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Is Lawrence Changing Too Quickly? Neighbors Call For Development Moratorium

By Patty Wetli | March 24, 2017 9:24am
 Lawrence Development 2200 Block
Lawrence Development 2200 Block
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LINCOLN SQUARE — More than a half-dozen new developments, totaling 260-plus housing units, have been proposed for Lawrence Avenue in the last year — and that's too much change, too quickly, neighbors said at a community meeting Thursday night.

An open house for residents to review the two newest proposals — a 24-unit apartment building and a 12-unit condo building, both in the 2200 block — turned heated as neighbors vented their frustration not only over the projects at hand, which they said would just add to congestion and parking woes, but to the lack of an overall plan for the future of Lawrence.

"We want a neighborhood approach to development, not just 'Let's fill up every lot,'" said Joanna Brown, one of nearly 50 residents who attended the open house.

Neighbors are being asked to consider projects piecemeal, including a massive redevelopment of the Chase Bank site, rather than being presented with a holistic consideration of issues such as affordable housing, sustainability and traffic, said Brown.

"How about a moratorium until there's a plan?" asked Jim Bransfield.

Ernie Constantino, director of planning and development in the 47th Ward office, said he would take neighbors' concerns back to Ald. Ameya Pawar, who has been a supporter of increased density on Lawrence.

But density, residents argued, is out of character with Lincoln Square.

"There's a different feel in this neighborhood" that people feel "is being threatened," said one attendee.

The proposed apartment building, being planned as a transit-oriented development with just six parking spaces for 24 units, drew the most ire from residents.

Though Rolando Acosta, the zoning attorney for the project, cited statistics about decreased car ownership among millennials and said such developments tend to "self-select" tenants who don't drive, many residents weren't buying his argument.

Lincoln Square isn't Wicker Park or Lincoln Park, they said.

"You need a car to really operate fully in this neighborhood," said Greg Bond.

In proposing the maximum density with the minimum parking — which would require a zoning change — developer Contemporary Concepts, represented by Ziad Haddad, had seriously misread the neighborhood, according to resident Michael Levick.

"There's an integrity to this neighborhood. This is not going to fly," said Levick. "This is so foreign to the values of the neighborhood."

Haddad balked at residents' request for 24 parking spaces, but expressed a willingness to compromise. 

"We're not trying to destroy your community," he said.

The 47th Ward office will be accepting comments — via email, phone or in person — on the proposed developments for the next two weeks, according to Constantino.

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