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Despite Opposition, Alderman Supports Portage Park Senior Living Complex

By Heather Cherone | December 9, 2012 8:51am

PORTAGE PARK — Ald. John Arena (45th) is defending his support of a proposed 98-unit senior apartment building near the Six Corners Shopping District.

The planned four-story building at 4417 N. Kilpatrick Ave., which is adjacent to the Union Pacific railroad tracks and a Jewel grocery store, has drawn fire from nearby homeowners for being too tall and too big for their neighborhood of about 90 single-family homes.

In addition, some members of the Triangle Homeowners Association said the project will clog the streets of their neighborhood with traffic and take up all of the street parking spaces.

Others said they were concerned the large building, restricted to residents 55 and older, will flood their homes with stormwater and overwhelm the area’s electricity grid.

The project is scheduled to be considered by the Chicago Plan Commission Dec. 20, which must approve a zoning change to allow for the proposed apartment building to be built on land once set for 12 single-family homes.

The project would help seniors who live in Portage Park and Jefferson Park grow old near their friends and neighbors, and fill a growing demand for senior housing, Arena said at a community meeting Thursday.

At the alderman’s suggestion, the project was redesigned slightly to remove a design feature that covered part of the building at the corner of Kilpatrick and Berteau avenues.

It made the building seem bigger than it was, and did not fit in with the rowhouse-style design of the building, Arena said.

The complex also features a courtyard and a small garden where residents will be able to plant flowers and vegetables, Arena said.

Arena said traffic studies conducted by the developer and reviewed by city planning officials as well as his own experience driving in the area convinced him that the area can handle the additional cars and trucks.

“Heavy traffic, to me, is not the issue,” Arena said, prompting exasperated sighs and other sounds of disagreement from the audience. “This area does not have a traffic flow issue.”

The city code requires there to be one parking space for every three units in the building. The project will have 34 parking spaces, a number many attendees said was much too low.

Many residents will not own a car and choose instead to walk to shops at Six Corners and use nearby buses and trains to get around, Arena said.

“These are young seniors who will be active,” Arena said.

In addition, the same parking ratio has worked at other senior apartment buildings in the 45th ward, Arena said.

Ninety percent of the units will be set aside for low-income seniors, said Nancy Kapp, president of The Renaissance Companies, which is developing the project. The project is being financed in part by dollar-for-dollar federal tax credits designed to finance affordable housing.

Ed Bannon, the executive director of the Six Corners Association, said the group sympathized with the neighbors’ concerns but supported the development, saying it would bring needed density to the Six Corners shopping district that has struggled for years to attract shops and restaurants.

If approved by the plan commission, construction could begin in the fall and take about 18 months to build, Kapp said.