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Residents Unhappy With X-Shaped Orleans St. Development Launch Petition

By Mina Bloom | August 6, 2015 5:41am
 LG Development Group wants to build an X-shaped, nine-story development in the 1400 block of North Orleans Street.
LG Development Group wants to build an X-shaped, nine-story development in the 1400 block of North Orleans Street.
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OLD TOWN — Residents around the 1400 block of North Orleans Street are formalizing their opposition to a proposed zoning change for the block with an online petition, which has gained more than 100 signatures within a few days. 

A change would be necessary to build a development above the height zoning currently allows, which is between 60-70 feet. Residents believe LG Development Group, the developer behind the project, should scale down its proposal and stick to the current zoning designations, C1-3 and B3-3.

The developers for the X-shaped building on Orleans Street seek a change in zoning to accommodate their proposal. [Provided]

"The majority of residents who live near the proposed development at 1400 Orleans, Chicago, IL understand and support a development on this site and have no major objections to the development being rental or condominium," the petition reads.

It continues, "Why does the current zoning need to be changed? There is no benefit to the community in changing the zoning or to allow for variances."

Similar comments and complaints came up at a recent public meeting, when LG Development Group shared its plans with the community to build a nine-story, X-shaped building made up of 250 residential units, including 120 studio apartments built alongside 85 parking spaces. The average size of a studio would be 365 square feet, while the average size of a one-bedroom would be 665 square feet.

Mina Bloom says some apartments would be under 400 square feet:

The developer 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.

The building would replace Chicago's last remaining riding hall, Noble Horse stable and theater, and an adjacent vacant lot in the 1400 block of North Orleans Street.

George Steffee, director for the foundation that owns Noble, said he doesn't resent the developer because Noble will probably be forced to close whether a development gets built in its place or not. 

Noble also has no say in whether a development gets built because it leases the property from a private individual, he said. Instead, Steffee blames the city for the inevitable closure, saying they've been slammed with so many unfair tickets that they can no longer pay rent.

"It's an irreplaceable historical site that'll cease to exist," he said. "Is it sad? Yes. But it's already done."

Built in 1871 after the Chicago Fire, Noble was renovated once in 2000 thanks to grants from the city and supporters, according to its website.

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), whose ward includes the development, told DNAinfo Chicago he doesn't support the current proposal, saying "500-square-foot units are too small."

The current proposal also conflicts with community group Near North Unity Program's guidelines for new developments in the area, which were established in February.

The guidelines state that new developments built in the Sedgwick corridor between Division Street and North Avenue, which is where the development is located, "should fit the scale of the corridor and neighboring properties on the block to keep the pedestrian friendly atmosphere of the area." Most buildings in that area fall between three and six stories, according to the document.

"I recommend that they follow the NNUP design guidelines that were a community-based document," said resident Paul Gaudette, who has been living in the neighborhood for 13 years.

Another resident who attended the meeting, James McLaughlin, said "none of this has anything to do with stopping the development." 

"Let's just make sure it's the right type and scale," he added.

By signing the petition, concerned residents like McLaughlin hope to show Burnett that they support keeping the zoning designation the same.

Since the last meeting, the developer hasn't brought an adjusted proposal to Burnett's office.

"They haven't come back to the table yet. They haven't redone their proposal or come back to see me," the alderman said. "Nothing is a go."

He added: "Whether they come back or never come back ... that's on them. They gotta readjust. They may find that it might not be profitable for them. We're just taking it a day at a time."

But Brian Goldberg, president of LG Developers, has said he's determined for the project to move forward no matter the modifications.

"This is an area that needs something, and it's not going to be a park," Goldberg said at the last meeting. "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."

Goldberg couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

There might be at least one way to make both the developer and residents happy, according to resident Ron Iori. 

He pointed to the privately-owned single-family home located in the middle of the site that is not a part of the developer's plans. In fact, he said the developer designed around the house by making it an X shape. 

If the developer were to buy the property, it "would have the ability to change the configuration of the building to make it a success under the current zoning," Iori said. In other words, he believes the developer could then change the shape of the building and build out rather than up, which would "give them what they need" without having to change the zoning designation.

Burnett said there's a chance the property owner will sell.

"Those two are going to talk and maybe he'll sell it," he said.

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