41st Ward zoning panel rejects Lin’s Garden site proposal
by BRIAN NADIG
The 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Board at its Dec. 2 meeting unanimously voted against a proposed five-story apartment building at 6550-56 N. Milwaukee Ave., but several members asked the developer to revise the project to address residents’ objections.
Board chairman Mike Emerson expressed concern that the 17,000-square-foot site, which includes a monument company and the former Lin’s Garden Chinese restaurant, could remain undeveloped for a long time. “What we don’t want to is close the door on this development,” he said.
However, finding a compromise that would appease residents who live near the site while making the project viable could be difficult. The proposal called for a 30-space parking garage on the ground floor and 24 apartments on the upper four floors of the 55-foot tall building.
Many of the 20 residents at the meeting said that they would prefer condominiums because they feel renters tend to be more transient and less invested in the neighborhood than home owners and that the number of living units should be cut in half.
“There’s no market right now for condominiums. The ‘millennials,’ they’d rather rent,” project attorney Paul Kolpak said. “It’s foreign to me. I was brought up that renting is throwing your money away.” He later added that 12 units would not be economically feasible.
Board member Marc Pelini said that several years ago the board approved a condominium project in Norwood Park but that the developer asked the board for its approval to switch to apartments after the building had been constructed. The board granted the request.
“He couldn’t sell a single unit,” Pelini said. “He was losing his shirt.”
Board member Tony Chiavola said that he lives near the site and that there was strong opposition to the project. “The height scared everybody in the neighborhood,” he said.
In addition, several residents said that more parking was needed because the typical renter in the complex would be a family with at least two cars. “It’s the American way. We love our cars,” a woman said.
A petition against the project had 86 signatures, but as many as 800 could have been collected if needed, according to a resident.
Kolpak said that the project would be attractive to renters who may not need a car because of nearby public transportation options. He said that the site, which is located at Milwaukee and Albion avenues along the Chicago-Niles border, offers easy access to a CTA bus turnaround less than a block away and the Niles free bus service.
At the same meeting, developers for another project said that the millennial generation is seeking to use public transportation for their daily commute over using their own car.
Kolpak said that a dense development makes sense for a main thoroughfare like Milwaukee and that an all-residential building would generate less traffic than a commercial strip center which could be constructed under the existing zoning. “It should not be in the interior of the neighborhood, he said.
Rents for the proposed one- and two-bedroom apartments were projected to be range from $1,700 to $2,200 a month.