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Wicker Neighbors Say 4-Story Condos Will 'Steal' Sunlight, Ruin Area Charm

By Alisa Hauser | January 11, 2017 1:55pm
 The six condos would span a double lot. Developer Peter Stevens needs an "upzone" in order for the project to happen as planned.
Proposed 6-Unit Condo Building at 1614 N. Winchester Ave.
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WICKER PARK — More than two dozen neighbors of a proposed six-unit condo building on a street inhabited by single-family homes and vintage two-flats rallied against the project at a community meeting Tuesday night.

Nearly 30 Wicker Park residents attended the meeting, hosted by 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins' chief of staff Jose Rivera Jr. at First Bethlehem Church, 1649 W. Le Moyne Ave. The meeting was for residents to share feedback with the developers and Hopkins, who would need to approve a rezoning request to allow the project.

"This project will steal all of our light. Our sweet little backyard will virtually be in a canyon," said Donna Kirchman who, with Sue Berry, owns a single-family home built in 1895 located next to the proposed condos.

Kirchman, who lives at 1612 N. Winchester Ave., said the proposed condos are "dramatically out of scale" and out of character for the block.

Peter Stevens, owner of Forma Construction, represented the lot owners, Residential Dynamics Group, which needs the zoning change to build the four-story condo building over a double lot at 1614 -1616 N. Winchester Ave.

Currently, the lots on the block are zoned for residential single-family homes. The double lot's new owners — three investors from Residential Dynamics Group (Bong Yung Lim, Brett Moore Jr. and Joseph Chang) — want permission to build a larger building than what's allowed on the block.

According to county and state records, Lim, Moore Jr. and Chang bought a home at 1614 N. Winchester Ave. and a yard next to it at 1616 N. Winchester Ave. for $1.45 million on Nov. 10, 2016.

If everything goes as they planned, the three would demolish the home and work with Forma Construction to build the six condos.

Designed by architect John Hanna, the homes would be brick masonry with a vintage-inspired facade to mimic century-old homes on the block. The two- and three-bedroom condos would start around $600,000, Stevens said.

Though the design shared at the meeting by Hanna showed what looks like a 3-story building, Hanna later clarified that the building has a 4th floor that is "set back" and was not visible in the rendering. 

By a show of hands, the group informally voted against the rezoning request, 28-2.

Last week, about 20 residents informally voted to opposed the rezoning during an informal vote at the Wicker Park Committee's monthly meeting, according to that group's chairman, Ed Tamminga.

The biggest concern is that approving a zoning change to allow a bigger structure would set "a dangerous precedent" for a block of single-family cottages and homes, said Tamminga.

"Any upzone on this property would create teardown pressure on many of these smaller cottages," Tamminga added. 

In addition, Tamminga said that the height and size of the project was inconsistent with the scale of the neighborhood.

The alderman was not at the meeting on Tuesday, but Rivera Jr. said he would take the feedback to Hopkins, and it will be considered as Hopkins makes his decision on the zoning change. A zoning change needs City Council approval, too.

After the meeting, Stevens said he was still "digesting the feedback" and declined to say more. Chang was at the meeting but did not comment.

The proposed six-unit condo building would be the tallest on the 1600 block of North Winchester Avenue. [John Hanna Architects]