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Downscaled Apartment Proposal for Wicker Park Aldi Moves Forward

By Alisa Hauser | September 10, 2015 6:18pm
 A rendering of a new development that will feature 95 apartments anchored by an Aldi grocery store, a restaurant and bar and a cafe.
A rendering of a new development that will feature 95 apartments anchored by an Aldi grocery store, a restaurant and bar and a cafe.
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Hirsch Associates

WICKER PARK — A 95-unit apartment building anchored by an Aldi grocery store appears to be moving ahead after months of community meetings and design tweaks to what will be the first significant mixed-use project developed along the The 606's Bloomingdale Trail.

If everything goes as scheduled, work on Centrum Partners LLC's estimated $37-million project would begin in January and be completed by the end of 2016. The Wicker Park Aldi would be closed during the construction.

Located at the southwest corner of the Milwaukee and Leavitt intersection, Centrum Partners plans to build a 5.5-story mixed-use residential and retail development offering 95 apartments anchored by a 17,900-square foot Aldi.

The modern concrete and steel building, designed by architect Howard Hirsch, features a glass and aluminum metal panel exterior. The northern side of the L-shaped building runs along Leavitt Street, overlooking the elevated 2.7-mile long Bloomingdale Trail, and the southern side faces Milwaukee Avenue.

A restaurant and a cafe, not operated by Aldi, would also be part of the complex, which has current addresses of 1749-69 N. Milwaukee Ave. and 1733 -1745 N. Leavitt St.

Centrum Partners' Managing Partner John McLinden said that the group is "talking with a great coffee shop and a few potential restaurants," but all tenant negotiations over the site's 4,500-square-foot restaurant/cafe space are preliminary.

There would be 60 parking spots for Aldi shoppers at ground level and 56 other spaces below ground for the building's tenants.

The existing Aldi underwent a remodeling in 2012 and recently signed a 20-year lease.

Aldi's one-story building is "old school and set back, not very urban with surface parking," McLinden told about 30 residents at a public meeting hosted by Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) in the Bucktown-Wicker Park library, 1701 N. Milwaukee Ave., on Wednesday.

A rendering of a 95-unit apartment building anchored by an Aldi. [Hirsch Associates/Centrum Partners]

Wednesday's gathering was targeted toward the site's immediate neighbors who had expressed concerns about the building's height and density —  now reduced by nearly three stories and 33 units since the plan was first pitched as a 7-story, 128-unit project last October.

There was no opposition to the final plan from Churchill neighbors; several thanked McLinden and Centrum's team for working closely with them.

The final unit mix will be six studios, 49 one-bedroom, 34 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom apartments, with the overall per-unit average of 868 square feet.

Some Wicker Park residents again voiced their displeasure in the plan's lack of onsite affordable housing options.

Centrum Partners does not plan to offer any affordable housing in the building, and the firm is planning to pay $1 million to "opt out" of an ordinance that requires affordable housing.

The city's existing Affordable Requirements Ordinance requires that certain new buildings over 20 units either allocate 10 percent of units as affordable housing or pay $100,000 per unit to a city-managed trust fund that helps to develop low-income housing elsewhere. 

"I am disappointed that the developer is opting for the one-time payment 'in lieu' and Ald. Waguespack has not taken the opportunity to insist on the inclusion of onsite affordable housing in this 95-unit project. That is very different than what is happening with Centrum's up-zoned projects in the 1st Ward," said Teddy Varndell, a Wicker Park resident.

Varndell is referring to a 60-unit apartment building in the works at 1660 W. Division St. where Centrum has agreed to offer 6 affordable units on site.

Waguespack told the group that he is "doing things differently" than in the 1st Ward.

"In the 1st Ward, they are going, 'I'll give you more height and density if you give more affordable units.' It's just something frankly that I have not pushed," Waguespack said.

Centrum's proposed zoning change is scheduled to be reviewed by the city's 21-member Planning Commission on Sept. 17 and will go before the full City Council on Sept. 24.

Landscaping enhancements to be added to The 606.  [Centrum Partners]

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