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'Jefferson Place' 16-Story Apt Tower Approved By City Council Committee

By  Alex Nitkin and Heather Cherone | June 22, 2017 1:18pm | Updated on June 23, 2017 11:28am

"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 — Construction of a 114-unit apartment tower in downtown Jefferson Park was unanimously approved by the City Council's zoning committee on Thursday, clearing the proposal's last significant regulatory hurdle.

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, standing five stories above the next-tallest building in the neighborhood.

The plan was first unveiled in September 2015 as a 96-unit, 12-story structure in the style of the adjacent Veterans Square office building.

But last month, it emerged from 18 months of prodding by Ald. John Arena (45th) and city planners with more apartments and 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 zoning change approved on Thursday represents 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.

As of this week, developers were still applying for construction permits for the projects at 5338 W. Argyle St. and 5201 W. Lawrence Ave., Brugh said.

"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.

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.

Fifteen people testified against at least some aspect of the proposal on Thursday, with several Jefferson Park residents telling the Zoning Committee that the project is too tall and too dense for the Far Northwest Side neighborhoods.

Association member Colleen Murphy, of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association said Arena had not consulted the residents who live near the development.

“We want to maintain the character of our community,” Murphy said.

Other speakers told the committee that the project’s “extreme density” would worsen traffic and overcrowding at area schools, which are already packed to the rafters, according to data released by the Chicago Public Schools.

At one point, opponents tried to shout down one of the three supporters of the project who spoke to the committee, prompting Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) to admonish them to be respectful.

Arena said the empty lots that dominate the area around Lawrence Avenue near the Kennedy Expy. are now hurting property values throughout Jefferson Park and the 45th Ward.

“We can no longer allow this status quo to continue,” Arena said. “I have heard the opposition. I am listening to the broad swath of my community that is demanding economic development.”

Arena charged association president Bob Bank — who told the committee that the development had too many parking spaces and was too dense — was motivated by racism and represented “a minority of the community.”

“2019 is what you do about it,” Arena said, answering a question posed by one of the opponents to the committee about what he could do to stop the approval of the development.

The zoning change that green-lights the proposal is expected to be passed without debate by the full City Council during its next meeting on Wednesday.