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Wicker Group Greenlights 60-Unit Transit-Friendly Division St. Apartments

By Alisa Hauser | December 17, 2014 1:41pm
 A proposed six-story, 60-unit apartment building at 1660 W. Division St., designed by architect Andrew Myren of Hirsch Associates.
1660 W. Division St. Renderings
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WICKER PARK —  Seven members of an influential Wicker Park community group have given unanimous approval for a zoning change that would allow a local developer to build a six-story, 60-unit apartment building with retail storefronts on a mostly vacant Division Street lot.

Centrum Partners' glass and metal apartment building, with nearly 13,000 square feet of ground-level retail, is planned for 1660 W. Division St., just around the corner from the CTA Blue Line Division "L" station and next to Bangers & Lace.

The large lot is mostly vacant, save for a 103-year-old building, which is home to Wisla Cut-Rate Liquors, a dive bar that would be demolished.  

Alisa Hauser says the developer has worked closely with the community:

Architect Andrew Myren designed the modern building, which features a glass and metal-paneled exterior and orange balconies overlooking Division Street.

"The previous plan was symmetrical and static. This livens it up," Myren said at the Wicker Park Committee's Preservation and Development Subcommittee meeting Tuesday in the Wicker Park Field House, 1425 N. Damen Ave.

Next month, the neighborhood group's full membership will vote on the plan at its  Jan. 7 meeting, before Centrum's up-zoning request goes before the city's Zoning Board of Appeals.

After community concerns over the building's size and height were brought up in June —  when the proposal was first introduced as a seven-story, 77-unit building — Centrum "tapered it down" and reduced the height and number of apartments, said Larry Powers, Centrum's vice president of acquisition and development.

Provided all goes as planned, construction on the new development would begin in mid-to-late summer, and the apartment units would be ready for occupancy by summer 2016, Powers said.

The six-story building will offer 60 apartments, with 33 one-bedroom apartments (ranging 665-709 square feet) and 15 studios (ranging 569-577 square feet).

There will be 12 two-bedroom apartments, ranging 1,083-1,094 square feet.

John McLinden, a Centrum Partners principal, confirmed that the building will offer six affordable apartments on site, rather than "buy out" and pay $600,00 into the city's Affordable Housing Trust fund.

The city's Affordable Requirements Ordinance requires that certain new buildings over 20 units either allocate 10 percent of their units as affordable housing or pay $100,000 per unit to a city-managed trust fund that helps to develop low-income housing elsewhere.

Except for the affordable units, rents would be market rate, around $2.50 per square foot, or about $1,500 to $3,000 per month, McLinden said.

There will be 24 parking spaces, fewer than the required one parking space per unit; however, under the 2013 Transit-Oriented Development Ordinance, a developer can offer fewer parking spots if a new residential project is located near public transit.

After the meeting, James Clough, a Wicker Park resident who lives behind the proposed project and is not a member of the neighborhood group's subcommittee, said that he is mostly happy with the revised plan. 

"It's still pretty dense, but it's an improvement since last time.  I was initially concerned by the height." Clough said.

First Ward Ald. Joe Moreno, who has helped to pave the way for several new transit-oriented projects, previously said he wanted the community to give feedback on the plan before considering Centrum Partners' zoning change request.

Long a champion of affordable housing, Moreno said on Wednesday that he supports Centrum's decision to keep the affordable units on site.

"Truly affordable units are essential to me and the community," Moreno said.

Other recent transit-rriented projects that are either completed or in the works near the Division "L" stop include LG Development's 58-unit apartment building at 1237-53 N. Milwaukee Ave., near the Polish Triangle, the 99-unit luxury high-rise at 1611 W. Division St. and a plan for 13 apartments at 1726-32 W. Division St.

Just south of Centrum's proposed development, construction is underway on 41 new lofts at 1515-17 W. Haddon St.

Last December, members of the East Village Association voted unanimously to approve developer Mark Sutherland's plan. The Wicker Park Lofts are scheduled to be completed by this summer.

1660 West Division St., Revised Plan (2014-11-21)