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Controversial Jefferson Park Tower Proposal Re-Emerges With New Design

By Alex Nitkin | May 2, 2017 9:31am
"Jefferson Place" would be built on the site of a former concrete plant, 4849 N. Lipps Ave.
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45th Ward Office; DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin

CHICAGO — A developer and city officials have settled on a final design for a 114-unit apartment tower that would peak at five stories taller than the next-tallest building in Jefferson Park, Ald. John Arena's (45th) office announced Tuesday.

The proposal for 4849 N. Lipps Ave. was first unveiled in September 2015 as a 12-story monolith in the style of the adjacent Veterans Square office building. But on Tuesday it emerged from 18 months of prodding by Arena and city planners with a staggered design aimed at tamping down its overall "massing," according to a statement released by Arena.

The latest version proposed by Mega Realty has the tower — now dubbed "Jefferson Place" — reaching 16 stories along the triangle-shaped property's southern edge, tapering down to six stories where it faces the Jefferson Park Transit Center to the north. At its highest, the building would stretch 211 feet into the air.

The tower would be anchored by 10,000 square feet of retail underneath a five-level parking garage with 200 spots. The ground floor would have room for up to eight separate businesses, according to Owen Brugh, Arena's chief of staff.

Above the garage would be nine floors including 71 one-bedroom and 42 two-bedroom apartments, topped off with a shared solarium and rooftop patio promising unobstructed views of Downtown. The one-bedrooms would measure between 810 and 1,150 square feet, and the two-beds would be between 1,210 and 1,460 square feet, Brugh said.

Arena did not specify how much it would cost to live in the apartments, but he noted that Mega Realty plans to charge reduced rents for 12 units, in accordance with the city's affordable housing requirements.

The design also includes 12 new trees and a cistern to keep the building's wastewater out of the city's sewer system, Brugh said.

If the proposal clears the Chicago Plan Commission on May 18, it will be the third and largest apartment complex approved near the transit center since last year, capping off a suite of development invited by Arena to breathe life into the neighborhood's business district.

In his statement Tuesday, the alderman wrote that a patio being planned outside the tower would be "perfect for a restaurant or cafe," adding that it would "help jumpstart the economic rebirth of Jefferson Park."

"This kind of building will attract residents wishing to downsize from single family homes once children move out, as well as young professionals who seek easy transit access to the Loop, O’Hare, and the suburbs beyond," Arena wrote.

But the project has been blasted since its unveiling by a large and vocal group of neighbors, led by the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association, whose members say the tower is unbefitting of a community dominated by single-family homes.

In January, neighborhood association president Bob Bank called the building's height "objectionable," saying "everyone for a mile in every direction would be looking at it from their backyard" — and that was before the solarium added an extra story to the tower's design.

But Arena considers the site of the tower, at a former industrial park sandwiched between the transit center and Veterans Square, far enough from homeowners to avoid ruffling feathers, Brugh said.

"The nearest home to this is across three Metra tracks, six lanes of the Kennedy [Expy.] and two Blue Line tracks — then you get to a house," Brugh said. "It's pretty far from single-family homes."

Arena asked constituents to bring their feedback on the proposal to Ward Nights, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays at his office, 4754 N. Milwaukee Ave.