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Jefferson Park Gateway Project Revived After Affordable Housing Units Added

[45th Ward Office]

JEFFERSON PARK — A plan to transform blighted land into a "grand gateway" into Jefferson Park has new life after the developer agreed to set aside four of the project's 39 apartments for low-income residents, Ald. John Arena (45th) said Thursday.

Less than 48 hours after Arena unveiled the long-in-the-works plan earlier this month, the city's Community Development Comission rejected the plan that called for the city 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.

The commission will reconsider the project at its meeting scheduled for 1 p.m. Sept. 8 in the council chambers at City Hall, Arena said.

The four-story project at 5161 W. Lawrence Ave. and 5201 W. Lawrence Ave. would be built on empty lots that have 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.

"I do not take subsidies of any kind lightly, but given the current market conditions and the fact that these long-vacant parcels have held back development in the Jefferson Park shopping district, this is a good investment for the city and our neighborhood," Arena said. "This reduced land cost makes sense because the project will ultimately be an economic engine in an area that is otherwise barren."

Before the commission's meeting, Arena will host a community meeting to gather feedback on the proposal at at 6:30 pm Wednesday at the Jefferson Park Police District Headquarters, 5151 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Kozonis, who is out of town, did not return a phone message left Thursday.

The $16-million 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 3,500-square-foot public plaza would also be built between Laramie and Avondale avenues, according to project renderings.

[45th Ward Office]

The project is expected to generate $175,000 in sales and property taxes a year once it is completed, Arena said.

While Kozonis originally planned to pay a $400,000 fee instead of providing four affordable housing units as part of the development, the project has been revised to include the units, said Owen Brugh, Arena's chief of staff.

Two of the units will have two bedrooms and two will have one bedroom, Arena said.

The apartments will be rented at 60 percent of the rental market rate for 30 years, Arena said. The median one-bedroom rent in Chicago is $1,670, according to a report by zumper.com, a rental agency that says it offers 8,200 apartments in Chicago and Evanston listed on its site.

"This represents an estimated cost to the project of $2.6 million over that time," Arena said.

Arena has said project must be approved before Oct. 13, when a city ordinance will increase the affordable housing fee the developer must pay to $500,000 while requiring at least one apartment to be provided on site.

Under the new ordinance, the project would not be financially feasible, Arena said.

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