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After Neighbors Say Proposed West Loop Tower Is Too Tall, It Grows

By  Ariel Cheung and Tanveer Ali | October 19, 2017 6:22am | Updated on October 19, 2017 8:25am

 Since developers revealed new renderings of the proposed 17-story 855 W. Adams project in April, the building has grown another story taller.
Since developers revealed new renderings of the proposed 17-story 855 W. Adams project in April, the building has grown another story taller.
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FitzGerald Associates

WEST LOOP — A proposed 18-story apartment tower will head to the Plan Commission Thursday, one floor taller than when West Loop neighbors first declared it "too tall" earlier this year.

The development at 835-855 W. Adams St. is opposed by two neighborhood organizations and homeowners on the block. One resident said it would "completely destroy the look of the neighborhood" near Mary Bartelme Park if built.

Still, it lands in City Hall with the support of 25th Ward Ald. Danny Solis.

"This project draws an appropriate balance between the city's economic development needs and the area's existing character, as developed during the conversion of West Loop's warehouse [and] industrial district to its current vibrancy," Solis said in a statement. "This project addresses both city and ward needs."

RELATED: West Loop Neighbors Say 17-Story Apartment Tower Near Park 'Too Tall'

On Thursday morning, the commission will consider the request to rezone the site to allow for a 225-foot-tall apartment building with 289 apartments, 172 parking spaces and 258 bicycle parking spaces. It would also have ground-floor retail.

An existing eight-story office building on Jackson will remain unchanged. The developer would pay $1 million into the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund to increase the floor-to-area ratio.

A rendering from April shows what 835-855 W. Adams development could look like from street level. [Provided/FitzGerald Associates]

The building's height and number of apartments have increased since developers pitched the project in April at a meeting. Solis came under fire for not attending the meeting or sending a representative, and some neighbors remain frustrated with what they said is a refusal to hear their concerns from their elected representative.

"There's no ability [for neighbors] to meaningfully participate in the process," said Luke DeMarte, who lives at Adams and Sangamon. "The fact that the alderman had the opportunity to engage with his constituents and chose not to shows a real disregard for what the people in the neighborhood care about."

A DNAinfo 3-D map of planned developments shows the proposed height of a mixed-use building at 835-55 W. Adams St., with a 17-story apartment project on the former H2O site also shown in blue nearby. [DNAinfo/Tanveer Ali]

Via a spokeswoman, Solis declined to answer questions about the project. That spokeswoman referred to the West Loop design guidelines as one way in which neighbors have input into all proposed developments.

CHICAGO VISUALIZED: How Tall Will New Buildings In My Neighborhood Be?

The guidelines, which the Chicago Plan Commission adopted in September, are meant to address concerns about existing character and scale of buildings in the West Loop, number of units and height and street-level access to sunlight.

But the recommendations are not mandatory.

The guidelines suggest developers build taller, thinner buildings with designs that are compatible with existing structures, but don't "encourage mimicry or replication of historic building designs." Taller buildings should have an upper level set-back "where possible" in line with existing building heights to allow for more street-level sunlight.

In response to neighbors' concerned voiced in April, developers revised the plans to include a greater setback from Adams Street on the third floor, the alderman told the Neighbors of West Loop.

The building also added the extra floor in order to relocate apartment units to hide the second and third floor garage from the building front, Solis said in his letter. Concerns about shadows on the park and traffic on the alley were reviewed, "and no significant impact was found," he said.

A 2016 rendering shows a preliminary design for 845 W. Adams St. [Provided]

The 855 W. Adams site is about a block from a proposed 17-story, 586-apartment project at the blocklong H2O site at 845 W. Madison St. In June, the city's Committee on Zoning approved the $100 million-plus luxury rental project.

Two neighborhood groups are opposed to the project. The West Loop Community Organization's board of directors said Wednesday that the height was not appropriate for the location. Solis was unaware that the organization did not approve of the project, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

She declined to say whether the alderman would delay the hearing as a result.

The Neighbors of West Loop organization asked Solis to delay the Thursday hearing to allow neighbors a chance to discuss the revised plans.

"Lacking this community meeting, based on the significant community opposition and the lack of project information provided by the development team, we are unable to support this project," wrote Matt Letourneau, chairman of the group's development committee.

Neighbors of West Loop said last year that the building — then proposed as 168 feet — was too tall and dense. The group recommended a height closer to 90 feet and also asked that developers contribute to maintenance of the nearby Mary Bartelme Park.

Developer Crayton Advisors and architect firm Fitzgerald Associates did not return requests for comment Tuesday.

To several neighbors, the alderman's lack of engagement with them stung worse than the designs they felt were an ill fit for the site.

"I don't think anyone is begrudging the construction of a new building, but this is such a departure," DeMarte said. "If after community voices have been heard, the decision is to go forward, that's OK with me. But there just hasn't been any of that."