UPTOWN — A high-rise development proposed at the former site of Maryville Academy would put roughly 800 apartments and nearly 90,000 square feet of commercial space in a tax increment financing district near the lake.
The mixed-use development would be in the Clarendon/Montrose TIF district and is expected to cost at least $220 million, according to James Letchinger, president of JDL Development, which is partnering with Harlem Irving Companies on the project.
Another developer proposed a three-tower, 850-unit project for the site, but the idea fizzled in the face of opposition from neighbors and Ald. James Cappleman (46th). Neighbors complained that the developer did not sufficiently include the community in the planning process, and the project was too massive.
This project is not much smaller, but Letchinger said he is making an effort to establish rapport with stakeholders in the community and keep the process transparent.
This time around, Cappleman said, "There is an openness to seeing something there," after a Nov. 14 community meeting where neighbors heard the developers' pitch.
"I've been to community meetings for well over a decade to discuss developments, and I've never heard any developer get a round of applause from the residents — so that says something," Cappleman said.
The developer still has to clear hurdles, including the ward's zoning committee, before the project gets a green light. Construction would take about a year and a half.
The next public meeting to review the proposal is 7 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Clarendon Park Field House.
The development would include a north and south tower, with 151 units in the former and 626 in the latter. Studio apartments would be about $1,300 a month, and one-bedrooms would be about $1,600. There would be 557 parking spaces for residents, and 87,999 square feet of commercial space included. The development would be no taller than 315 feet. The project should create more than 300 construction jobs and 200 permanent jobs, according to JDL.
Letchinger said the amount of TIF funds he will request is contingent on project needs and community demands. Because the complex would reside in a TIF district, it would have to set aside 20 percent of the units for affordable housing, according to city rules.
But the developers plan to reduce the amount of affordable housing via contributions to the city's Low-Income Housing Trust Fund, they said.
Cappleman and Letchinger both mentioned unresolved issues related to density, height, parking, traffic and prospective retailers for the commercial space. Letchinger said some neighbors who would share an alley with the development are worried about where a loading dock would be placed.
"We can't solve everybody's issues, but we're going to try pretty hard," he said.
There's also the question of what to do with a portion of public park space that is included in the TIF district. Some residents want to keep it as recreational space, and others prefer a more retail-minded use of the land.
Maryville was last used to evaluate and house children who were wards of the state before it closed in 2009. The empty complex consists of two buildings on the northwest and northeast corners of Clarendon and Montrose connected by an elevated walkway.
Gordon Holmes, 50, lives south of the site, in the 4300 block of North Clarendon Avenue. He said he walks by the complex daily and thinks to himself, "'Man, look at all that wasted parking."
"As it is now, it's all boarded up. It's pretty much an eyesore. At least they cut the grass every now and then, but it's a waste of space as it is," Holmes said.
He supports "anything to improve property values," in the area, and cited the Wilson Yard TIF district development a few blocks northwest of the Maryville site as an example of a mixed-use development that has brightened the neighborhood.
Holmes also is concerned about parking but said, "Parking around here sucks to begin with."
"Even if they leveled the buildings and made parking space, that wouldn't be a bad thing either," he said with a chuckle.