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Jefferson Park Gateway Plan Rejected by City, Project in Jeopardy

[45th Ward Office]

JEFFERSON PARK — Less than 48 hours after Ald. John Arena (45th) unveiled an effort to transform blighted land into a "grand gateway" into Jefferson Park, the project hit a major roadblock Tuesday when a city commission rejected the plan.

The Community Development Commission rejected a plan to give Mega Realty, led by Demetrios "Jimmy" Kozonis, a piece of city-owned land worth $530,000 on Lawrence Avenue near the Kennedy Expressway as part of an effort to build a 39-unit apartment complex with 11 shops.

Arena said Tuesday evening he and his staff "would work to identify the reasons for the [commission's] decision, and explore options to keep the project alive."

"Make no mistake, I am not giving up on this initiative, which would help revitalize the downtown Jefferson Park commercial district," Arena said.

A representative for the commission, which typically approves projects that have already been vetted by city planners, could not be reached late Tuesday evening.

The four-story project at 5161 W. Lawrence Ave. and 5201 W. Lawrence Ave. would be built on a lot that has been vacant for nearly 15 years after city officials tore down a tire shop, a bank and a two-flat apartment building to make way for a seven-story, 132-unit condominium complex that was never built.

[45th Ward Office]

The project would include space for 11 stores on the ground floor, with 41 parking spaces in an indoor garage for residents and 21 parking spaces for shoppers. A public plaza would also be built between Laramie and Avondale avenues, according to a project rendering.

Because the project is expected to generate $175,000 in sales and property taxes a year once it is completed, it makes sense for the city to give Mega Realty the land, Arena said, calling it "a good deal for everyone involved."

Arena said he hoped a community meeting planned to discuss the project would still take place at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave.

Complicating the issue is the time crunch that Arena said is facing the project.

The project must be approved before Oct. 13, when a new city ordinance will require developers of projects like the one proposed for Lawrence Avenue to be set aside four apartments for low-income residents, Arena said

The current law allows the developer instead to choose to pay a $400,000 fee and build one affordable apartment or condominium elsewhere on the Far Northwest Side.

The new law would increase that fee to $500,000, in addition to the apartment, making the project not financially feasible, officials said.

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