RAVENSWOOD — If residents are concerned that the Ravenswood Industrial Corridor is losing its historic manufacturing grit, they missed an opportunity to say so at a public forum specifically held to gather their opinions on the subject.
Scarcely a soul turned out for a community meeting Thursday night to discuss a proposed zoning change that would permit the development of residential units at 4801 N. Ravenswood Ave., better known as the Newark building.
When electronics distributor Newark decided in 2013 to take its 350 employees and decamp to shinier digs in the West Loop, Joe Hayes, who owns a string of properties in the industrial corridor, snapped up the 135,000-square-foot brick building at the corner of Lawrence and Ravenswood.
His original intent was to chop up the building into dozens of offices, but as the market has softened for 1,000-square-foot offices, Hayes revised his plan to accommodate housing.
"I felt the market is saturated with smaller office users," while at the same time, the need for apartments is on the rise, Hayes said.
"There's demand in this neighborhood for housing that isn't ultra-expensive," added Warren Silver, Hayes' zoning attorney.
Though offices are allowed under the property's existing manufacturing designation, housing isn't, hence the need for a zoning change.
As Silver pointed out, the building was never a hub of manufacturing activity. It was constructed in the 1920s as the headquarters of the Chicago Northwest Railway, which it remained until 1980, when Newark took it over.
"It's not feasible to be adapted to manufacturing," he said. "So the question is, 'What do you do with this building that makes sense for the neighborhood?'"
If the zoning request is approved, plans call for one-third of the building to be converted to a total of 36 one- and two-bedroom apartments, which would be situated on the building's south side.
Rents are expected to range from $1,100 per month for an approximately 700-square-foot one-bedroom, to $1,600 per month for an 1,100-square-foot two-bedroom.
The remainder of the building would be devoted to offices, creating what Silver called a "synergy" for work/life use.
"People can work where they live, live where they work and walk to their destinations," he said, citing the Ravenswood Metra station, Mariano's and Lawrence Avenue streetscape as further draws to the location.
Hayes has agreed to a covenant on the building that would prevent any change in the number of apartments. Preserving the building's offices minimally maintains the building as an industrious, if not industrial, site.
No timeline was given for the project, though renovation work such as window replacement is already underway.
Those unable to attend Thursday's meeting who would still like to weigh in on the zoning change can email their thoughts to the 47th Ward office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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