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H2O Apartment Plan Likely To Get Burnett OK, But Height Of Towers Irks Some

By Stephanie Lulay | February 3, 2017 6:49am

[GREC Architects]

WEST LOOP — With just a "couple of kinks" to address, a Chicago developer's plan to build nearly 600 apartments at the former H2O Plus site will likely be approved, a West Loop alderman said Wednesday night. 

In a new layout topping out at 17 stories, The John Buck Co. now plans to build 586 luxury apartments at the block-long H2O site, 845 W. Madison St. Under previous plans, the developer planned to build 627 apartments at the prominent site bound by Madison, Green, Monroe and Peoria streets.

The $100 million-plus luxury rental project would be a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and 14 duplexes wrapping the parking garage. New plans call for 293 parking spots, 10,000 square feet of retail, a private amenity deck, pool and an art wall on Green Street to be developed on the two-acre site. 

Under new plans, the developer still aims to build two towers atop a two-story parking podium — a tower at the northwest corner of the site that would be 16 or 17 stories and a southeast tower that would range from 6-16 stories. Fourteen duplexes would be on the site's southwest corner near Mary Bartleme Park, said Chad Broderick, vice president of development at The John Buck Co. 

The developer revealed a new site plan for the former H2O Plus site Wednesday night. [The John Buck Co.]

While the developer is still negotiating plans with nearby condo associations and West Loop community groups, Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said overall he approves of the latest plan and is likely to support it. 

"It seems like, you know, we've come along way, so it seems like there's just a couple of kinks to adjust," Burnett said. 

A rendering shows what the northwest corner of the H2O redevelopment could look like. [GREC Architects]

But Mary Bartelme Park advocates who live near the 845 W. Madison St. site worry that a planned six-story structure kitty–corner to the park could negatively impact "the feel" of the park. Under a previous proposal, a two-story parking podium was proposed on the southwest corner closest to the park. 

Armando Chacon, president of the Mary Bartelme Park Advisory Council, said that he opposes the new plan for a six-story structure. He asked the developer to consider reducing the height or setting the building back farther from the street.

"I know that we are not to make decisions based on views," said Chacon, who also serves president of the West Central Association. "But community view, and the feel [of] the park, I see as an entirely different standard." 

Broderick said that the development team is open to exploring moving the building back five more feet from the park. 

A rendering shows what the southwest corner of the H2O redevelopment could look like. [GREC Architects]

At Burnett's request, 10 percent of the apartments would be affordable units, exceeding the city's requirement, Broderick said Wednesday night. 

The developer is also in talks with the Chicago Department of Transportation to install a traffic signal at Madison and Peoria, but the city has not committed to the infrastructure upgrade yet. 

Without improvements, adding so many apartments that would further strain the surrounding infrastructure is a concern, said Matt Letourneau, development chairman of Neighbors of West Loop.

"We understand that the West Loop is a generator for economic activity and prosperity across the city, across the region, and we want to keep that going. But at the same time, we need to make the infrastructure is in place for it," Letourneau said. 

After the meeting, Carla Agostinelli, executive director of the West Loop Community Organization, said she appreciated changes the developer made to the project, but her group has not yet issued a formal stance on the project. 

In July, the developer aimed to build two towers atop a two-story parking podium — a 17-story tower at the southwest corner of the site and a 15-story tower at the northeast corner of the site. But after resistance from West Loop neighbors, Burnett told the developer to go back to the drawing board. 

"You've got to think about bringing the buildings down and maybe less density," Burnett said at the time. "And then we will talk."

RELATED: 17-Story West Loop Tower Plan Rejected by Ald. Burnett Amid Complaints

Before the two-tower plan, the developer planned to build four towers at each corner of the property anging from 13-17 stories. 

The John Buck Co. aims to contribute at least $2.5 million to the Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus fund, a new city initiative that allows developers to build bigger and taller projects in an expanded downtown area to support commercial projects in blighted neighborhoods.

The 845 W. Madison site also borders Merit School of Music and Mariano's.

The H2O Plus building at 845 W. Madison St. in the West Loop. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]