Alderman Arena supports Montrose Ave. apartment plan
by BRIAN NADIG
Alderman John Arena (45th) is throwing his support behind a proposed 16-unit apartment building which would be constructed on a longtime vacant lot at 4812-16 W. Montrose Ave.
Many of the 40 residents at a May 9 committee meeting on the proposal objected to the proposed 3 ½-story building because they said the project would worsen both parking congestion on area side streets and cut-through traffic in alleys.
Motorists use the alleys to avoid traffic congestion at the Montrose-Cicero intersection, and residents at the meeting said that many of the parking spaces in the neighborhood 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. Plans call for the water facility to relocate to the former Mayfair Lumber site, 4825 W. Lawrence Ave., but the Sunnyside location will continue to be used as a refueling station for city-owned vehicles.
Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said that several residents at the meeting approached him afterwards and said that they supported the project but “felt intimidated” and chose not to speak at the meeting. Brugh said that the alderman’s office also received e-mail messages from other residents who expressed the same feeling.
Brugh said that the alderman viewed the alleys during morning and evening rush hours and did not see a lot of cut-through traffic and that Arena took pictures of the side streets at various times of the day which show that “there is not a lack of parking.” Arena has been a strong advocate for increased residential density near transit stations and along main thoroughfares in part to generate a larger customer base for businesses.
A resident who attended the meeting said this week that Arena’s support for rezoning the site will not be well-received from area home owners. “The block will be furious,” the woman said. “People on Montrose can’t park on Lacrosse because there’s no space.”
Plans call for two eight-car garages which would be accessible from a rear alley. Some of the residents at the meeting called for the units to be condominiums instead of apartments, but “there’s no market” for condominiums at this time, Brugh said.
Many of the residents at the meeting said that one parking space per unit was insufficient. However, Arena argued that those living there would seek to take advantage of the area’s public transportation options and that people with more than one car would be less attracted to the building because prospective tenants make decisions based on the amenities of a building.
The existing B3-1 zoning of the 14,200-square-foot site permits five residential above ground-floor commercial space, while the proposed B2-3 zoning does not require commercial space and would allow up to 35 residential units on the site.
Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association board member Ron Ernst said at the meeting that the proposed zoning is too dense for the site. “We oppose this kind of exploitation,” Ernst said. “They should build under the zoning they bought the property.”
Brugh said that the City Council Zoning Committee is expected to hold a hearing on the proposal next month. Over the years there have been townhouse, condominium and retail proposals for the site, which is next to a gas station that is located at the northwest corner of Montrose and Cicero avenues.