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Controversial Uptown Development Gets Zoning Approval Despite Opposition

By Josh McGhee | February 11, 2016 5:42am
 Developers will be able to begin acquiring licenses to begin the development after the City Council meeting in March, officials said
Developers will be able to begin acquiring licenses to begin the development after the City Council meeting in March, officials said
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JDL Development and Harlem Irving

CITY HALL — A controversial high-end residential development in Uptown cleared another key hurdle with the city on Wednesday.

The $125 million project, which will bring 631 units to the former site of Maryville Academy and Cuneo Hospital, has been met with opposition concerning affordable housing, historic preservation and TIF funding since it was first proposed.

The city's Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards voted on Tuesday about zoning changes for a development proposed for the Clarendon/Montrose Tax Increment Financing District. The project proposed by JDL Development and Harlem Irving Companies won final approval with "yes" votes from Aldermen Danny Solis (25th), Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), Deb Mell (33rd), Toni Foulkes (16th), Matt O'Shea (19th), Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Tom Tunney (44th) and Ald. James Cappleman (46th). Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) and Ald. Ameya Power voted against the zoning change, according to the office of Solis, who's served as the chairman of the committee since 2009.

The planned development designation "is required for certain projects to ensure adequate public review, encourage unified planning and development, promote economically beneficial development patterns that are compatible with the character of existing neighborhoods, allow design flexibility, and encourage the protection and conservation of the city's natural resources," according to the City of Chicago website.

According to Aldertrack, discussion Tuesday took up the bulk of the meeting including: "more than two hours of testimony, close to two dozen public witnesses, one room change, and one mid-meeting closed door session."

Opponents rehashed issues that have made the project so controversial including that the demolition of what some consider a landmark, the use of TIF funds for the project and that the project only meets minimal affordable housing requirements. Proponents said they were happy to see development on the vacant, tax-exempt site, which they argue is an eyesore.

During his testimony, Cappleman said the site will generate $2 million to $3 million a year in taxes. “Without this project our community will continue to have a boarded up, vacant building that brings more crime to this neighborhood that is already incredibly overburdened,” he said, according to Aldertack.

JDL is proposing 20 units of affordable housing, or about five percent of the planned units. Because the project resides in a TIF district, that ratio meets the minimum onsite requirement.

But owners would have to pay an "in lieu" fee to satisfy the city-set ideal requirement of 20 percent low-income housing. Developers would pay $5.7 million to the Chicago Low Income Trust Fund to satisfy the requirement.

Developers will be able acquire licenses to begin the development after the City Council meeting in March, Solis' office said.

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