Yesterday’s four hour Zoning Committee meeting included approvals to extend the planned development for the Chicago Spire site, the “Twin Towers” complex in Logan Square, a transit-oriented development in Ravenswood, Montrose Green and removal of certain restrictions on drag shows.
Only seven committee members attended the final Zoning Committee of the current Council, several of whom trickled in and out of the Council chambers during the extended meeting. The required quorum for the committee meeting is 10 out of 18 members, but there were never more than five sitting alderman in attendance at one time. Other than the Chairman of the committee, Danny Solis, retiring Ald. Tim Cullerton was the only committee member to remain in chamber for the entire meeting. At the end of the meeting, the entire room gave Ald. Cullerton a round of applause.
Members Present: Chairman Danny Solis (25), Bob Fioretti (2), Tim Cullerton (38), Marge Laurino (39), Tom Tunney (44), James Cappleman (46) and Ameya Pawar (47).
Non-members Present: Joe Moreno (1) Willie Cochran (20), Walter Burnett (27), John Arena (45)
Following are highlights from the meeting. Unless otherwise noted, the following items all passed from committee by acclimation.
No. Ma-192 (Mayoral Application) Ordinance Referred (3-18-15)
400 N. Lake Shore Drive – The former Chicago Spire site.
While the future of the Chicago Spire site is unclear, plans for the accompanying DuSable Park remain intact. Yesterday, with an ordinance penned by the Emanuel Administration, the Zoning Committee extending the life of the site’s Planned Development agreement until January 21, 2018 to ensure the park plans remain intact while the future of the rest of the site is determined. The future developer of 400 N. Lake Shore Drive is responsible for funding DuSable Park, which will then be turned over to the Chicago Park District.
Originally set to expire this July, the ordinance would also extend the community review process from two years to three. A spokeswoman from the Department of Planning told the committee the new owner of the Spire site has been in talks with Ald. Brendan Reilly over the future project and the mayor’s office wants to ensure, “DuSable is in the mix.”
No. 18166 (1st Ward) Ordinance Referred (9-10-14)
2255-93 N. Milwaukee Ave. /2208-26 N. Washtenaw Ave./2715-35 W. Belden – The “Twin Towers” project in Logan Square.
Rolando Acosta, the attorney representing the site’s developers, MaxMil LLC, requested that the five-year-old vacant lot be rezoned for an 11-15 story mixed-use building. This would include two residential buildings, a total of 220 units. The buildings would be connected at the base, creating 9,000 sq. ft. of retail space and 67 parking spaces. (On the agenda, the reported numbers were 6,000 sq. ft. of ground floor retail and 253 residential units.) Acosta said that at the request of Ald. Moreno, there will be affordable housing on site and the developers would not buy out of their obligation. A city ordinance requires that residential projects must set aside a certain number of affordable housing units on site or in close proximity. Developers could opt out of this requirement by paying a fine.
“I am really concerned about this project,” testified neighbor Sally Hammann, one of the six people who testified against the project. “The height is totally inappropriate for the neighborhood.” Hammann added that there were already three other developments going up nearby on Milwaukee Ave. and all of the planned apartments were, “very expensive and very small.”
Margaret Herman, a 13-year-resident, also spoke in opposition because the rents in her neighborhood have going up “51%” over the past three years.“The cost of living in this particular development, even with the affordable units, only accentuate my neighbors and soon my own displacement in the neighborhood.” Herman also accused the developer of having poorly coordinated community meetings where it was “hard to hear” and “packed to the gills”.
Herman went on to further lament about the increased cost of living in Logan Square. “My landlord just raised our rent for the first time in 6 years, starting in June. So, it’s happening. It’s real.” Herman then accused Ald. Joe Moreno of not, “listening to residents when it came to planned development.”
Jaime Zopart, another Logan Square resident, called the building plans, “completely out of character,” and said the height of the building seems to get taller after every community meeting. “[The building] is not serving our community,” she said, adding that the proposed affordable housing units, required under a new city ordinance, “aren’t actually affordable”.
“If somebody could afford $2,700 for a two bedroom aparment, God bless them,” she quipped. “A majority of Logan Square [residents] cannot afford that.”
The others testifying against the project had similar concerns before Ald. Moreno got a chance to defend the development, calling it “unique and fantastic”. Moreno highlighted a number of affordable housing developers who are interested in building on the site and the extensive and thorough community vetting process the project went through.
“I’m so passionate about affordable housing that I am not going to let goldilocks ideas get in the way of providing true, affordable housing to Logan Square, which is what we need,” Moreno testified. “And we need density […] low density and affordable housing actually work against each other,” Moreno used Lincoln Park as an example. “It’s losing population. Losing! Because the housing stock there is so expensive now.” Moreno added that this project will not use any TIF funds, part of the developer’s original request.
No. TAD-533 (44th Ward) Ordinance Referred (3-18-15)
Amendment of Municipal Code 16-16-030 concerning adult entertainment cabaret. – Ordinance text
This housekeeping measure cleans up rules for drag clubs originally introduced by by Ald. Tom Tunney and former Ald. Burt Natarus and approved by Council in 2006. The original measure changed zoning rules to remove female and male impersonator performances from the definition of “adult entertainment, ” while the new measure changes license rules for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
No.18324 (47th Ward) Ordinance Referred (3-18-15)
1819 West Montrose Avenue – The Montrose Green project.
A transit oriented development at 1819 W. Montrose, known as Montrose Green, encountered some community pushback at Thursday’s zoning meeting with five people testifying against the project. Montrose Green developers proposed developing a former CTA staging site next to the Montrose Brown Line stop with a 5,300 sq. ft. of ground floor retail space, 3,000 square feet of office space and 24 residential units with just 10 off-street parking spaces. Because the mixed-use space is adjacent to an L stop, believe it would discourage car use, requiring fewer parking spaces. The proposed zoning change would increase the height of the building to 55 feet.
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47) and Kathleen Abbott, a representative from the Northcenter Neighborhood Association, spoke in favor of the development. But while others spoke in favor of transit-oriented development in general and the need for the development at the site, a group of neighbors present testified about traffic concerns and access to the back and sides of the next-door apartment buildings. Read additional comments about the development from neighbors.
No. 18310 (44th Ward) Ordinance Referred (3-18-15)
1045-1047 West Cornelia Ave. – New construction of 4-story, 20 unit residential building.
Four people appeared to testify against the new 4-story building in the 44th Ward, calling the building a “monstrosity” that would “have all charm of 1960s dorm.” The contractor, Contemporary Concepts, plans to replace a two-flat townhouse with a 20-unit residential building with 16 parking spaces.
Ald. Tom Tunney called the development a “welcome addition” and said the developers made concessions on parking, reduced the number of units from 20 to 16, and set the top floor back from the street.
No.18236 (1st Ward) Ordinance Referred (12-10-14)
2412 W. Lyndale St. – Demolish existing building and build a new 3-story residential unit with parking.
Sally Hammann, a representative from a neighborhood zoning and planning committee, asked that the project be deferred because, “the project has only come up to [their] committee one time [..] last year 2014.” Hammann asked that the developers speak with the residents one more time before moving forward with the project. “It’s a single family property right now,” Hammann testified, “We are concerned there is no room in the plans for this [new] building.”
Ald. Joe Moreno responded that this property would be on a “substandard lot”. “We’re talking about two units on each site, therefore the relief, I believe, is acceptable.” Ald. Moreno said while he does agree with a need for low density in the area and the design does need some work, he requested that the Zoning Committee pass the ordinance, so that he could work with the community and developers on the design at a later date.
No. 18130 (39th Ward) Ordinance Referred (7-30-14)
4514-20 N. Elston Ave. – Taxi repair and storage.
The applicant, Azurite LLC on behalf of Dispatch Taxi, requested a zoning change so that they could locate and establish a vehicle repair and storage facility for taxis. Ald. Tim Cullerton asked if the taxis would be stored on the property or on the surrounding streets. The attorney for the project reported they would be stored on site.
No. 17935 (35th Ward) Ordinance Referred (2-5-2014)
2736-50 N. Kedzie Ave. – Request to turn a vacant auto shop into an office building without parking.
The last item of the meeting. The ordinance had technically passed committee and the meeting adjourned as neighbor Emil Metterhausen called out to Chairman Solis just as the gavel struck the podium to signify the meeting was over. Metterhousen, who was not signed up to testify but owns a property across the street at 2735 N. Kedzie Ave, was invited by Solis to speak anyway.
“This building has been standing with scaffolding in front of it for over ten years. It has been through a world of shit,” Metterhausen said of owner and applicant 2736 Kedzie LLC. “Basically it has been standing there looking like crap […] it’s a pigsty.”
Metterhausen went on to say that he didn’t even understand what the zoning change would even do for the property. He showed one letter from the property’s attorney that said they wanted retail offices and services, and another letter that said the applicant would use the zoning change to build, “a collaborative workspace centered on rock climbing and no parking”. “I got different stories, I don’t know what’s going on here,” Metterhausen said to Chairman Solis, who then asked the objector if he brought it up with Ald. Rey Colon (35). Colon, who lost his seat in February, wasn’t at the meeting but did submit a letter of support of the project.
“Ugh, I’ve talked to Colon a number of times, but I haven’t talk to him recently because talking to him just aggravated me,” Metterhausen responded.
Ald. Solis then suggested that the zoning change would “clean up the site”, but Metterhausen spoke over the Chairman to lament that the new zoning won’t change the ownership of the property.