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 presented Ald. John Arena (45th) with a petition signed by more than 650 people urging him to reject the project.
A group of 14 Jefferson Park residents brought the petition, which they have been circulating for a month, to Arena's weekly Tuesday evening ward meeting, said Kurt Kuhlman, one of the organizers of the opposition.
The current proposal for Argyle Street and Long Avenue was too dense, too big, too tall and too close to single-family homes — and would set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the Far Northwest Side, Kuhlman said the group told Arena.
"There's nothing else like that in the neighborhood," Kuhlman said, adding that some members of the group got emotional during the approximately 90-minute meeting. "We all felt like [the alderman] listened to us."
In addition to the petitions, the group gave Arena a map that highlighted the addresses of most of those who signed to oppose the project that 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 wanted to show [the alderman] how close the petition signers were to the property," Kuhlman 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 the meeting was productive, and Arena promised to relay the concerns of the opponents to the project's developer, American Colony Homes.
"It wasn't people being belligerent and yelling," Brugh said. "It was an actual discussion."
Among the issues discussed were the project's potential impact on Beaubien Elementary School, which is overcrowded, and the need to maintain the character of Jefferson Park, Brugh and Kuhlman said.
John Pikarski, an attorney for the developer, has said the location of the project 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.
A community meeting to gather input on the development will be scheduled once the developer completes some revisions to the project, Brugh said.
Arena will not take a position on the development until after the community meeting, Brugh said.
The complex would include a ground-floor parking lot in each building, with one parking space for each apartment, according to the plans.
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.
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.
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