Advisory board okays new apartments
by BRIAN NADIG
The 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Board at its Sept. 3 meeting voted 5-4 in favor of a project which would convert six vacant storefronts in a building at the southeast corner of Touhy and Caldwell avenues to apartments.
Advisory board member James Hankin, who represents the North Edgebrook Civic Association, expressed concern about insufficient parking at the site and recommended that the storefronts be rented for storage, noting that construction supplies are currently stored in some of the storefronts. Hankin said that there is no street parking available in the area.
Hankin, who voted against the project, said after the meeting that the ground-floor residential is not appropriate for the four-story building because there is a bus stop in front of the building and that the Village of Niles has plans to create an entertainment corridor on the north side of Touhy. He said that residents he has spoken to oppose the proposal.
Board member Terrence Shannon, who voted for the proposal, said that no residents spoke against the project at either of the board’s two meetings on the project. "There’s absolutely nobody here to oppose it," Shannon said. "That leads me to believe the neighborhood supports it."
Since the building at 6419-25 W. Touhy Ave. was constructed 7 years ago, all but one of the ground-floor storefronts, which measure between 600 square feet and 815 square feet, have remained vacant. Project representatives said that rents as low as $750 per month, with the first three months free, have been offered for the commercial spaces but that prospective tenants have said that there is not enough parking and that efforts to lease additional parking at the adjacent Edgebrook Motel, 6401 W. Touhy Ave., have failed.
There are 30 on-site parking spaces, and under the proposal one parking space would be reserved for each of the apartments. There are 18 two-bedroom condominiums on the upper floors of the building.
At the request of the board, decorative wrought iron bars would be installed along the bottom on the storefront windows to give the first-floor facade more of a residential look. The bars would create the feel of a Juliette balcony, similar to some of the windows on the upper floors, project attorney Nicholas Ftikas said.
Alderman Mary O’Connor (41st) said that the location of the building makes it difficult for any business there to be successful. "This is a tough corner to get foot traffic," O’Connor said.
Board chairman Kevin Walsh, who represents the Wildwood Community Association, said that allowing residential use on the ground floor is appropriate. "What are we going to do, let it stand vacant for another 7 years?" Walsh said.
The proposal calls for the 18,000-square-foot site to be rezoned from B3-2 to the denser B2-3, which permits ground-floor residential use.
The board makes recommendations to O’Connor on zoning issues.