CITY HALL — A proposed six-story, 50-unit Old Town apartment building was approved Friday over the objections of Burton Place residents who argued it "endangered" their historic landmark district.
LG Development Group won zoning changes for a proposed building at 1435-43 N. Wells St. from the Zoning Board of Appeals. But Burton Place resident Alan Artner testified it "endangered" the historic district created only last year by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and the City Council.
Artner argued that allowing 15 parking spots and a less space along a U-shaped back alley between the building and the Burton Place Historic District risked "clogging a compressed alley" that was a little more than 7 feet wide at its narrowest, allowing for telephone poles and dumpsters. Without raising objections to the actual building, he said it was a matter of "safety, damage and noise."
Joe Favre testified that his Burton Place coach house was already in danger.
"The back of my house," he said, "has been hit repeatedly."
Lisa Mayntz said moving the new building's east facade to within 5 feet of the alley would leave Burton Place increasingly in the shadows and would make for "a significant change in the feel of our apartments there."
Both Artner and Favre asked the zoning board to deny or at very least force changes to the plans for the building.
"Please help us effect some sort of compromise," Artner said.
The board, however, approved the development.
Architect George Sorich said designs for the building had already been changed four or five times in response to community input.
"We have done the best we can," said Rolando Acosta, attorney for LG Development, adding the plans submitted to the zoning board already constituted a "compromise."
According to Acosta, the three changes the development sought — to reduce the number of required parking spaces in a basement garage from 50 to 15, to reduce the distance between the building and the alley from 30 feet to 5 feet and to remove the requirement for a loading dock — were all intended to actually reduce alley traffic and had been endorsed by the Chicago Department of Transportation.
Acosta said the building could have offered as few as eight parking spaces under the city's "transit-oriented development" rules that allow buildings close to public transportation to offer far fewer parking spots than normally required of a building of their size. But Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) and other community groups insisted on 15 to minimize the need for street parking.
"We understand their point," Acosta insisted. "By reducing the parking, we are reducing the traffic in the alley." He argued that the alley was a uniform 12 feet otherwise, and that the building wouldn't have dumpsters in the alley as all trash would be kept indoors.
"How else am I going to get cars to the site?" Acosta said.
Zoning Board Chairman Blake Sercye challenged Burton Place residents on what they would accept.
"Is there anything that could be built on this area that you all would permit?" Sercye said. "Isn't this always going to be a problem?"
Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, came to their defense, calling Burton Place "a fragile group of buildings" and adding, "We do support the residents."
It wasn't enough, however, to sway Sercye or the other members of the board.