Edison Park condo/parking garage project draws large crowd to meeting
by BRIAN NADIG
The 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Committee plans to seek additional input on a proposed 30-unit condominium building with a 159-space parking garage in Downtown Edison Park after many residents objected to the project at the committee’s Oct. 6 meeting.
The four-story building would feature an Italian Renaissance-style exterior, with decorative railings, dormer windows, a slate roof and a dome at west end. The condominiums would vary from one to four bedrooms, with an asking price ranging from $350,00 to $450,000.
There also would be 4,750 square feet of ground-floor commercial space. The garage, located on the first and second floors of the building, would be used for the condominium tenants and for paid public parking, including some spaces which would be leased by valet companies which serve area restaurants.
An existing hand car wash on the 36,000-square-foot parcel, 6649-55 N. Oliphant Ave., would be demolished to accommodate the project. The site is across from the Edison Park Train Station
“It’s a beautiful building. You can’t deny that,” said committee member Frank Icuss, who represents the Edison Park Community Council. The committee includes representatives of neighborhood associations in the ward, and its votes serve as a recommendation to Alderman Anthony Napolitano.
The community council plans to conduct an e-blast to about 2,500 residents, inviting them to the council’s own meeting on the project, Icuss said. “We’ll take a straw vote of everybody there,” he said.
Before voting on a proposal, committee members often seek input from any member whose organization serves the neighborhood where a proposed project would be built.
The proposal has been controversial since news of it broke last May. About 400 people came to the committee’s June 1 meeting only to find out that it had been removed from the agenda.
Original plans had called for 44 apartments, but the proposal was revised at the request of Napolitano after residents had complained that they did not want rental units.
About 15 of the 200 audience members at the Oct. 6 meeting expressed concern about the project, and their comments were often greeted with applause from others in the crowd. No audience members spoke in favor of the project.
“I think it’s clear we don’t want it,” a woman told the committee near the end of the meeting.
Concerns that the project would worsen traffic congestion and place additional burdens on the area’s overcrowded public schools were among the issues raised at the meeting. Others said that the building, whose roof would peak at 51 feet, would be too tall and that the condominiums would be converted to rental units if sales dragged.
“If the community doesn’t want it, I don’t want it,” Napolitano told the crowd. Since becoming alderman in 2015, Napolitano has always followed the recommendation of his advisory committee, which could vote on the proposal later this year.
Project attorney Jim Banks said that the planned parking garage would provide a public benefit to the business district, which attracts commuters in the morning and patrons for the area’s many bars and restaurants in the evening. The Edison Park Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the proposal.
Project traffic engineer Michael Worthman said that the garage would reduce the number of motorists who circulate throughout the area looking for a parking space. “We’re going to reduce the parking demand in the area,” he said.
Committee chairman Mike Emerson said that the “massing” of the project was appropriate when compared to some of multi-family and commercial buildings to the north on Olmstead Avenue.
“This is a gateway project to the ward and the neighborhood,” Emerson said. He added that too often visitors to the area are greeted by car washes and dumpsters but that the decorative nature of the proposed building would change that.
“What do we care what they think of us,” said resident Tim Heneghan, who serves as the 41st Ward Democratic committeeman. “I believe it’s going to be a traffic issue.”
The project’s developer is Troy Realty, which is planning to relocate its offices to the building’s first floor.
Under the city’s affordable housing guidelines, one of the 30 condominiums would be offered at 60 percent of the market rate, plus project officials would have to pay $250,000 toward the city’s affording housing program.
The property would be rezoned from M1-1, which is intended primarily for manufacturing uses, to B2-3, which allows for retail and residential uses.
Entrances to the building’s parking garage would be located on an access roadway that runs along the north side of the property. The only street connecting to that roadway, which runs along a railroad tracks, is Oliphant.
A sewer contractor would lose access to the company’s storage yard at the end of the roadway if the project were to be built, according to project officials. The contractor leases the yard, which is located just to the east of the development site, the officials said.