JEFFERSON PARK — Opponents of a plan to turn a long-vacant lot across the street from the Jefferson Park Transit Center into a 48-unit apartment complex have launched a petition drive to convince Ald. John Arena (45th) to reject the project.
The current proposal is too dense, too big, too tall and too close to single-family homes — and will set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the Far Northwest Side, opponents said.
“We want to keep our neighborhood a neighborhood,” said Kurt Kuhlman, who has lived across an alley from the vacant lot near Argyle Street and Long Avenue with his wife for 19 years.
Heather Cherone discusses what opponents have to say about a large apartment complex proposed for Jefferson Park:
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 empty for at least 20 years.
“We’re not against all development,” Kuhlman said. “We have been looking at that vacant lot for a long time.”
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.
“This is exactly where you would want this type of development,” Pikarski said. “You couldn’t design a better location.”
The complex would include a ground-floor parking lot in each building, with one parking space for each apartment, 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 an upcoming community meeting would give residents a chance to hear details about the development and weigh in on the proposal.
That meeting has not been scheduled yet because American Colony Homes is working to revise the project, Brugh said.
Arena will not take a position on the development until he has heard from the community, Brugh said.
Pikarski declined to comment in detail on the proposed changes to the project, saying only they were minor.
To move forward, the project needs Arena's support to change the zoning for the parcel, which is approximately 29,000 square feet, to allow more density. It must also be approved by the city Plan Commission.
Before the 2008 housing crisis, seven single-family homes were set to be built on the land.
The petition drive will begin at the meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association at the Jefferson Park Congregational Church, 5320 W. Giddings St., Kuhlman said.
An organizational meeting for the petition drive will take place Saturday, Kuhlman said.
A high percentage of people who live within six to eight blocks of Argyle Street and Long Avenue oppose the project, Kuhlman said.
“We’re looking for a compromise,” Kuhlman said. “We would be ecstatic with a proposal for townhomes.”
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.
“The project was tastefully designed to be accommodating to the surrounding property owners,” Pikarski said.