EAST VILLAGE — Some residents of a neighborhood known for being a hot spot for young singles are saying they have had enough, telling a developer proposing to build more one-bedroom rentals to create housing for families.
"We are getting a lot of small, swinging-single apartments in the neighborhood, and the tearing down of two-flats and bungalows, which isn't keeping families here," resident Stephen Rynkiewicz said after a recent community meeting.
Developer Mark Sutherland, appearing at an East Village Association meeting last week, is proposing to build a 45-unit apartment building — mostly studio and one-bedroom units — on a side street near the CTA Blue Line Division Street "L" station in Wicker Park.
When neighbors complained, Sutherland responded: "I want to build what the market wants."
Sutherland's proposed six-story steel and metal building at 1515-17 W. Haddon Ave. — just south of Ashland Avenue and Division Street in East Village — offers little parking. The structure qualifies for the city's new Trans-Oriented Development Ordinance, which lowers parking requirements for new buildings within 600 feet of an "L" or Metra station.
The building, about 585 feet from the "L" stop, would offer 23 parking spaces for 45 units. The area's first commuter-friendly apartment tower, an 11-story structure offering little to no parking, opened this summer at 1611 W. Division St.
At the meeting, held at the West Town Bakery, 1916 W. Chicago Ave., some area residents fear that the high-density project, with one large luxury apartment on the sixth floor, will attract a "transient" population.
Neal McKnight, president of the East Village Association, called the proposed unit mix "problematic" and said the neighborhood would be better off with new housing that would attract families.
"We're seeing an influx of studio apartments, so instead of building based on the market demand of what you perceive it to be today, why not address the future? We're asking for change," McKnight told Sutherland.
However, in a spirited debate, Greg Nagel, a Realtor and East Village Association board member, accused McKnight of "defining what's good for the community."
"I know that some people are concerned about the addition of one-bedrooms," said Nagel. "But as a broker, I know we have a shortage of one-bedrooms, and this would be a welcome addition."
Nagel added that the development could "improve the area’s safety."
Though its address is on Haddon Avenue, the bulk of the pie-shaped building would be in an alley behind Milwaukee Avenue that has attracted vagrants. Sutherland's plan is to demolish a vacant warehouse building and a shabby two-flat apartment building near the alley.
Sutherland, who owns 21 apartment buildings in the area and operates a website, Wicker Park Apartments, said 52 percent of those making online requests on his website are searching for one-bedroom apartments, and 7 percent are looking for three-bedrooms.
Designed by architectural firm Brininstool + Lynch, the proposed plan's floor plan features 44 apartments on the second through fifth floors. Each floor has 11 units: two studio apartments, three two-bedroom apartments and six one-bedrooms apartments.
The sixth floor would be reserved for a single apartment that Sutherland said he plans to live in with his family, while the first floor would be an office for his real estate firm.
Rents would start at $1,300 for a studio with about 550 square feet of space. One-bedroom units would be about 650 square feet and rent for $1,500, while two-bedroom apartments would range 834 to 1,000 square feet and rent for $2,100 to $2,500 monthly.
At the close of the meeting, McKnight and other members of the group asked Sutherland to come back to them with a different proposal and "reconsider the unit mix."
In an email Monday, Sutherland said he and his architect are "exploring the possibility of changing the unit mix to accommodate more families in response to the requests of EVA's board members."
Previously in Ald. Joe Moreno's 1st Ward, the stretch of Haddon Avenue targeted for Sutherland's project will be in Ald. Bob Fioretti's 2nd Ward when the city's ward remap takes effect for elections in 2015.
Sutherland said he has shown the plan to Fioretti's office and chatted with him, but there has "not been an official meeting [with Fioretti] yet."
Sutherland filed his application for a development on Nov. 11, and if approval is received, he said he plans to begin building in spring or summer, with completion "sometime in 2015."