Close to a dozen people signed up to testify on a proposed 12-story, 190 room hotel for Old Town at yesterday’s Plan Commission meeting, the only item to get a significant amount of testimony at the quick two hour long monthly land-use meeting. All items that went before the body were approved unanimously, although a few, as detailed below, were deferred; some “indefinitely”.
The Old Town hotel, a collaboration between Chicago-based Condor Partners and Chicago Development Partners, had gone through extensive revisions, according to Fernando Espinoza, a representative with the Department of Planning and Development, who detailed the plans.
Originally, the developers had sought to build a 21-story building at the corner of North Wells Street and North Weiland Avenue. The site is currently home to an old political hangout, O’Brien’s Restaurant, a two-story building which will be demolished, and a three-story mixed use building (retail and residential) and parking lot, which will also be demolished.
According to Espinoza, DPD worked with the applicants to get it down to 18 floors, then a month ago, it was reduced to 13 floors, and yesterday, it was finally brought down to 12 floors (with a mechanical roof on the 13th floor). Developers significantly changed the design of the hotel. Architects at Pappageorge Haymes added hanging pre-finished aluminum balconies to the left side of the building, and varying patios, giving the building a mixed hight. Under the original plan, the 21-story building was at uniform height.
But even with the reductions, several residents of the Old Town community lamented the density, saying it would further snarl pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the area. One resident called it “grossly oversized”, another claimed “hundreds and hundreds and hundreds” of people opposed the plan, while a third complained that not enough residents were given proper notice, somewhat contradicting the previous speaker who had noted that the hundreds of people opposed the project.
None of the Commissioners had much to say about the proposed hotel, save for Ald. Tom Tunney (44), who said he didn’t think the metal balconies “age well”. The development team countered that they’re using “premium material”, not steel, which has been used on other hanging balconies, and often corrodes over time.
The remaining items on the agenda passed without debate or much public comments. The only other application to receive public comment was a 138-unit, six-floor mixed use building for 2328 N. California Avenue in Logan Square. Due to the building’s proximity to the California Avenue Blue Line stop, the developer, Savoy Development, will only provide 41 parking stalls. But there will be a significant amount of bike stalls: 138. Interestingly, all three members of the public who testified were former residents of the area, but moved to the suburbs.
Other Items that Passed:
- Developer John Kelly’s plan to build an 11-story, mixed-use building with ground floor retail and 175 apartments at 768 North Aberdeen Street, next to the Blue Line’s Chicago Avenue stop. The site in River West (27th Ward) is currently a parking lot. Kelly filed his application in September, before the new beefed up Affordable Housing requirements kicked in. But the developer has agreed to provide “a couple” affordable units on site, and pay out the rest in in-lieu fees, about $1.5 million.
- Developer Sterling Bay’s plan to build an approximately 207,000-square-foot office development at 1515 W. Webster Avenue, a block east of the Chicago River in the city’s 2nd Ward. The site is a vacant lot, formerly the home of the Gurmann Leather Tannery. Sterling Bay has already signed a 15-year agreement with CH Robinson, a transportation company, to be the sole tenant. They will be relocating from another location within the same industrial corridor, the North Branch Industrial Corridor
- Vermilion Development plans to construct a 10-story mixed use building at the site of an abandoned gas station (3901 N. Broadway Avenue). Amenities would include 3,200-square-feet of ground floor commercial retail, 100 dwelling units on the floors above, and parking for 59 cars. The developers told commissioners that they haven’t secured a tenant for the retail component, but they’re looking for uses “supportive of the neighborhood”, like neighborhood amenities. There’s not enough room for a restaurant. Under the 2015 ARO requirements, the developer is mandated to provide 10 affordable units.Vermilion will add three of those units on-site and pay-out the rest toward the affordable housing trust fund.
- A plan from the Park District that would expand the parking lot at the 31st Street beach. The item was held two months ago at the request of newly appointed 4th Ward Ald. Sophia King, who raised concerns that the added parking would only be available for people with harbor passes. King wasn’t at yesterday’s meeting, but she issued a letter of support.
The first four items listed on the deferred portion of the agenda were deferred “indefinitely”, while the fifth item, which relates to an amendment to an institutional planned development for the Illinois Institute of Technology was temporarily deferred to the July Plan Commission meeting scheduled for the 21st.
Two of the applications that will be deferred indefinitely, according to Plan Commission Chairman Martin Cabrera, are in the 20th Ward. One is a resolution recommending the acquisition of land from David Fleishman of Terrapin Investments, LLC. He had sought to put the parcels at 6013 South Calumet Avenue and 6048 South Martin Luther King Drive to construct homes. The other item in the 20th Ward, also from Fleishman for residential housing, sought the acquisition of city owned property at 6543-6549 and 6552 South Kimbark Avenue.
A planned development application from JKF Development to build a 24-story, 71-unit condominium building at 330 West Huron Street, which is currently a surface parking lot, was also deferred indefinitely. As was a plan to make a technical amendment to an existing planned development (#499) in the 3rd Ward.