LOGAN SQUARE — There was standing-room only at Monday's community meeting in Logan Square to discuss a transit-oriented development proposed for 2293 N. Milwaukee Ave. The plan includes two apartment towers grounded by retail and accented with public art, lighted pedestrian walkways and extensive landscaping.
The lot, formerly a Max Gruber property, is now vacant. Rob Buono seeks to develop it.
"People have said that this development is out of character for our neighborhood, but vacant lots are out of character for our neighborhood," Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) said. "They are ripe for problems, they are ripe for issues that none of us want to see, and this ... is progressive development."
Moreno opened the night by welcoming comments from supporters and opponents of the development, as long as attendees remained respectful.
"I don't have these community meetings just to have them," Moreno said. "I want respectable, passionate comments."
He waved a flier at the crowd that had been posted throughout Logan Square in opposition to the development.
"These fliers littered our neighborhoods for weeks, passed out by people who are cowardly, who won't even put their name or email on it, so that my volunteers had to go out and clean up all this stuff for this misinformation that's sent out," Moreno said. "If you're about this, that's not what this meeting is about."
Shorter towers, more parking spaces per unit
The north 12-story tower on Talman Avenue and has been reduced from its original 15-story height in response to community concern expressed at previous meetings. The south 11-story tower on Washtenaw Avenue is sticking to the original plan.
The entire development sits on nearly an acre of land on Milwaukee Avenue and will offer 213 units, a 16 percent reduction from original plans.
Parking also was reduced from 71 spots to 68, but with the decrease in units, those 68 spots represent a 14 percent increase in spaces per unit.
'A done deal?'
As Buono and Moreno laid the plans out in detail, meeting attendees were invited to write questions on index cards and pass them to the front. At the end of the presentation, the cards were read by Moreno and answered by the developer — but not without heated interruptions from the crowd and widespread applause for comments opposing the development.
Topics including affordable housing, gentrification and the height of the towers drew such riotous responses that Moreno had to calm the crowd. Neighborhood residents began shouting their names, addresses and objections to the development over Moreno and Buono until one man was escorted out of the meeting. Another stormed out within the first 10 minutes, claiming the development was "already a done deal."
Affordable housing boosted
Affordable housing in the towers was one of the most contentious points of debate. Moreno said that the developer was committed to on-site affordable housing, including two- and three-bedroom units.
The project is required to offer 10 percent affordable housing, but has exceeded that with 14 percent to 15 percent — representing a 75 percent increase in affordable housing square footage above what was originally proposed, according to Buono.
"To put it in perspective," Buono said, "the slightly over 20,000 feet of affordable housing is 2½ floors of the north building, and three floors of the south building. That represents a meaningful increase in availability of affordable housing."
New revenue, jobs
The retail space is a 450-foot area on Milwaukee Avenue that will connect the two towers.
Buono projected that the real estate tax generated by the development will bring in $270,000 to $300,000 each year, "creating millions of dollars that will be used at the community's discretion."
He added that a job fair will be held for workers to build the development as well as staff its retail areas.
Surrounding area improvements
The developer said he had committed to sprucing up the streets surrounding the development, including repaving the alley behind the building, and maintaining it, particularly with snow removal.
A crosswalk developed with the Chicago Department of Transportation would guide pedestrians safely around the development. Trash cans and bike racks would be added to the streetscape.
Attendees left the meeting with handouts supporting the development from the Latin United Community Housing Association, the city's Department of Planning and Development, and the Greater Goethe Neighborhood Association's Zoning and Planning Committee.
The Goethe association is a volunteer group that addresses all zoning changes within the ward at Moreno's request.
"I refer to them to give me recommendations," Moreno said. "Ninety percent of the time we're in agreement."
The Goethe association voted to support the towers, but its one dissenting voter, Sally Hamann, spoke out at the meeting to affirm her opposition. She told DNAInfo she has lived in Logan Square for 35 years.
Next up, the proposal will go through the standard planning and approval process with the city before it can move forward.
Conversation continued after the meeting, with much of it centered on residents' behavior.
"I'm not sure it’s the best way to get community input, but I don’t know a better one," resident Carl Wasielewski said of the meeting.
Moreno said the full, updated development plan will be posted on his website this week.
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