they helped to create. The City of Chicago created B2-2 zoning to allow for more artist live/work space. Chicago more recently added an ordinance that allows most commercial-zoned properties to be used as live/work space with a variance instead of a zoning change. This is a less expensive way to convert a property.
More on the B2 zoning:
The City of Chicago created the B2 live/work zoning several years ago. It was supposed to allow for live/work space on any floor along commercial corridors, so that artists could have access to more versatile and practical space. It seems to have had an added benefit to developers as it allowed them to build larger buildings on commercial and business streets with no setbacks on the front or side of the buildings. I don’t think the zoning has been very well-utilized by most property owners. Many artists have been living in storefronts and mixed-use spaces for years and either they or their landlords don’t seem to see a value in making a zoning change. In its current fashion I am not sure I see much value either.
An artist can qualify for FHA financing for certain types of mixed-use and commercial properties. Additionally, storefronts can be converted to live/work space by property owners or tenants, but you need to either get a zoning change (which is expensive and time consuming) or you need to use the variance to convert your storefront to a live/work space. I support artists buying their own space but this can be cost prohibitive. Unfortunately, both a zoning change and a variance have their own costs associated and the city of Chicago does not make anything easy.
Look for future posts about the City’s live work variance.
For more information about your options please reach out to me directly.