48-unit apartment complex proposed for site at Long and Argyle near Jeff Park Metra station


Two five-story apartment buildings are being proposed for a former concrete company storage facility at the northeast corner of Argyle Street and Long Avenue.

The project is one of several redevelopment plans which are under consideration for vacant lots near the Jefferson Park CTA terminal and Metra station, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Most of the 48-unit apartment complex would be constructed on the former storage yard for Cowhey Materials and Fuel Company, 5342-44 W. Argyle St., which is across the street from the Metra station. Cowhey’s concrete-mixing plant was on the other side of the Kennedy Expressway at 4849 W. Lipps Ave., which is next to the CTA terminal.

Construction of seven single-family homes on the storage site and two more homes on the site of a neighboring two-flat was planned several years ago, but the project stalled due to the decline in the real estate market. The sites measure 28,635 square feet.

The apartment proposal calls for the properties to be rezoned from RS-3, which is intended for single-family homes and two-flats, to RM5, which would be the densest residential zoning in the area. The 5300 block of Argyle consists mostly of single-family homes and two-flats, but some larger multi-family buildings are nearby on Northwest Highway between Carmen Avenue and Long.

Plans initially called for one six-story building with five floors of units over ground-floor parking, but the plan was modified at the recommendation of an advisory panel of local architects which Alderman John Arena (45th) appointed, according to project attorney John Pikarski Jr. American Colony Homes is the developer for the project.

"This site gets its character from the embankment for the train and the CTA," Pikarski said. "From this site, you can get to the airport or Downtown with great ease."

The building would be separated by a 6,000-square-foot courtyard which would take up about 20 percent of the property. Pikarski said that the courtyard would complement a public plaza which the City of Chicago is considering for a city-owned vacant parcel along the expressway across the street from the site.

The apartments would have balconies, half of which would overlook the courtyard, and the facade of the building would have row house-style features, similar to a senior living complex that is under construction in the ward at 4117 N. Kilpatrick Ave., Pikarski said. "These are rental units, but they will be built to condominium standards," he said.

The units would measure about 1,100 square feet, and 51 interior parking spaces are planned for the ground floor, Pikarski said. Access to the parking would be from an alley.

Arena presented the proposal to board members of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association April 7. Some members said that the size of the building should be reduced and that residents on Argyle would object to the height and density of the building.

"We don’t like upzoning at all," association Zoning Task Force chairman Brian Wardman said. "That’s our policy. The prevailing zoning on that block is RS-3. They’re going to say that (denser) zoning is on Northwest Highway, but in my opinion that should have never have gone in."

Wardman said that single-family homes, two-flats and three-flats which have a garden apartment as a third unit would be in keeping with the neighborhood. "You would still be increasing density, but you would being doing it reasonably," he said.

Meanwhile, plans to build a parking garage and retail space on the other Cowhey site are being revived. A health club reportedly has been considered as a possible tenant. The 25,000-square-foot site at Lipps and Ainslie Street is being used as an 80-space parking lot for tenants of the Veterans Square office building, 4849 N. Milwaukee Ave.

The Mega Group owns the Cowhey site on Lipps and Veterans Square.

An application for a zoning change to allow construction of a six-story building with ground-floor storefronts and six levels of parking, including a rooftop deck, was filed in 2011, but both Arena and former alderman Patrick Levar would not support the plan. The Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association recommended that the site be rezoned to no denser than B1-2, which would limit a garage to two or three levels of parking.

At 68 feet, the garage would have been about half as tall the 10-story Veterans Square, as each parking floor would have been several feet shorter than a typical office floor.

Mega officials have argued over the years that a 299-space parking garage is needed to accommodate new tenants in the Veterans Square building and to facilitate the development of vacant parcels in the 5200 and 5300 blocks of Lawrence Avenue. A technical college which had considered opening a branch on Lawrence expressed interest in leasing space in the garage, according to Mega.

Mega reportedly also has been exploring a new plan for some of the vacant parcels on Lawrence. The City of Chicago acquired several of the lots in 2006 through condemnation and intended to resell the land to Mega, but plans to build a 132-unit condominium project there were dropped due to community opposition.

The city has required bidders for the city-owned, 11,250-square-foot parcel at 5201-09 W. Lawrence Ave. to redevelop the site under its existing B3-2 zoning, which would allow construction of a 50-foot-tall building. Arena has said that construction of multi-family developments is needed near commercial districts to assist with their revitalization.

Ideas that Mega is considering for its properties were discussed at a recent meeting of the association’s task force. Arena has said that he would not support a large parking structure unless it were part of a plan to redevelop the area.

These renderings by KLLM Architects show a proposed apartment complex at the northeast corner of Long and Argyle that features two buildings separated by a 6,000-square-foot landscaped courtyard. Each building would consist of four floors of rental units above a ground floor of interior parking. Some board members of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association recently expressed concern about the hight of the complex and the proposed RM5 zoning, which would be the densest residential zoning in the area.