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West Town Development Gets Thumbs Down From Residents

By Alisa Hauser | May 14, 2013 11:48am
 The owners of Domus Group, a developer and rental company headquartered at 1746 W. Division St., presented a proposal for five six-unit apartment rental buildings and three single family residences during a public meeting Tuesday.  The proposed development would be located on the 1900 blocks of West Erie and Ohio Streets and the 600 block of North Damen Avenue.
West Town Proposed Development
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WEST TOWN — Residents at a packed community meeting Monday voted 42-5 against an ambitious plan to build five three-story apartment buildings and three single-family homes in a corner pocket of West Town just east of Damen Avenue.

In light of the vote at a meeting hosted by the Chicago Grand Neighbors Association, Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) told DNAinfo Chicago on Tuesday that he plans to defer the matter, which was scheduled to be discussed Friday at the city Zoning Board of Appeals.

"The community does not support the density, among other aspects of the project," Moreno said.

John Fritchey, a Cook County Commissioner and zoning attorney, represented Phillip and Steve Ciaccio, owners of Domus Group LLC, a Division Street realty group that seeks to purchase several land lots on the 1900 blocks of West Erie and Ohio Streets and the 600 block of North Damen Avenue.

Currently the site of the Central Joints State Board, a labor organization that manages pension and health funds for eight local union groups, the land at the northeast corner of Damen and Erie Streets has been on the market between four and seven months.
The proposal includes five six-unit apartment buildings. Three of the buildings would be on the north side of Erie Street, from 1948-1956 W. Erie St. and two on the north side of Ohio Street, from 1952-56 W. Ohio St.

Since the properties are on the corner, it would also affect Damen Avenue, from 605-655 N. Damen Avenue, where the western sides of the buildings would face Damen.

According to Phillip Ciaccio, 37 parking spaces would be designated for the 33 properties, which include three single-family homes.

Two of the single-family residences would be adjacent to a proposed apartment building, while a third single-family residence is proposed for a lot at 1951 W. Erie St.

The apartment buildings would be three-stories each and made of brick and stone while the single-family homes would be made of stucco with glass and metal panels and likely list "in the high $700s" according to Phillip Ciaccio.

Appearing at the community meeting, Moreno told the gathering: "This is your neighborhood. You will be in this neighborhood longer than the developer will be...   We wouldn't do this if we just made deals in back rooms. We make deals out here."

Moreno added, "I am pro-development but also right-sized development."

Moreno's comment drew ire from a resident.

"Right-sizing? Thirty apartments in one corner. Don't you think that's excessive?" a resident asked.

Earlier in the meeting, Fritchey said "this is not a dorm building" and added that the three-bedroom apartment rentals will be geared toward families with monthly rents between $2,400 and $3,300.

"There's a lot of folks that cannot afford to buy [homes] these days," Fritchey said.

Since the land is zoned for commercial C1-2 use, Domus is seeking a zoning variance to allow residential use below the second floor.

At no less than a half dozen times during the meeting, residents expressed concerns about another development nearing completion on the west side of Damen Avenue, on the site of the former Gonnella Bread company, which is also zoned for commercial use and now contains several residential properties.

"We already cannot find parking there," one resident said.

Peter Frisbee, an architect and 12-year resident of the area, said he believes the proposed development is "not in character with the rest of the homes on Erie and Ohio streets."

"I have no problem with rental units, it's just the size," Frisbee said after the meeting.

It is unclear whether Domus Group LLC will still pursue a land purchase even if the zoning variance is not received.