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Can Wicker Handle More Studios, Less Parking? Development Worries Neighbors

By Alisa Hauser | August 19, 2016 9:21am
 Rendering of a proposed apartment building at 1665 N. Milwaukee, currently an empty lot after a building was demolished
Rendering of a proposed apartment building at 1665 N. Milwaukee, currently an empty lot after a building was demolished
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LG Construction/Our Urban Times

WICKER PARK — A plan to bring 32 studio apartments to the site of a recently demolished building has not impressed some Wicker Park residents, who expressed concerns about lack of parking and the "transient" nature of tiny apartment dwellers.

Representatives from LG Development and Construction met with residents at a public meeting on Wednesday hosted by Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) at First Lutheran Church, 1649 W. Le Moyne St.

Located at 1665 N. Milwaukee Ave., about a block north of the CTA Damen Blue Line L stop, the proposed 5-story, 32-unit building would have retail on the first floor and apartments on the upper levels. 

It would offer a mix of studios between 350 and 400 square feet, as well as larger "junior one bedrooms," according to Brian Goldberg, principal of LG Development and Construction.

 Proposed site of 32 studio apartments at 1665 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Proposed site of 32 studio apartments at 1665 N. Milwaukee Ave.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

Rents would be $1,250 for the studios and $1,450 for the larger units. There would be no parking, developers said, because the site is close enough to the L stop to qualify as a Transit-Oriented development.

Under the 2013 Transit-Oriented Development Ordinance, a real estate developer can offer fewer parking spots if a new residential project is located near public transit.

The ordinance has ushered in a flurry of new buildings that offer as many as 99 apartments with no dedicated parking, an issue that has divided neighbors.

Ari Elliott, a co-founder of Chicago Apartment Finders, which is also leasing out apartments in an LG Development building a few doors south — a 36-unit Transit-Oriented complex at 1647 N. Milwaukee — told a crowd of about two dozen that the demand for studios is increasing.

Elliot said that the handful of studios in the 1647 N. Milwaukee Ave. building were the first apartments to be rented, and said he is currently having difficulty renting out the property's larger units. 

Elliot said the target renters for 1665 N. Milwaukee Ave. would be people who would otherwise not be able to live in the neighborhood because of "the price point.”

"They are the future buyers, they get in and eventually buy homes and condos,” Elliott said.

After the meeting, Hopkins said he is working on a draft amendment to the Transit-Oriented Development ordinance that would "add additional incentives to avoid car ownership when residing in a [TOD] building."

Hopkins said the amendment would include requiring accurate marketing of units so that potential renters who own cars "can make informed choices about where to live."

Hopkins said he has not yet decided on whether he will support the plan to build 32 studio apartments.

"I support the concept of a residential Transit-Oriented project at that location, but I have not committed support for this specific project while it is still under review and additional design changes are considered," Hopkins said.

Two years ago, the proposed apartments were first introduced as an 8-unit luxury condo building. An "upzone' was granted for that project, but the condition of the long boarded-up building that would have housed the homes worsened, and it was demolished over the summer.

Goldberg, the site's new owner, said "there was no market for luxury condos on that stretch" of Milwaukee, which is competing with quieter side streets nearby.

After the meeting, Elliot said he searched both the Chicago Apartment Finders database and the MLS for studios for rent in the neighborhoods which comprise all of Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town and Logan Square, and found none available that would compete with this proposed development.

"There were zero studios in Wicker Park/Bucktown and a few vintage options in Logan Square in the $1000 plus-or-minus range. There was one building at 2293 N. Milwaukee Ave. with a 463 square-foot studio renting for $1,545 that was just listed three days ago," he said.

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