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To Keep The West Loop 'Hot,' Buildings Are Bound To Get Taller: Alderman

By Stephanie Lulay | March 16, 2017 9:29am
 Union West developers now plan to build 358 apartments in two 15-story towers at Washington and Sangamon in the West Loop.
Union West developers now plan to build 358 apartments in two 15-story towers at Washington and Sangamon in the West Loop.
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bKL Architecture

WEST LOOP — After a heated meeting Wednesday night, a West Loop alderman said he has not yet decided whether he will support the latest plans for Union West. 

In a new plan that reduces height and the number of apartments, developers ZOM Mid-Atlantic & Verde Communities now aim to build 358 apartments in two 15-story towers at 935 W. Washington Blvd. 

New plans also call for a one-story building facing Madison Street.

Ald. Danny Solis (25th), said the West Loop is a "hot neighborhood" that's growing, and the developer has made concessions since meeting with neighbors in December. 

"If you look at most of the existing buildings that were here before development, they were all factory buildings. I think you can understand that we're not just going to have old factory buildings converted to residential. There's going to be some development, some height," the veteran alderman said. "I've got to think about it." 

Developers previously planned to build a 405-unit apartment project in three interconnected buildings — 17 stories, 15 stories and eight stories. But at a meeting in December, neighbors and leaders of three influential West Loop groups complained that the planned West Loop apartment complex was too tall.

Despite changes, some neighbors living near the site continued to voiced their concerns about Union West's proposed height and setbacks. 

"The larger concern is the fact that no matter how far back that setback is, or what landscaping is there, with 15 stories, you block the light," said neighbor Katie Buffone, who has lived at 14 N. Sangamon since 1999. "I'm more concerned that you are now putting these people in a cavern." 

But the development team said numerous concessions have been made to try to address neighbors' concerns.

"I think we've gone a long way in the right direction," said Richard Klawiter, a zoning attorney with DLA Piper. 

Under new plans, the development would feature 259 parking spots and 13,700 square feet of retail space and would top out at 167 feet, according to Angela Spadoni, associate director with bKL Architecture. One level of parking would be underground, and 64 parking spaces would be reserved for Haymarket employees and clients. 

Under previous plans, the developer aimed to build 232 parking spots and 8,000 square feet of retail space in a building that would top out at 189 feet. 

Before pitching 405 units in December, developers aimed to build 442 apartments at the site. 

[bKL Architecture]

Skinner West contribution

Developers plan to contribute $75,000 to Friends of Skinner West to help build a STEM lab at the school if the project is approved. If approved, a portion of the developer's $1.76 million contribution to the city's Neighborhood Opportunity Fund — about 10 percent — could also be used to fund school programs, said Andrew Cretal, senior vice president with ZOM Living. 

The developer is seeking a zoning change. As part of the new zoning, developers aim to contribute at least $1.76 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 site at Washington and Sangamon now houses a one-story building that is part of Haymarket addiction recovery center's campus and a parking lot on Madison Street.

If approved, the Union West plan would not impact 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. 

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. 

The project is designed by Chicago-based bKL Architecture. 

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