WICKER PARK— A dilapidated three-flat in Wicker Park will be torn down to make way for a 5,180- square-foot Parisian-style mansion that was approved with the support of Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) — who lives a few doors down from the property.
The house at 1320 N. Leavitt St. is the fourth on the block to be granted a special zoning allowing homes bigger than the 44 other properties on the block.
The approval, which came earlier this fall, has led some to worry that smaller, existing homes could lose value if a "McMansion" trend develops.
“There could be a demand for these types of [bigger] homes, and that could lead to properties being treated as ‘knock-down’ teardowns, which would decrease their value,” said Craig Norris, treasurer for the Wicker Park Committee, a neighborhood group opposed to the project. He called what's happening "spot zoning" and said the city shouldn't have hodgepodge exceptions to zoning laws.
But Moreno's staff said he recommended the project after a public meeting in late October where residents voted 20-7 in favor of the rezoning. The next day Moreno went before the city zoning committee and backed an amendment to change to the property's RS-3 zoning — allowing homes of up to 4,400 square feet — to RT-4 zoning. It was approved by the full City Council a week later.
"The alderman was impressed with the fact that a large majority of people at the meeting were in support of the project," said Raymond Valadez, Moreno's chief of staff. "All the people close to [the property] were overjoyed that a new building is coming to the street."
A neighbor on the block, who asked not to be named, said he was happy that the long-vacant home on the property would be torn down.
"It’s a three-flat with raggedy coach house. It’s an eyesore, got roaches, definitely rat-infested, been vacant since 2000. I am for the project. I don't know what their beef is," he said of those opposed to the larger house.
Ameer Ahmad, a merger and acquisitions lawyer with the firm of DLA Piper, bought the property for $251,000 in May. Ahmad's future home is a pink brick Parisian-style mansion designed by East Village firm Red Architects.
“I think the community by and large expressed their support for project, except for a small vocal minority who seemed to not want any development in Wicker Park. That’s unrealistic. My direct neighbors are all in support [of the house],” Ahmad said.
A member of the Wicker Park Committee, which was founded in 1973, said the organization was upset that it wasn't more involved in the process.
"It is extremely regrettable that this rezoning application was approved with absolutely no consultation with the Wicker Park Committee and with complete disregard of the WPC position," then-committee president Jim Drew wrote in a letter to Moreno.
Valadez chalked up the group's opposition to "a matter of a difference in opinion."
“We’ve always worked with the WPC, we value their opinion," Valadez said. "Some of that committee, I don't believe they live near the property."