The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

17-Story Union West Project 'Too Tall,' Neighbors And West Loop Groups Say

By Stephanie Lulay | December 15, 2016 10:30am | Updated on December 16, 2016 8:47am
 Developers are pitching plans to build a massive 442-unit project in three buildings at the southwest corner of Washington and Sangamon. The site is part of the Haymarket Center's West Loop campus. 
Haymarket Site Union West development
View Full Caption

WEST LOOP — Neighbors living near a proposed 17-story development, as well as some West Loop groups, think the project is too tall for the neighborhood. 

At a Wednesday night meeting at Greektown's Crowne Plaza Hotel, which was attended by more than 100 neighbors, developers ZOM Mid-Atlantic & Verde Communities pitched plans for Union West, a 405-unit apartment project.

The developers plan to build the hundreds of apartments in three interconnected buildings — 17 stories, 15 stories and eight stories — at the southwest corner of Washington and Sangamon streets. The site now houses a one-story building that is part of the Haymarket addiction recovery center's campus and a parking lot on Madison Street. 

Renderings show that the tallest Union West building would top out at 189 feet. 

Brandy Brixy, president of the 14 N. Sangamon condo board, said she was "absolutely against" a 17-story building surrounding her home. Noting that more than 100 neighbors braved frigid temperatures to attend the meeting Wednesday, Brixy promised to fight the plan. 

"We are not happy, and we do not see the benefit," Brixy said to a round of applause from neighbors. "This is not a benefit to the residents who live in this neighborhood. This is not what we moved into, and we will engage politically in a process against it." 

Entrances to the residential buildings would be on Washington (A), (on Morgan B) and on Madison (C), according to a site map. An amenity deck would on the third level. [Provided to DNAinfo]

The transit-oriented development would feature a mix of studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. About 8,000 square feet of retail space and 232 parking spaces would be developed on site. 

Under the plan, about 64 ground-level parking spaces were reserved for Haymarket employees and clients and the remaining 168 parking spaces would be allocated to the building's residents, according to Angela Spadoni, an associate with bKL Architecture, the firm tapped to design the project. 

The two levels of parking would be located above ground, and the garage entrance would be located off Morgan Street.

Studios in the building would rent for close to $2,000 per month, and three-bedroom apartments would rent for about $4,000 per month, a representative for the developer said.

More than 100 neighbors attended a Wednesday night meeting at Greektown's Crowne Plaza Hotel, where developers pitched plans for Union West. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

Groups agree buildings are too tall

While neighbors spoke out against the project Wednesday night, three influential West Loop groups that vet development projects already had voiced their concerns about Union West's proposed height.  

The developers have scaled back their previous plan to build 442 apartments at the site. But under their latest proposal, and after receiving feedback from the three West Loop groups, the developers did not modify the height of the buildings. 

Armando Chacon, president of West Central Association, said the project presented Wednesday was too tall for the neighborhood. Chacon said he previously expressed his concerns about height to the developers. 

"We acknowledge that this is a different time in our neighborhood, and height standards as we know them are changing. We have a tolerance for more height," Chacon said. "All that being said, I don't think we're at the point height-wise and density-wise where we would be comfortable supporting this project." 

Dave Mooney, chairman of the West Loop Community Organization's development committee, said the group has requested significant changes to the plan.

"As it stands today, we would not write a letter of recommendation," Mooney said. "They knew it was going to be contentious, the height of the building." 

The Neighbors of West Loop development committee also determined the proposed building's height and density was "out of proportion" with nearby buildings.

Developers are pitching plans to build a 405-unit apartment project in three buildings at Washington and Sangamon. [Provided to DNAinfo]

The proposed development would be kitty-corner to the 11-story Circa 922 apartment building and a proposed 10-story condo project at 900 W. Washington. Andy Hider, who lives at 936 W. Madison, said the zoning the developers are requesting "would open up the floodgates to having other buildings of this size, 17 stories, [enter] the neighborhood."

"There's a lot to lose, not just for the immediate buildings, but the entire West Loop area," Hider said.

Jesse Levine with Verde Communities said the developer is committed to a "give-and-take process." 

"We've been getting a lot of input about the height and density," Levine said. 

Bob Gallo, who lives at 111 S. Morgan St., said the neighborhood's resistance to height isn't new. Over the years, neighbors have fought the 17-story Gateway apartment building, a now-under-construction 11-story condo building at 111 S. Peoria and a proposed 17-story apartment project on the former H2O site. 

"You guys march in with a 17 story building when you've heard 12 or 10 [from the community] over and over again. Let's be realistic about it," Gallo told developers. 

The site is in Ald. Danny Solis' 25th Ward. Solis was not at the meeting Wednesday night, but the alderman's legislative aide Nicole Wellhausen was there in his place.

The proposed Union West project from above. [Provided to DNAinfo]

McDermott Center not affected 

If approved, the Union West plan would not affect or displace existing operations at Haymarket Center's larger McDermott Center building, located across the street from the proposed development site at 932 W. Washington Blvd. 

In an August statement, a representative for the Haymarket Center board wrote that any proceeds from a sale would benefit Haymarket's mission to aid people with substance abuse disorders.

If sold, primary programming would continue at Haymarket's main building north of Washington Boulevard, board member Chris Robling said. Programs housed at the "surplus property," including the Wholly Innocents Day Care and the Heartland Health Outreach Clinic, would be moved to the main building or to a satellite facility, he said.

[Provided to DNAinfo]

The existing one-story building on the site houses some Haymarket Center programs. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here.