BUCKTOWN — A developer is seeking to demolish a long-vacant manufacturing building along Western Avenue to construct a 36-unit apartment building.
The property at 2435 N. Western Ave., has been vacant and a number of previous development proposals, including one that included a pawn shop, have fallen through over the past four years.
The major questions raised by neighbors at Monday night's meeting to consider a re-zoning of the property revolved around traffic issues, parking and the height of the building's effect on immediate neighbors.
The land where the project is being proposed is near an area with bad traffic during rush-hour, according to some opposition of the development, and would make it difficult to turn onto Western for both residents of the development and current residents of the neighborhood, located near the Kennedy Expy.
"That area is right at the foot of one of the biggest traffic bottlenecks in the city," said Scott Jacobs, a neighborhood resident who opposed the project.
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) admitted the traffic concerns were legitimate, but argued the positives of the project outweighed the negatives.
Moreno said several things led him to support the project, including the blight, trespassers and graffiti that the empty building attracts, as well as the city's need for new tax dollars.
"I've got to look at some development," Moreno said. "I've got to tell you, manufacturing is probably not going to go in there."
A measure to re-zone the property for the development was introduced to Committee on Zoning in November before a community meeting on the project, but was aldermen have yet to vote on it.
Moreno said he has received around 50 calls and emails from residents, but most were in favor of any development replacing the vacant building.
The sale of the property to developer Paul Dukach is pending the zoning change. A pending price was not disclosed during Monday's meeting, but a real estate listing priced the property at $1.45 million.
A previous developer sought to buy the land and build a development that included a pawn shop. That proposal was shot down by neighborhood opposition in 2012.
The latest proposal calls for 36 apartments, with the majority two-bedroom apartments that would rent for around $2,000. One-bedroom units in the building would rent for between $1,400 and $1,500, according to the developers.
The four-story project would include about 3,000 square feet of retail space in two storefronts on the bottom floor along Western, and 30 parking spaces in the back for residents.
"We waited four years or so for this and it's probably going to be another four, five years" if the developer is denied, Moreno said. "There are positives to it, but I'm not disagreeing, there are some negatives."
The meeting sparked a discussion on affordability not only in the 1st Ward, but also city-wide.
Moreno took questions from multiple attendees who wanted to know why he wasn't pushing for more than the required 10 percent of affordable units as well as why the developer wasn't considering making some of the units eligible for CHA vouchers.
Both Moreno and the developer said the project would not be possible financially if the developer was forced to make more than four of the apartments affordable housing.
Moreno has pushed for developers to include affordable units in their project rather than opt out and pay into a fund used to build affordable housing city-wide.
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