ROGERS PARK — A developer who had planned to build a three-floor apartment building with storefronts — including space for a large restaurant — said Monday that he pulled the plug on the $5 million project after he felt hostility from Ald. Joe Moore.
The lot has been untouched since 2008 when a condo development failed, leaving a giant hole in the ground.
But Moore (49th) said Vondrachek "refused" to meet after Moore told him that he also wanted to discuss the management of another property owned by Vondrachek, at 2065 W. Jarvis Ave.
"Unfortunately, he has a very spotty record in managing the building..." Moore said in an email Monday.
Now Vondrachek says he won't build the 20-unit apartment building with 8,500 square feet of commercial space as planned and would instead list the property as "build-to-suit" and find a commercial tenant within the next two years.
He said he was worried he would run into problems with Moore in the future that would jeopardize his investment.
Site plans provided by Vondrachek showed one- and two-bedroom apartments, some with balconies, on the second and third floors.
Vondrachek said he had hoped to attract a restaurant to a large commercial space at the southwest corner of Estes Avenue and Clark Street that would have year-round access to an outdoor patio in the building's planned courtyard facing Estes.
And if the alderman doesn't want it, he said, he would go elsewhere.
Moore doesn't mind.
"I’m pleased to hear he’s pulled the plug. Good riddance," said the 22-year veteran alderman.
Moore said in previous dealings with his office Vondrachek was "very confrontational and uncooperative."
His Jarvis Avenue building has been the center of three failed building inspections since Vondrachek took over the building in 2011, according to city records.
A report from the most recent inspection in May notes several violations, including faulty windows, washed out brick mortar, a leaky roof and garbage accumulation in a rear stairwell.
Vondrachek said he would have to verify whether those problems had been fixed, but all violations from the previous owner had been fixed during a partial rehab in 2012.
He said the alderman's office had complained to him about overfilled garbage containers on the property.
But Vondrachek said the neighbors, who had overfilled construction Dumpsters with their own trash, were to blame — and the problem had since been resolved.
Moore said at one time his ward superintendent had written Vondrachek tickets for having no garbage pickup at all.
He said he's unconvinced that Vondrachek would be able to adequately manage a development like what had been proposed.
"This guy has owned this building [on Jarvis] for four years and it still looks like crap," Moore said.
Vondrachek said he met with his partners late Monday to discuss whether to continue as planned and break ground by March.
They decided against it, he said.
Moore said he could wait.
"With something like that," he said, "You want the right kind of person."