RIVER NORTH — Early on in his presentation about The Hudson, a proposed 240-foot tower at 750 N. Hudson Ave., Onni Group project manager Brian Brodeur said the magic words nearby River North residents were hoping to hear: "We're not looking to build a retail base that's parking-driven."
The 10,000-square-foot "retail base" adjoining the 25-story residential tower was significantly scaled down from the initial plan presented, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said at the community meeting Monday night.
The first proposal called for 26,000 square feet of retail space along Chicago Avenue with 81 parking spaces for customer use, Reilly said. But the new proposal has just 12 spaces for staff use.
"When we first saw the original iteration of this site, it became clear to me that some serious changes needed to be made," Reilly said.
The Downtown alderman seemed more amenable to the new plan, noting that "the site today is a surface parking lot and we would all agree there's a better use for the space than that," he said.
The "retail space promises to be a neighborhood amenity," Reilly said, and could "enhance neighborhood safety along Chicago Avenue.
"Having these undeveloped lots, particularly in succession, makes it scarier for pedestrians when it's dark out," said Reilly, who lives three blocks from the Hudson site.
River North drivers may notice an added perk if The Hudson development is built: syncing of the traffic lights along Chicago Avenue at Larrabee and Kingsbury streets, which currently operate at different cycles — one changes every 75 seconds, another every 90 seconds.
"That can be frustrating for drivers," said Tim Doran, who did traffic analysis for the project with the team at Gewalt Hamilton Associates Inc.
Doran said a focus on "neighborhood-oriented" retail options like "Jimmy John's, a Verizon store or a 7-Eleven" would encourage pedestrian business over drivers.
The residential side of The Hudson would be a 240-unit "condo-quality" tower with a mix of one- and two-bedrooms and a handful of three-bedrooms with private rooftop terraces, Brodeur said. There are no studios or convertible units in the building, and each unit has a ceiling height of just over 8½ feet.
Market interest will determine if the units are sold as condos or apartments, and one parking space is available for each unit, Brodeur said. Forty percent of the units are two-bedrooms.
Reilly said he hoped the Onni Group would decide to sell the 240 units rather than lease them.
"Certainly we don't have a lot of vacant rental buildings in River North, that's why we have the capital to build them," Reilly said in response to a resident's question about the need for another residential tower.
"My preference is for us to have more condo owners here so it's not a transient neighborhood. ... I'm not a big fan of adding more rental density to this area."
The plan complies with an existing planned development secured for the construction of the nearby Montgomery building, Brodeur said. The plan provides for a building of up to 300 feet in height, according to the development team.
The development team still needs approval from City Council to move forward with The Hudson project and has not yet started that process, Reilly said.