Jeff Park housing group pushes for zoning proposal at Higgins-Cumberland


The City Council Zoning Committee at its Sept. 11 meeting deferred action on a 297-unit housing complex near Higgins and Cumberland avenues, while the Zoning Board of Appeals could vote this week to grant a special use extension for a planned mosque and community center near Elston and Lawrence avenues.

The committee delayed the hearing at the request of Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st). The apartments would be built on an underutilized section of land in front of the O’Hare Marriott Hotel, 8535 W. Higgins Ave.

Napolitano said that he opposes the project in large part because of school overcrowding concerns that residents have expressed. The development would be located within the Dirksen School attendance boundaries, and the school is designed to accommodate about 650 students, but current enrollment is at 903, he said.

Members of Neighbors for Affordable Housing in Jefferson Park attended the hearing to testify in support of the project as long it would include 30 affordable units, which would be offered at below market-rate rents to those earning about 60 percent of the area’s median income.

The city requires developers of zoning projects of 10 or more units to designate 10 percent of the units as affordable. However, they also have the option of buying out some of the affordable units by paying the city $125,000 for each unit below the required 10 percent.

The project’s developer, GlenStar Properties, has offered to pay the city $2.8 million to buy out most of the affordable units, but its owner, Larry Debb, recently said that he would be willing to include 30 affordable units in the project.

“This is a chance with one stroke to get 30 affordable units next to one of the accessible Blue Line stations,” said housing group member Sara Gronkiewicz-Doran. The development would be located next to the Cumberland CTA Station.

The affordable housing group was formed earlier this year to help gain community support for a 100-unit housing development at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. that Alderman John Arena (45th) supports but Napolitano opposes. It is unusual for aldermen to get involved in zoning proposals which are not in their ward, but Arena and Napolitano have disagreed on whether the Northwest Side would benefit from large density increases.

“Neighbors for Affordable Housing has a lot of members in the 41st Ward,” Gronkiewicz-Doran said.

Meanwhile, the zoning board at its Friday, Sept. 15, meeting is scheduled to hold a hearing on a request to issue an extension on three special uses which were previously issued to accommodate the establishment of a mosque and community center at 4846 and 4856 N. Elston Ave.

The extension is needed due to delays in the start of construction. The hearing will be held at 9 a.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St.

The board also is scheduled to hear a series of yard variation requests for a planned 48-unit apartment complex at Long Avenue and Argyle Street.