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'Car-less' Tenants Eyed for Wicker Park High-Rise Apartment Building

By Alisa Hauser | March 27, 2013 11:38am | Updated on March 27, 2013 1:59pm

WICKER PARK — Finding an apartment in one city neighborhood is about to get easier.

Just don't bring your car along when you sign the lease, since the developers of a new building at Ashland Avenue and Division Street are banking on your not having a vehicle.

There'll be just 15 parking spaces for an 11-story mixed-use building with 99 units, an attorney for the  developers behind "1601 W. Division LLC" said Wednesday.

And the spaces are intended for people visiting residents of the "transit-oriented" building and its three retailers, which include a branch of PNC Bank.

"We thought anyone who rents there who has a car wasn't thinking. There's not much unrestricted parking in that area," said Rolando Acosta, an attorney for the venture led by Newgard Development, Henry Street Partners and M. Fishman & Co.

Leasing at the building steps away from the Division Blue Line "L" station and directly in front of the bus stop for the CTA’s No. 70 Bus — is expected to begin this summer with occupancy in October, Acosta said.

Originally projected for completion by spring 2014, in light of Acosta's news, the project is ahead of schedule.

Towering over the busy "Polish Triangle" at Ashland-Division-Milwaukee, the 13,557-square-foot structure designed by the Wheeler-Kearns architecture firm will feature a sleek metal and glass exterior.

According to Acosta, the first floor of the high-rise will have three tenants, with PNC Bank on the Ashland side of the building, while a coffee shop will be on the Division Street side.

Acosta said that the coffee shop will "most likely" be Intelligentsia.

Rob Buono, co-CEO of Intelligentsia Coffee, is one of the developers of the project, along with Paul Uitgard, formerly with Smithfield Properties, who now heads Newgard Development.

Crain's Chicago Business reported in January that the venture led by Buono secured a $20.5 million loan from a Wisconsin bank to finance the project.

The building at 1611 W. Division St. was heralded in a February 2012 community meeting by Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) as being one of the city's first truly "transit-oriented" developments, due to  its location near numerous transit opportunities, which exempts it from parking requirements.

Community concerns at the meeting mainly centered on parking.

According to Chicago Pipeline, Moreno promised residents of Marshfield Avenue, a residential street just south of the building that has permit-only parking, that "We will not grant any parking permits [to 1611 W. Division residents].”

Project architect Jon Heinert from Wheeler-Kearns said above the first-floor retail space, the second level will be dedicated to office, commercial and working artist spaces, and the nine floors above the first two levels will contain 11 rentals each.

The property’s 99 rental units will range from 550-square-foot studios to 1,200-square-foot two-bedroom apartments. According to information shared by Buono during the February 2012 community meeting, rents would range from $995 to $2600 monthly.

There will be three elevators in the building and a shared-access rooftop deck for residents, but no balconies, Heinert said.

While Acosta was able to confirm that 10 percent of the 99 units will be classified as affordable housing, as defined by income-based qualifications, it was unclear whether M. Fishman & Company, tapped to handle the leasing and management of the apartments, had established expected rent ranges.

Paul Owen, manager of a Starbucks at 1701 W. Division St. —  just one block west of the high-rise building — said of the project: "Anything that gets more people in the neighborhood is good. It's a great intersection."

A drive-thru Walgreens had considered redeveloping the lot, previously the site of a Pizza Hut.

The drugstore proposal sparked concern from renown architect Jeanne Gang, who wrote a letter to Moreno. 

“The site’s premier access to public transport, a well-utilized bike path and prime shopping and dining imbue it with great potential to become an active asset for the area," Gang wrote.