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Halsted Condo Plans Will 'Snuff Out The Area,' Neighbors Say

By Erica Demarest | August 12, 2014 7:14am
 Developers want to create 24 upscale condos on a slow stretch of Halsted Street in southeast Lakeview.
Proposed Development at 2825 N. Halsted St.
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LAKEVIEW — Plans for upscale condos in southeast Lakeview hit a snag Monday night when a local community group voted against zoning changes needed for the project.

Developers last month presented plans for 24 condos near Halsted Street and Diversey Avenue. The units would occupy three four-story buildings from 2825-2839 N. Halsted St., with green space in between.

Each building would ideally house eight condos, developers said: two ground-level duplexes with basement family rooms, and six three-bedroom units on upper floors.

The only problem: Current zoning for the lots requires ground-level commercial space.

Developers in July asked the South East Lake View Neighbors group to back zoning changes that would allow them to construct all-residential buildings — with no retail space.

"Less than one block from our site, there are at least five vacant stores," developer Orest Baranyk said at the time.

"That, to me, is one incentive not to provide any commercial space on the ground floor. All we would be doing is contributing to more vacant space in the area."

But on Monday night, the community group voted 14-4 against the proposed changes. Four people abstained.

"I recognize that that part of Halsted is not thriving, but it's not dead either," resident Anil Kashyap said. "If we do this, it's irreversible. That will snuff out the area."

Kashyap argued that reducing the amount of retail space in the area would hurt existing businesses.

"Just around the corner on Diversey, there was a period three years ago, where basically everything from [Paulina] to almost Clark was dead," Kashyap said. "Now that area's thriving again."

Group president Mike Demetriou pointed out that any zoning changes on the lot would have lasting consequences — even for future owners.

"If we grant this change, no one's ever going to tear down condos, assemble the buildings again and build more retail," he said. "This is a generational change you're asking for."

Paul Kolpak, an attorney for the developers, reiterated that there are five vacant sites within a block of the property.

One has been empty for 17 days, he said, but the longest-vacant site has been on the market for more than two years. Each of the properties is seeking $25-28 per foot in monthly rent.

"Our hardship, we feel, is that we can't build new, and charge the rents that are out there, and make a profit," Kolpak said.

Baranyk and co-developer Igor Blumin argued that the proposed condos would be a boon for the area, even without added retail, because they'd attract families.

Each unit, under the current plans, would include a parking space and balconies in the front and back.

The condo buildings would be set back five feet from the sidewalk for privacy, Baranyk said, and there'd be roughly 18 feet of space between the buildings to create "a park-like setting."

The developers claimed that green space would likely be lost if they needed to redesign the site to include retail units. Current plans call for six ground-level condos, and those would need to be moved.

"It's going to be a big box with pretty much no green space around it," Blumin said as he urged the group to vote in favor of zoning changes.

"Obviously, without your support, we cannot do what we want to do."

Despite his plea, group members still voiced strong opposition to the proposed zoning changes, arguing they would hurt the long-term economic vitality of the block.

The developers could still appeal to Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) to seek support, but group members said the alderman had a history of backing South East Lake View Neighbors decisions.

Tunney was not immediately available for comment.

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