UPDATED 9/21/12: Raymond Valadez from the 1st Ward Office told this writer that the vote from the meeting was 21-21, but that there was also “a petition from six or seven residents who couldn’t be there that was in favor of the development.”
Of the petition, Valadez said, “It was exactly what we needed to get [the development] approved.”
When asked if the petition could be made public, I was told that residents can come by the ward office to see the petition but that they would not be making it public.
At a community meeting last night, more than 50 residents heard representatives from MCZ Development make their case for a revised version of a previously proposed rental residential development on Winnebago Avenue, starting at Leavitt Avenue.
But, despite the developers conceding residents’ previous requests for the reduction of the number of total units, and an increase in the amount of greenspace and setback, concerns about the proposed buildings at 1711 – 1755 N. Winnebago Avenue remain.
Residents expressed worries on issues such as increased density, increased traffic, decreased property values for homeowners, and the rezoning of the property itself.
They did so in a substantial, but frequently freeform back-and-forth between themselves and Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), who hosted the meeting, MCZ Development attorney James Banks, and project architect John Hanna.
After more than an hour of discussion, which included praise for the project, attendees then voted on whether or not to approve the revised development.
Unlike the last meeting in May, results were not tallied on site, and thus were not immediately disclosed. Pipeline is working on obtaining the results of the vote.
The alderman emphasized to attendees that “wasn’t happy with the first proposal” but that he was encouraged by the developers’ willingness to listen and respond to residents’ suggestions and concerns. Moreno then said he would vote to approve or disapprove of the project based on what his constituents said about it.
“I’m not going to make these decisions in a vacuum,” Moreno said. “I don’t think development at any cost is good, and I don’t think having the lot vacant is good either.
“Good, bad, indifferent, it’s your decision,” Moreno said, addressing residents. “I know this lot very well, but I’m here to listen.”
Once Moreno made his remarks, he then yielded the meeting to Jim Banks, who disclosed the changes to the proposed development.
According to Banks, instead of a three buildings, five stories apiece, with 54-unit residential rental units, the project is now a two-building, 50-unit rental residency with each building being four stories tall. From the previous 78 parking spots, there are now 28 parking spaces for each building—56 total–in an underground garage.
Of the rental units, there are sixteen, 1,600-square-foot three-bedroom units, at a cost of $3000 monthly per unit. Thirty-two of the total units are 1,400-square-foot, two-bedroom units, at a monthly cost of $2600.
The remaining one-bedroom apartments, at 1,100-square-feet, will be priced at $1800 for a month’s rent.
The buildings will have a total of four luxury apartments, a greenspace, which will push the building itself back eight feet. The developers will also put in stairs that lead to the Bloomingdale trail.
Residents popped up with new questions and concerns every time a new detail of the project emerged.
“How are you going to deal with traffic flow?,” resident Pam Sullivan, a lawyer who has lived in the neighborhood for 13 years, said. “28 parking spaces—that’s basically one space per unit. There are constantly problems already.”
“There’s tons of little children, dogs, people walking around,” Sullivan continued. “I don’t see how this is feasible with where it’s located in the neighborhood. It’s unsafe as it is right now. Traffic is out of control, and adding 50 units to a problem that’s not going to be fixed isn’t the best solution. It needs to be developed accurately. ”
Moreno responded by saying “with density, there’s increased traffic” but that he and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) would have the Chicago Department of Transportation do a study on how to better manage traffic flow around the area.
Banks said that a one-to-one parking ratio wouldn’t be result in full spaces.
Other residents were concerned about the rental aspect of the project.
“It’s tough when I’m a homeowner, and I’m watching units get rented out because people can’t sell,” Melissa Hellstern said.
“It’s affecting my home value, and now you’re flooding the market with more rental units. I think it’s unrealistic what you think you’re going to rent them for,” Hellstern said. You’re double hurting homeowners who’re trying to rent their units when they can’t sell.”
Resident (and real estate developer) Steve Lipe, on the other hand, took a more positive note, saying that the proposal was “the best of the four or five that went out there,” and credited the developers for “setting the building back.”
“It gives it a little bit of relief,” Lipe said. “It makes it a little more friendly to walk on the sidewalk.”
Once questions from residents were exhausted, the vote was taken, and residents were free to peruse the drawings brought by MCZ Development.
After the meeting, resident Rob Smoler said he was “strongly in favor” of the development
“There’s still crime problems, there’s still vagrancy problems,” Smoler said of the vacant lot where the proposed building is to be constructed. “It’s weird to think about in an area so developed as this, but it still happens. There’s also property crime too. This development will make the neighborhood safer, if anything.”
The nature of the residents’ vote is not yet known.