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'Jefferson Place' 16-Story Apartment Tower OKd By Commission For NW Side

By  Alex Nitkin and Heather Cherone | May 18, 2017 8:40pm 

"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

CITY HALL — The Chicago Plan Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve construction of a 114-unit apartment tower in downtown Jefferson Park, a structure that would loom five stories taller than the next-tallest building in the neighborhood.

The tower at 4849 N. Lipps Ave., dubbed "Jefferson Place," would reach 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 proposal was first unveiled in September 2015 as a 12-story structure in the style of the adjacent Veterans Square office building.

But earlier this month, it emerged from 18 months of prodding by Ald. John Arena (45th) and city planners with a staggered design aimed at tamping down its overall "massing," according to a statement released by Arena.

Developer Mega Realty designed the tower to include 10,000 square feet of retail space beneath 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 hosting 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-bedroom units would be between 1,210 and 1,460 square feet, Brugh said.

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

The proposal's passage by the commission on Thursday made it 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.

"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 in a May 2 statement.

The alderman added on Thursday that the proposal was "a good compromise," calling it "a rare opportunity to use density in the right way."

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 an ill fit for a community dominated by single-family homes.

The commission began considering the project at 4 p.m. on Thursday, six hours after the meeting of the advisory board began. Bob Bank, the president of association, said many opponents had to leave before the matter was even called for a vote.

But the day-long slog didn't stop association member Ron Ernst from testifying, calling the proposal "a terrible plan that will affect my quality of life.”

Bank, for his part, had called the building's height "objectionable," saying "everyone for a mile in every direction would be looking at it from their backyard."

Supporters, meanwhile, told the commission that the project would pump new blood into the heart of Jefferson Park by bringing new residents to the area.

The proposal will be considered for final approval by the City Council's zoning committee at 10 a.m. on Monday, right before an ad hoc meeting set to discuss a storage warehouse and 100-unit mixed-income apartment complex proposed for 5150 N. Northwest Hwy.