Residents object to Montrose-Cicero apartment plan




by BRIAN NADIG

Concerns that a proposed 16-unit apartment building on a vacant lot at 4812-16 W. Montrose Ave. would increase parking congestion on area side streets and alley traffic were expressed at May 9 community meeting held by Alderman John Arena (45th).

Several of the 40 residents who attended the meeting also objected to plans for rental units on the site, telling project officials that condominiums would be preferred because home owners are more invested in the neighborhood.

The meeting became contentious at times, as several residents said that they opposed the proposal. Several development proposals, including for condominiums and townhouses, have been made over the years for the site, but none has ever been built.

Arena said that the 14,200-square-foot property is an eyesore that generates little tax revenue for the city and that his office has received phone calls from residents asking for something to be built there. Plans call for the apartments to measure between 1,100 and 1,400 square feet, with monthly rents ranging from $1,300 to $2,000.

In the late 2000s residents agreed to have the property rezoned to allow a one-story commercial center as long as a fence would be erected in the rear of the site, blocking access to the alley. The site was rezoned, but the center was never built.

Arena said that he would ask the developer for the project, KMDM Properties, to consider revising the apartment proposal, which calls for a 3 1/2-story building with two eight-car garages in the rear. “We’ll talk to them about density and layout of the site,” he said.

Arena said that some of the residents’ concerns about existing problems could be addressed regardless of the outcome of the proposal by implementing permit parking on side streets and installing speed bumps in the alley to reduce cut-through traffic. Motorists use the alleys in the area to avoid traffic congestion at the Montrose-Cicero intersection.

“We are right down the alley from this development,” a resident who has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years said. “It’s always a race in the morning to Montrose. In the years I have been able to park in front of my house two, three times.”

Several residents said that one parking space per unit is not sufficient and that area side streets cannot handle additional parking. They said that spaces in front of their homes routinely are taken by commuters using the nearby Metra and CTA Blue Line stations and by workers at the city Department of Water Management facility, 4900 W. Sunnyside Ave.

Arena said that the area should get some parking relief after the water facility is moved to the former Mayfair Lumber site, 4825 W. Lawrence Ave. The city is condemning the lumber yard property and is planning to move several city services there, but the owners of the property are challenging the city’s purchase offer, Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said.

Arena said that prospective tenants would seek to take advantage of public transportation in the area and the Six Corners shopping district and that people who have more than one car would be less attracted to the building. “You have what you need to survive without a car,” he said. “Buyers make a decision based on the amenities of the building.”

Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association Zoning Committee chairman Ron Ernst said that the proposed zoning is inappropriate for the site. “We oppose this kind of exploitation,” Ernst said. “They should build under the zoning they bought the property.”

The B3-1 zoning of the site permits five residential units above ground-floor commercial space. Plans call for the property to be rezoned to B2-3, which does not require commercial space on the first floor and which allows up to 35 living units on the site.

Some residents recommended that the parking for the building be accessible from a driveway on Montrose which would run along the side of the building, but others expressed concern that a driveway on Montrose would not be safe because of the volume of traffic on that street.

Project attorney John Pikarski Jr. said that the project may qualify for a reduction in parking requirements due to the proximity of the Mayfair Metra station, 4357 N. Cicero Ave., but that there are no plans to seek a reduction. The B2-3 zoning requires at least one parking space for each residential unit, unless the site is within a 1/4 mile of a transit center.

At a meeting on a different proposal for the site in 2014, residents initially voiced strong objections to the project. However, they approved the proposal after the developer agreed to build condominiums instead of apartments and to design the garage so that cars would not have to back out into the alley.

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