JEFFERSON PARK — The tallest building in Jefferson Park will loom even larger than originally planned, Ald. John Arena (45th) said Monday.
The developers of a proposed mixed-use apartment tower at the corner of Lipps Avenue and Ainslie Avenue agreed to swap out 50 parking spaces for 11 more units in response to nudging from the alderman and city planning officials, Arena said. The revised plan includes 114 apartments and 200 parking spaces, with a top-floor "community room" offering an unobstructed view of Downtown.
At 15 stories, the tower would be at its tallest along the southern edge of the triangle-shaped lot and "step down" toward the Jefferson Park Transit Center at an even steeper grade than originally planned, Arena said. The original plan for the building topped out at 13 stories.
"Aesthetically it had this really monolithic impression, so we wanted to find a way to soften it and relate it to the things around it," Arena said.
The revision marked at least the second time the developers, from the group Mega Realty, agreed to provide more space for residents and less space for cars. The latter would discourage people from using the building as a "park-and-ride" to leave their cars before hopping on a train, Arena said.
"We need to activate our neighborhood and our economy, not bring people who will leave their cars and go somewhere else," the alderman said. "I understand the need for some people to drive to the transit center, but we can't develop just to serve a narrow group that's not even part of the community."
Residents of the apartments will be able to rent spaces in the built-in parking garage, according to Owen Brugh, Arena's chief of staff. The remaining spots will be open to visitors of the adjacent Veterans Square and Copernicus Center.
The tower is the flagship in a fleet of new housing developments whose construction Arena is pushing in downtown Jefferson Park, citing the need to bring life back to a dwindling commercial strip.
"We're looking for anchors that are going to drive a renaissance in Jefferson Park, that will encourage restaurants and businesses to locate here," he said. "But we also need to show that the transportation options are plentiful enough that you can live here without owning a car, that the amenities are plentiful enough for that."
Where the alderman expects multi-story buildings to draw newcomers to the area, neighborhood association president Bob Bank predicts the opposite.
"The height is objectionable — everyone for a mile in every direction would be looking at it from their backyard," Bank said. "I think the shopping area just really needs some more charm to get people to come here, and you're not going to get that with a repelling architectural design."
Another of Arena's landmark projects, a 48-unit apartment complex proposed for the corner of Long Street and Argyle Avenue, was given the green light by the City Council's zoning committee in November.
Both the 15-story apartment tower and a proposal for 40 housing units at 5102 W. Lawrence Ave. will likely go before the Chicago Plan Commission next month, Arena said.
Pending zoning changes after that, Arena said he hopes to see workers break ground on the tower sometime this spring.