Agreement calls for Arena, zoning official to support application for Northwest Hwy site


Alderman John Arena (45th) has agreed to support an application for a zoning change which would allow construction of a five-story storage warehouse and an unspecified residential development on the site of a former food processing plant at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy., according to a settlement agreement between the City of Chicago and the applicant, LSC Development.

Current plans call for Full Circle Communities to construct a mixed-income, 100-unit apartment complex next to the storage facility on the 1.54-acre site, but the zoning application does not yet include details of the residential plan for the site. Arena has said that a different residential project would be pursued for the site if the Full Circle development does not occur.

The city and LSC Development, which plans to sell half the property to a residential developer, entered into the agreement on Jan. 27. Little support for the development was expressed at community meeting held by Arena about two weeks later.

The agreement states that Arena “agrees to support and not to challenge” LSC’s application for a planned development zoning ordinance for the site when it goes to the Plan Commission in March or April. The agreement also states that zoning administrator Patricia Scudiero “agrees to support the PD application” before the plan commission.

LSC Development filed a lawsuit against the city last year after the Department of Buildings revoked a construction permit to retrofit the former Archdiocese of Chicago food processing plant into a storage warehouse. There were no plans to build apartments on the site at the time.

Arena has said that he filed a downzoning ordinance to halt the project over concerns that a storage facility by itself would do little to help the economic vitality of the area. The site was zoned M1-1, which permits storage facilities, but last June the City Council approved rezoning the site to B1-1, which prohibits warehouses.

Under the proposed planned development, the underlying zoning for entire site would become B3-5, which permits storage facilities. The storage facility would be built on the northern end of the parcel, and all of the existing structures on the site would be demolished.

The application states that the proposed B3-5 zoning would permit a building up to a 120 feet tall and 186 apartments, including 55 efficiency units, on the southern portion of the site.

However, an aide to Arena has said that the alderman is seeking a residential development that would be smaller than the maximum size allowed under B3-5. “The language on the (application) is standard placeholder language,” Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said. “It is no where even close to what the alderman would support.”

A statement issued by Arena’s office calls the settlement agreement a victory for taxpayers.

“Our office and the law department negotiated to allow for a better use for the space,” the statement said. “The agreement will increase the property tax revenue for the space from a projected $135,000 a year for adapted reuse (of the existing structures) to an estimated half a million annually from the combined storage, retail and residential, while allowing the property owners to continue with their planned use.

“We are pleased with this outcome, which is a much better deal for the taxpayers and local residents than what was initially proposed.” Full Circle’s residential development would include office and retail space on the ground floor of the seven-story building.

Critics of the development proposal have said that the Arena should have sought comments from residents before downzoning the property and signing the settlement agreement.

The Chicago Plan Commission could vote on the warehouse plan next month, but it could be several more months before the commission considers a residential project for the site. The application would have to be amended to include specifics of the residential development, and in the meantime LSC Development would be allowed to build the warehouse before a decision is made on the residential plan.

The settlement agreement led to the dismissal of the lawsuit, but the agreement allows LSC Development to have the lawsuit reinstated if the City Council does not approve a planned development ordinance for the site within 6 months.

View the Full Settlement here