Apartment plan at Kennedy site heard by panel


A proposed seven-story, 299-unit apartment complex near Higgins and Cumberland avenues would be built on a 21-acre site that includes the Marriott O’Hare Hotel.

The $90 million development proposal was well received at the Dec. 7 meeting of the 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Committee, which could vote on the plan next month. "It’s a great project," board chairman Mike Emerson said at the 75-minute meeting.

The complex would be built on a 3-acre parcel on the north end of the site along Higgins, and a 7-acre parcel on the west end of the property is being reserved for one or two office buildings that project developer GlenStar Properties plans to build after it secures tenants. GlenStar manages Presidents Plaza, 8700 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.

The City Council approved a planned development proposal that calls for the hotel to remain but which allows several new office buildings on the underutilized parcel in 2014. A section of the hotel and a neighboring office building have been demolished for the project.

The site’s former developer of the site, Higgins Development Partners, proposed revising the planned development ordinance for the site to allow a 220-unit apartment building up to 14 stories tall and to build about 65,000 square feet of retail space last year, but the company is no longer pursing those plans.

GlenStar co-founder Larry Debb said that he plans to acquire the property and that the development would help fill a void created by a lack of upscale apartment construction along the O’Hare commercial corridor over the past 25 years.

Debb addressed concerns expressed at the meeting that the project could increase overcrowded conditions at schools in the area. "The whole amenities package is solely for adults, no swings, no slide," he said.

Committee member Tony Chiavola said that while the quality of the area schools is a reason that families choose to live in the area, the relatively small size of the apartments, ranging from about 500 square feet to about 1,000 square feet, would limit the attractiveness of the complex to parents with school-age children. It is estimated that the complex would generate $500,000 annually in property taxes for the Chicago Public Schools.

Debb said that the apartments would cater primarily to professionals who want to commute via public transportation. A proposed walkway would lead to an existing pedestrian bridge that takes users to the CTA Blue Line Cumberland station.

With 338 indoor parking spaces planned, the project is probably "over parked" given the trend of younger professionals choosing not to own a car, Debb said. Some committee members suggested that a car-sharing service place vehicles in the garage.

About half of the units would have two bedrooms, and the rest would be a mix of one-bedroom and studio units, with a monthly rent of $2,700 for the largest units, Debb said.

In other GlenStar properties, two-bedroom units often are leased to single professionals who convert one of the bedrooms into an office, according to project officials.

There are no plans for stores or restaurants on the site, except for the possibility of a coffee shop in an office building, Debb said. Retail would not be a good fit for the project in part because it would generate more traffic, he said.

Plans call for breaking ground on the apartment building next spring, but a timetable for the office buildings will not be known until companies agree to move to the site, Debb said. "The good news is there are four big tenants looking at the O’Hare market," he said.

Plans filed with the city in 2014 show office buildings of up to 12 floors on the site.