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Hundreds Slam West Loop Development, Forcing Alderman To Shut Down Project

By Stephanie Lulay | June 4, 2015 6:54am
 More than 300 residents slammed a planned development at 111 S. Peoria St. Thursday night at Merit School of Music in the West Loop.
More than 300 residents slammed a planned development at 111 S. Peoria St. Thursday night at Merit School of Music in the West Loop.
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DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay

WEST LOOP — Showing strong opposition to a planned 13-story apartment tower, West Loop neighbors had a simple message for Ald. Walter Burnett Jr.: "Just say no."

Waving signs and chanting, more than 300 residents packed an auditorium at Merit School of Music Wednesday night to fight LG Development's controversial plan to develop a 13-story apartment building at 111 S. Peoria St. The site near Mary Bartelme Park now houses a parking lot.

"Ald. Burnett, the only thing we want you to do is just say 'no,'" resident Sam Tenenbaum said at the meeting.

Burnett (27th) listened, saying that he wouldn't support the zoning change the developer was seeking.

"I hear you loud and clear. They are not going to do this development and will have to go back to the drawing board or whatever the case may be," the alderman said.

Stephanie Lulay discusses why neighbors are so upset:

Waving signs, hundreds of residents slammed a planned development at 111 S. Peoria St. Wednesday night at Merit School of Music in the West Loop. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

Representing LG Development, attorney Rolando Acosta presented plans to build 215 units and 177 parking spaces at the site. A rooftop pool was also planned.

Under the plan, the building would feature 81 studio apartments, 81 one-bedroom apartments, eight two-bedrooms apartments, 34 three-bedroom units and 11 four-bedroom apartments. Studio units would be roughly 495 square feet, and four-bedroom units would be 2,045 square feet, according to developer documents.

The developer was planning to rent the units for approximately $3 per square foot — or about $1,500 for a studio to about $6,100 for a four-bedroom, Acosta said.

LG Development planned to develop a 13-story apartment building at 111 S. Peoria St. in the West Loop. [LG Development]

The crowd opposed the developer's pitch, taking issue with the height of the building and the number of apartments. Neighbors said they did not want more rentals in the neighborhood and were concerned the new building could present safety issues for existing condo owners.

Kelley Smith, whose four-bedroom townhouse neighbors the west end of Bartelme Park, said the building wouldn't fit in with the immediate neighborhood, where condos and townhomes line the park.

"We want people who are going to be invested in the neighborhood. Whether it's micro units ... or students, small bedrooms, it is not the type of resident that most of us here represent," Smith said.

Acosta, who said developers worked hard to please nearby condo associations with conflicting requests, said the high-end rentals would be a positive addition to the area.

Tenenbaum, who serves as president of the 850 W. Adams Lofts condo association, said a group of neighbors who have opposed the project for months paid an attorney thousands of dollars to fight the proposed development. Neighbors also paid to create their own renderings, showing what the development might look like from park. 

"I'm reminded of the movie 'My Cousin Vinny' and the opening statement by Vinny,'" he said, looking at developers. "Everything that guy says is bull****."

A group of neighbors paid to have new renderings drawn of LG Development's planned 13-story apartment building at 111 S. Peoria St. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

Tenenbaum said neighbors would support single-family homes at the site, not expensive apartments that attract transient residents. He said the 111 S. Peoria project garnered more opposition from the community than any project he's seen in the last 15 years living in the West Loop.

"When [the developers] say they have responded to the requests of the community, no they have not. They are not listening to us," Tenenbaum said.

Bob Aiken, vice president of Neighbors of the West Loop, said the group had put in many more than 100 hours considering versions of the project, and still strongly opposes the plan.

"Zoning changes are not a right," Aiken said. "We've seen from experience that better projects come along."

LG Development partner Brian Goldberg said during the meeting that an office building could be built on the property without a zoning change.

In October, the developer pitched a building that would house 205 apartments. Those plans called for a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

LG Development does not currently own the lot.

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