JEFFERSON PARK — A former concrete company storage facility across the street from the Jefferson Park Transit Center would be transformed into a 48-unit apartment complex under a proposal submitted to Ald. John Arena (45th).
Before the housing crisis, seven single-family homes were planned for the vacant site near Argyle Street and Long Avenue — a plan much preferred by some neighbors to the current proposal which, they say, is too dense, too big and too tall.
The project calls for two five-story apartment buildings to be built on property once owned by Cowhey Materials & Fuel Co. and used as a storage yard. The property has been vacant for at least 20 years.
The 1,100-square-foot apartments would face a 6,000-square-foot courtyard, and all would have balconies, said John Pikarski, a lawyer representing the developer American Colony Homes.
Pikarski said the location of the development was ideal because of its proximity to the Jefferson Park Business District, the CTA Blue Line, Metra's Union Pacific Northwest line and several bus routes.
"It will add vitality to the Lawrence Avenue and Milwaukee Avenue area, which is dying," Pikarski said. "Without more feet on the street, Jefferson Park will lose even more businesses. Density is critical."
The complex would include a ground-floor parking lot in each building, with one parking space for each apartment, as required by city ordinance, Pikarski said.
There are blocks of single-family homes north and northeast of the proposed development, with apartment complexes close by on Northwest Highway.
Owen Brugh, Arena's chief of staff, said residents would get a chance to hear details about the development and weigh in on the proposal at an upcoming community meeting. Arena would not take a position on the development until he heard from the community, Brugh said.
To move forward, the project needs Arena's support to change the zoning designation for the parcel, which is approximately 29,000 square feet. It must also be approved by the city Plan Commission.
Brian Wardman, the chairman of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association Zoning Task Force, said the project was too dense. Wardman, who lives two blocks from the proposed development, said he would urge Arena to oppose the project.
"This would change the whole area," Wardman said. "And it will open the door for similar developments elsewhere."
Because of the complex nature of the project, Arena asked the 45th Ward Zoning Advisory Committee to review the development, Brugh said. The group, made up of planners, architects and representatives of community organizations, asked the developer to revise their plans three times, Brugh added.
Arena has often touted his support for projects that give people an opportunity to live near mass transit hubs and business districts, such as the one that surrounds the Jefferson Park Transit Center that has been plagued with empty storefronts.
The project near the transit center is similar to those Arena has supported in the past, including the controversial 98-unit senior housing complex that is now under construction in the Six Corners Shopping District.
At the committee's request, the developer based the final design of the project near the transit center on the senior housing complex near Six Corners, Pikarski said.