OLD TOWN—More than 100 neighbors packed the auditorium of Immaculate Conception School on Monday to share their thoughts on a nine-story apartment complex planned for the 1400 block of North Orleans Street.
Concerns and complaints abounded, including that the new building would be a noisy addition to the mostly family filled area. But the hottest topic at the meeting, hosted by Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) and the Old Town Merchants and Residents Association, was traffic.
"The building that's there now is old and decaying, and definitely needs to be redeveloped — most people are in agreement on that," said Robin Iori, who owns a home nearby. "But traffic and parking are already such an issue on that block ... and with a building of that size, with so few spaces available, it's a serious concern."
In their presentation of the plan for the building, representatives of LG Developers described a chic, glassy X-shaped building that would take up nearly an acre at the intersection of Orleans and Schiller streets. But many in the crowd roiled at the plan for 272 units, including 120 studio apartments, built alongside 85 parking spaces.
Brian Goldberg, president of LG Developers, said his group arrived at the figures after conducting studies and working with a traffic consultant.
"What we're seeing is that of the tenants we'd be attracting, 20 percent or less of them own cars," said Goldberg. "This is a much younger crowd we're talking about, and we're looking at the robust mix of public transportation around here, and the new Divvy bike stations."
LG Developers had originally planned to build even more units, with a higher proportion of 330-square-foot studio apartments, until members of the Old Town Merchants and Residents Association encouraged them to scale down. But for Burnett, whose approval is needed for the zoning change that would allow the project to move forward, the developers didn't go far enough.
"I think they're going to need to go back to the drawing board on this one," Burnett said after the meeting. "I'd like to see them bring down the number of units, and maybe make each one a bit bigger ... and hopefully they'll consider including a few condo units, too."
Like others at the meeting, Burnett said his biggest concern was traffic. But Burnett said he didn't sympathize with some of the objections raised, like the feat that attracting so many young renters would make a "frat house" out of the building.
"[Old Town] is already sort of a party area, and that's not going to change depending on which new people move in," Burnett said. "If young people can afford to live in this neighborhood, man, God bless 'em. When people say they're afraid of young people or renters ... I tend not to pay attention to those fears."
Goldberg said he'd consider the suggestions shared at Monday's meeting, including building a garage exit toward the busier Sedgwick Street, instead of the narrow Orleans Street. But no matter the modifications, he said, he's determined for the project to move forward.
"This is an area that needs something, and it's not going to be a park," Goldberg said. "This is what we think people want. Maybe not adjacent neighbors ... but what we're trying to say is this: people want to live here."
Also discussed at the meeting Monday was a proposal for a four-story apartment complex, housing eight units, to be built at 1453 N. Wieland St.
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