The Council gallery was full but generally calm for a three hour Zoning Committee meeting that included passage of new zoning plans for the Lathrop Homes housing project and the old Edgewater Hospital. Held to the near end of the agenda, the Lathrop Homes plan was opposed by about a dozen residents and academics, but then quickly passed unanimously. The Edgewater Hospital plan was passed unanimously after brief testimony from the developer.

Members Present: Chairman Danny Solis (25), Vice Chair James Cappleman (46), Joe Moreno (1), David Moore (17), Walter Burnett (27), Margaret Laurino (39), Tom Tunney (44).

Non-Members: Brian Hopkins (2), Milly Santiago (31), Scott Waguespack (32), John Arena (45).

Unlike the February 18 Plan Commission hearing on Lathrop Homes’ Planned Development, which drew three hours of divided testimony on the master plan, today’s hearing drew limited opposition. The Plan For Transformation project for a 30-acre Chicago Housing Authority development at the intersections of Diversey, Damen and Clybourn streets calls for for 1,208 units. Of those units, 92 will be located within a senior home and all of those units will be Section 8 Housing, making the total percentage of affordable units at the Lathrop site about 60%.

The remaining the 1,116 units will be distributed as follows: 400 public housing units (36%), 494 market rate units (44%), and 222 affordable units (20%) for families with an annual median income (AMI) of about $40,000 for a family of four.

The project, represented by Rich Klawiter from DLA Piper, also includes three sets of 15,000 square foot retail spaces and a 13-story residential building.

The plan presented yesterday only contains details for the development north of DIversey Avenue, the Phase 1 part of the development, about a third of the total units to be developed.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), who represents a small corner of the project site, spoke first against the project, saying that despite a decade of negotiation over CHA’s plans, “In my estimation we ended up in a place where we did not think would happen. It’s difficult for me to show support for this convoluted product.”

Waguespack’s testimony rolled off a litany of concerns, including a lack of a LEED certification plan, which was part of the original project RFP, more retail than originally proposed, no city plan for local schools to manage the growing population, too much density for an already dense area, no city plans for increased public transit and lack of clear plans for the area south of Diversey.

Over the following 45 minutes, current tenants, neighbors and academics who have studied the plan opposed approval of the project on similar grounds as Waguespack.

Ward Miller, Executive Director of Presentation Chicago continued his support of Phase 1 of the project, but called on the Committee, “to address only issues pertaining the northern half of the development, and to postpone any decisions related to the south half of the development until that is approved by Plan Commission,” because, “the south half of Lathrop has not been fully planned.”

Wrapping up the testimony, Ald. Joe Moreno (1), who represents a majority of the project’s residents, spoke strongly in favor of the project, “For too long CHA has been… talking about redeveloping for 15 years at least,” he said. In his opinion, the development team of Heartland Housing, Bickerdike Redevelopment and Related Midwest have been flexible. The agreed to shorten the proposed tower, add on affordable housing units and reduce the planned retail space.

“Walking away and kicking the can down the road, as Ald. Waguespack would like to do, is just not fair to the residents,” Moreno said. “The vision against this is basically stall, stall, delay, delay.”

“I ask this committee to accept this challenge and accept this zoning change today so we can move forward with affordable and public housing on the North Side where it’s desperately needed. Thank you, Mr. Chairman,” Moreno shouted as he slammed the microphone down to applause.

Soon after, the committee passed the ordinance unanimously.

Edgewater Hospital

The Former Edgewater Medical Center building at 5700 N. Ashland Ave. is coming to the end of a decade-long process as the committee unanimously approved plans presented by MCZ Development to convert the old hospital–closed in 2006–into 141 apartments, and to build a new park to the west of the building.

Represented by Nick Ftikas of the Law Offices of Sam Banks, the project includes 78 parking spaces, a mix of 141 studios, 1 and 2 bedroom rental apartments, and on-site affordable housing. The Chicago Park District will also clear and take possession of a 44,200 square foot park to the west of the building.

Like the Lathrop Homes project, Edgewater had already been approved by the Plan Commission, and thus did not attract as much testimony as during the PD process. With only only one concerned citizen speaking on a lack of parking in the development, the project was passed unanimously after four minutes of discussion.