Lawrence-Austin project eyed


Alderman Timothy Cullerton (38th) plans to move forward with a zoning change which would allow construction of a four-story retail-residential building and three six-flats on a vacant parcel at the southwest corner of Lawrence and Austin avenues.

About 25 people attended an Oct. 29 community meeting on the proposal. Cullerton said that at the end of the meeting he asked only those residents who live near the site to vote on the project and that seven raised their hand in favor and no one raised their hand in opposition.
The four-story building at 4752 N. Austin Ave. would include 24 apartments and several storefronts. Previous occupants of the site have included a medical center and a Ponderosa Steakhouse.

Cullerton said that the project should increase foot traffic for the Lawrence-Austin commercial district, which has had several vacancies in recent years. "I think it is going to be good for that commercial district," he said.

Due to a downturn in the real estate market, in 2010 the original developer for the project, the Fairview Group, turned the land over to the bank that was financing the project. The site was rezoned for the project in 2007, but Cullerton had it downzoned in 2011 to prevent any unwanted development there.

The current proposal is almost identical to the one from 2007, Cullerton said. There were plans to build three eight-unit apartment buildings at 6015-21 W. Lawrence Ave., but six-flats are now planned, he said.

The project requires the property to be rezoned from RS-2, which is intended for single-family homes, to B2-3 for the four-story building and to RT-4 for the six-flats.

Some home owners expressed concern that the project would increase parking congestion in the area, Cullerton said. The four-story building would have interior parking.

Plans call for the development to have 52 parking spaces, including 10 for the commercial tenants. There had been plans to create additional parking spaces with tandem spaces, but tandem parking often is not practical because it can cause cars to be blocked in, Cullerton said.

The owner of the property, the Bank of Countryside, has found some prospective buyers for the site once the zoning is in place, Cullerton said. "The bank is not interested in sitting on the property and paying taxes," he said.

One potential buyer appears to be the developer of an 18-unit apartment building with ground-floor offices at 4732 N. Austin Ave., Cullerton said. Fairview once owned that land, but the property was sold in 2010, and construction of the building was completed in 2011.