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Uptowners Reject Turning Parking Lot Into Transit-Oriented Apartments

By Josh McGhee | October 23, 2015 10:00am
 The parking lot was seeking zoning changes to become a 4-story, 20-unit building.
The parking lot was seeking zoning changes to become a 4-story, 20-unit building.
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DNAinfo/Josh McGhee

UPTOWN — Developers hoping to turn a parking lot into a four-story building for renters were left shaking their heads Thursday night after neighbors rejected their rezoning proposal. 

What once seemed like a done deal for a transit-oriented apartment complex at 931-933 W. Belle Plaine Ave. is now seemingly dead in the water, after neighbors shot down the plan citing concerns about parking and construction traffic. 

The Belle Plaine lot is currently zoned RT-4, which allows two-flats, townhouses, low-density apartments and single family homes. The developer wanted that changed to RM-5, which allows medium-to-high density apartments. After a full presentation of the plans to the neighbors and an extensive question and answer session, 17 people voted against the new zoning, while six neighbors supported the plan. 

A 12-unit building could be built on the location without community input, since a zoning change would not be necessary. That idea is not currently on the table, a representative for the developer said, citing unfavorable market trends.

"I think we're going to weigh are options and go from there," said Katrina McGuire, an attorney for the developer.

The proposed property would have included a mix of 20 single-bedroom and two-bedroom units or housing for about 27 people. Changes to the Transit Oriented Development Ordinance allows developers to provide a 1:1 ratio of parking spots to residential units. The previous ordinance required a 2:1 ratio. The proposed property would have 20 parking spots and provide bike parking, developers said.

One bedroom apartments would start at $1850 and two bedroom apartments at $2500. Affordable Housing options would not be in available in the building, developers said.

During the meeting, neighbors voiced concerns about density in the area along with the rental properties bringing "undesirable tenants" — younger tenants unconcerned with preserving the quiet family friendly vibe of the block.

Kirsten Andersen, 25, moved into the neighborhood about six months ago and was one of the six votes to approve the zoning changes. For her, the meeting was "very disheartening," she said.

"It certainly seemed like they wanted to maintain the status quo, which isn't younger people. [The status quo] isn't the demographic building in the market and they were unwilling to accept that," Andersen said. "People came with their votes already made. I felt the offer was a very viable option that they presented well. The community was very close-minded about helping. They were focused on keeping their visual of the community."

In June, Ald. James Cappleman (46th) announced that the Buena Park Neighbors Association had supported the zoning change, but after other neighbors complained about the process, Cappleman agreed to another meeting.

That meeting in September packed over 50 residents into Michael's Pizza, 4091 N. Broadway St. to learn about the project in a similar fashion. The residents voiced concerns about parking, safety and keeping the current spirit of the block alive. After the meeting, Jean Dufresne, an architect at Space Architects and Planners, said the meeting felt a bit one-sided with residents lobbying concerns "that aren't necessarily relevant to anything a developer can do."

Cappleman decided to postpone a revote until the meeting Thursday, giving developers time to revise their plan. Dufresne presented colorful renderings of the proposed building including changes to bring trash indoors and provide an area for moving trucks — two issues that were voiced in the previous meeting.

Despite appreciating the "thought and work" developers put into the spot, Shawn Rutledge still voted against the proposal, saying he wished more residents had a chance to weigh in. 

"I'm not particularly pleased with how impromptu it was. I think there should've been a more extensive affair. For all I know, there may be a lot more people interested in that building than were here," he said.


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