NOBLE SQUARE — Dozens of impassioned Noble Square residents voiced their opposition this week to a developer's plan to build 160 apartments on land just off the Kennedy Expressway and behind the Polish Roman Catholic Union.
After the Tuesday night gathering in the Polish Museum of America, 984 N. Milwaukee Ave., host Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said the more than 100 residents were "loud and clear" in their feelings for the project. He said the developer needed to "go back to the drawing board."
Darren Sloniger, president of Marquette Coss, needs Burnett's blessing on a zoning change to build the five-story luxury apartment complex at the northeast corner of Noble and Chestnut streets.
From adding more traffic congestion to an already clogged Kennedy Expy. ramp to potentially raising taxes of surrounding properties and altering the character of the family-friendly enclave, the resident testimonies went on for almost an hour.
No one spoke in support of the zoning change that would be needed for the project, which was first introduced last year as a much larger 266-unit development.
Under the land's existing zoning, which mandates only single-family homes, the most that a developer could build on the 17 parcels spanning the 49,620-square-foot swath of land would be 34 duplex homes.
Many in the crowd, like resident Jim Boccarossa who would be living across from the proposed apartments, told Burnett they want to see what they consider family-friendly homes.
"The thing that we do propose are owner-occupied units. It promotes a community, it promotes having neighbors, it promotes people getting together, and that's what that [existing] zoning does," Boccarossa said.
Designed by Brininstool + Lynch, the building would have a 111-space parking garage, a bike storage room and "bike kitchen" where residents can make repairs to their bikes. It also would feature an outdoor pool and deck and a green roof, according to the site plan.
The building would offer 143 apartments, with the majority — about 70 percent — one bedroom, and the others two-bedrooms. Along the Walton Street side of the complex there would be 17 two-bedroom, two-bathroom "townhome style apartments" to fit more into the residential side street, Sloniger said.
Joseph Drobot, Jr. president of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, which is trying to sell the land, described the site at 1326-1372 W. Walton St. and 933-945 N. Noble St. as "fallow."
Currently, the western half of the land is an empty grassy field and the eastern half is a surplus parking lot for visitors to the Polish Roman Catholic Union and its tenant, the Polish Museum of America.
"We feel like we listened to the community. We feel like we created a quality development that will fit the context of the neighborhood," Sloniger said.
Karina Walker, a longtime resident, said traffic is "a nightmare" in mornings and afternoons.
"We have so much traffic already, you are proposing more cars. What about our kids who cannot walk around the park? Cars fly down Noble, they fly down Chestnut," she said, characterizing the project as "too big" and "too problematic for us."
"We are the community... I personally feel, you guys come in, I'm not going to be able to afford the taxes to raise my kids in the neighborhood that I love so much. I just feel like we are being betrayed. This is not what we want," Walker said.
Applause followed Walker's remarks.
After the meeting, Burnett said that the gathering met its goal.
"Everyone got their comments out. The developer heard loud and clear and can go back to the drawing board," Burnett said.
Drobot and Sloniger declined to comment on the status of the pending sale, which is contingent upon Sloniger getting a requested zoning change.
Rick Klawiter, Sloniger's zoning attorney, told DNAinfo that there are currently no next steps.
Sloniger filed a planned development application a few months ago but the project cannot move forward without a zoning change.