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Residents Vote Against 700-Unit Cedar Street Developments, But...

 Residents will be able to vote on the project in April, Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said.
Residents will be able to vote on the project in April, Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said.
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Courtesy of Booth Hansen

UPTOWN — Cedar Street's plan to bring 710 apartments to the northern portion of Broadway hit a major roadblock Thursday.

At a community meeting hosted by Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) and Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), Cedar Street Managing Partner Mark Heffron pitched the development to about 50 residents in the hopes of winning the community's approval to green light the project.

But after a lengthy question-and-answer session, the community voted against the project.

"Tonight's meeting showed what happens when all voices in the community are given an opportunity to speak and are given an opportunity to vote on the fate of their neighborhood," said Ryne Poelker, an affordable housing advocate who voted against the plan.

Residents clashed several times during the hour-and-a-half meeting at Furama Restaurant, 4936 N. Broadway, before voting 19 in favor and 27 against the proposal, which would replace the former Aon Insurance Building at 5050 N. Broadway, the building just north of it, a parking structure on the east side of Broadway, a lot on the corner of Winona and Broadway and a vacant structure behind the corner lot.

"The democracy put on display was refreshing," said Poelker, a familiar face at development meetings in the neighborhood. "Rather than a privileged handpicked minority having all the say, the silenced majority was given a chance to show their numbers and speak their grievances."

In the 46th Ward, affordable housing advocates have continually clashed with Ald. James Cappleman whether his panel of community advisors accurately represent the demographics of the neighborhood. In December, the 46th Ward Zoning and Development Committee firmly approved a 381-unit residential building planned for the Clarendon/Montrose TIF district after a series of heated debates.

The TIF development received only 4 no-votes, and one-third of the committee was absent at the time of the vote.

But Thursday's vote isn't the end of the road for the Cedar Street development, which began with the purchase of the Aon Building for $16.1 million in April.

"That pocket has been in need of redevelopment for over a decade," Alex Samoylovich, a managing partner at Cedar Street at the time of the purchase. "Now is the perfect time."

Pawar said he was undecided.

"I don't take a vote [in my ward]," he told residents at the meeting. "I make a decision and you hold me accountable."

The plans call for bringing more than 700 apartments, a large gym, a rooftop lounge, retail and an outdoor cafe to the 5000 block of North Broadway. Of the 710 new apartments, 107 would be affordable units spread evenly across the buildings.

Ensuring that 15 percent of the units would be affordable was important part of the negotiation, the aldermen said.

While some residents said the developers should increase the affordable housing offerings — considering Cedar Street has purchased several SRO buildings, including the Norman Hotel and the Lawrence House — Heffron said the company "is not in a position" to raise the amount of affordable units.

"After displacing [nearly] 1000 housing units of low-income housing units just within their own individual developments alone, this particular developer has lost the trust and respect from many people in the Uptown neighborhood," Poelker said about the affordable unit limitations Heffron described.

Osterman said his office will inform the community "how we're going to move forward."

Renderings of the project. [Courtesy of Booth Hansen]

The Aon building at 5050 N. Broadway. [DNAinfo/Josh McGhee]

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