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Logan Square 'Twin Towers' Plan Divides Locals: 'You Can't Stop The Market'

By Darryl Holliday | October 31, 2014 9:42am
 Developers presented Logan Square residents with renderings of a proposed development that would bring two 11- and 15-story buildings to a set of vacant lots at 2255-93 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2208-26 N. Washtenaw Ave. and 2715-35 W. Belden Ave. — just southeast of California and Milwaukee avenues.
Logan Square's 'Twin Towers'
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LOGAN SQUARE — A proposal to bring a pair of "twin towers" to a booming Logan Square block had residents worked up Thursday night, but some community leaders had some real talk for them: the growth of the popular neighborhood cannot be stopped.

About 150 people filled Candela Restaurant, 2451 N. Milwaukee Ave., Thursday night to discuss what could become the neighborhood’s largest development — two 11- and 15-story buildings proposed for a set of vacant lots, 2255-93 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2208-26 N. Washtenaw Ave. and 2715-35 W. Belden Ave. — just southeast of California and Milwaukee avenues.

Developer Rob Buono and other supporters of the project urged the sometimes angry crowd to approve the construction, saying it would ease pressure on renters and low-income residents and put the dense, 1.6 acre development in the right spot — near the Blue Line.

 The long-awaited public meeting began and ended Thursday with opinions staked solid on either side.
The long-awaited public meeting began and ended Thursday with opinions staked solid on either side.
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DNAinfo/Darryl Holliday

Logan Square is undeniably hot right now, they argued, but putting the incoming group of young professionals in close proximity to transit in a relatively dense area could alleviate traffic and bring new business to the neighborhood.

Those opposed to the tower began by questioning the height of the towers. The shorter of the two buildings is the same height as another of Buono’s developments, a transit-oriented development at Ashland and Division in Wicker Park, which stands at 126 feet.

Those same residents asked about parking, affordability, the inclusion of affordable housing units and safety during the 20-month construction period.

Buono said the 254 units, a "contemporary" mix of studio to 2-bedroom apartments, will range from about 550 to 1,100 square feet and rent for about $1,250 to $2,500. The development would include a 71-spot covered parking garage, green roofs and 10 percent affordable housing units across the board, a mandatory requirement of all major developments in the 1st Ward.

“You’ve shown my home on every one of those slides,” one resident said, questioning whether the area is prepared for a deluge of increased water management needs and parking on his block. “What we’re proposing to do is land a vertical small town.”

Buono said he’s prepared to sink about 70 million dollars into that "small town," betting that an influx of young, urban car-less residents will soon move to Logan Square. The towers will be owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Elizabeth Cichelli, co-chair of the Human Rights Watch Chicago Committee, and Buono, former Intelligentsia Coffee co-CEO. Wheeler Kearns Architects is on deck to design the structure.

Renderings of the construction included layer-by-layer building plans, mock-ups of a post-construction Milwaukee Avenue and shadow projections cast by the towers on homes and businesses below.

Questions and concerns flowed from an endless series of raised hands — a generational gap noticeable in those for and against the proposal.

“You can’t stop the market from coming in — we need to make sure these developments are focused in the right places,” said Jacob Peters, a 27-year-old architect. “Not doing anything will turn us into Wrigleyville.”

At least two other speakers self-identified as "urban development majors" or planning professionals leading one resident to dub Logan Square “a land of planners” and another to jokingly refer to it as “Planner Town.”

“I got a PhD in anthropology looking at gentrification and that’s the word I don’t hear right now,” said Jesse Mumm, a 35-year resident of the neighborhood.

Though likely months away from necessary zoning procedures, the dual towers are among at least four major developments under consideration in the 1st Ward, according to Greater Goethe Neighborhood Association president Sally Hamann — putting around 500 market-rate rental units on the books within 1,200 feet of the California Blue Line station.

As some complained the "wall of concrete" towers would make the neighborhood "worse than Lakeview," Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) said development will likely come to that intersection — whether it's the towers or something else.

“Most of the developers come to me and the want [Tax Increment Financing] money and I will not give it to them, so that cuts about half of the proposals down right there,” he said. “I’m committed to developing this lot in a dense way.”

A second community meeting will be scheduled depending on what move developers make next.

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