Panel rejects condo proposal, wants revised four-flat plans


The 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Board at its Jan. 7 meeting rejected a proposal to construct a six-unit condominium building at Northwest Highway and Devon Avenue, approved a parking lot at Neva and Higgins avenues and asked for revisions to the plan for a proposed four-flat in the 6600 block of North Olympia Avenue.

"I personally don’t think that lot works for what they’re cramming into it," board member Marc Pelini said of the proposed six-flat at 6430 N. Northwest Hwy. The board voted 8-2 against the proposal, which calls the demolition of a 95-year-old house on the property.

The 6,293-square-foot lot is next to two one-story office buildings, one of which is adjacent to a four-story condominium building at 6330-46 N. Northwest Hwy. The proposal calls for the property to be rezoned from B3-1 to B2-2, which allows ground-floor residential use in a business district.

At a previous meeting some board members inquired about the feasibility of reducing the size of the proposed four-story building.

Project attorney Paul Kolpak told the board that scaling back the project is not economically feasible. "It would make no sense to go forward with the project," Kolpak said.

The board unanimously approved a plan to double the size of a parking lot behind several longtime vacant storefronts at 7138-48 W. Higgins Ave.

All of the parking spaces in the lot are reserved for Mather’s More Than A Cafe, 7134 W. Higgins Ave. According to project officials, the additional parking is needed to attract tenants for the other storefronts. Some board members estimated that the storefronts have been vacant for 15 to 20 years.

The project would require the demolition of three homes on the west side of the 5500 block of North Neva Avenue. The owner of the storefronts also owns all of the houses.

A woman who lives on the east side of Neva said that she would prefer that the homes remain so that she does not have a parking lot across the street from her home. A wrought-iron fence and landscaping would be installed along the perimeter of the parking lot.

Plans call for the property to be rezoned from RS-2, which is for single-family homes, to B1-1, which is the least intensive zoning designation for a business use. Access to the parking lot would be from Gregory Street, which runs parallel to the Kennedy Expressway, and from a rear alley.

Also at the meeting, several board members asked the developer of a proposed four-flat at 6686 N. Olympia Ave. to revise the facade and the configuration of the building. "It looks like a schoolhouse in a small town," board member John Andersen said.

The 33-foot-tall brick and stone building would have a gable-style roof. It would be constructed between a 37-foot-tall apartment building at 6678-80 N. Olympia Ave. and a 25-foot-tall single-family home at 6690 N. Olympia Ave. Those measurements are from the ground to the top of the roof of each building.

The four-flat would be constructed on a vacant 7,068-square-foot lot where a two-flat recently was demolished. The city had issued several building code citations to a former owner of the property and was seeking to have the two-flat demolished.

Board member Mike Emerson said that the design of the four-flat does not reflect the neighborhood. He said after the meeting that unlike some of the other properties on the block, the building would take up almost the entire width of the lot and that it should be reconfigured.
Not all members objected to the design. "I see this building on quite a few blocks (in Edison Park)," board member Fred Icuss said.

There was no opposition to the project at a meeting of the Edison Park Community Council at which the proposal was discussed, Icuss said. The council meets on the second Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Emerald Isle, 6686 N. Northwest Hwy.

The project calls for the site to be rezoned from RS-3, which is intended for two-flats and single-family homes, to the less restrictive RT-3.5. The board voted against a similar proposal for the property in 2012.

Several area residents expressed concern about the density of the project at the board’s Jan. 7 meeting. Under the proposal, the ground-floor units would have a basement that would contain bedrooms, and some residents expressed concern that the basement eventually would be converted into separate apartments, making the building an illegal six-flat.

Project attorney John Pikarski Jr. said that the property owner is willing to sign a restrictive covenant which would prohibit the conversion of the basement into separate units and that the planned configuration of staircases is not conducive to making additional apartments. A staircase inside each ground-floor unit would lead to the basement.

"It is not intended to be a six-flat," Pikarski said.

The second-floor apartments would have three bedrooms, and the other units would have four bedrooms. The units would measure between 1,350 square feet and 2,500 square feet.

Pikarski said the block has a mix of single-family homes and multi-family buildings. "We are not introducing something that is foreign to this block," he said.

The first-floor units are intended to attract residents who would like an apartment that offers as much space as a typical house, according to project representatives. They said that monthly rents would be about $2,000 for the second-floor units and $2,500 for the first-floor units.

The next meeting of the advisory board is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the Olympia Park fieldhouse, 6566 N. Avondale Ave. The board’s makes recommendations to Alderman Mary O’Connor on zoning issues.