Permit issued for Lawrence project in Jeff Park





by BRIAN NADIG

A construction permit was issued on Oct. 23 for the Lawrence Avenue redevelopment project in Downtown Jefferson Park, while redevelopment plans are in the works for a building at the northeast corner of Milwaukee and Cullom avenues in Portage Park.

The permit allows for the construction of a four-story building with 39 apartments, several storefronts and a 41-space parking garage at the southwest corner of Laramie and Lawrence avenues. A timetable for the construction has not been finalized, according to Alderman John Arena’s office.

Plans also call for Laramie, which runs northbound only, to become a two-way street between Lawrence and the first alley to the south to accommodate traffic for the building. The project’s developer, the Mega Group, also plans to build an approximately 20-space outdoor parking lot on a parcel at the southeast corner of the intersection.

The project was contingent on the city transferring about half of the 41,000-square of land being used for the development to Mega, and the transfer was finalized on Oct. 27, Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said.

The city, which acquired the land through eminent domain for $1.46 million in 2006, agreed to sell the property to Mega for $1, in an effort to get the land back on the tax rolls. Mega already owned the other half.

In the early 2000s, the city entered into a redevelopment agreement with Mega that required the company to reimburse the city for all of its acquisition costs in exchange for being able to build 132 condominiums on Lawrence. However, the agreement became invalid after then-alderman Patrick Levar stopped the plan due to community opposition.

Arena has said that the current project will serve as an appealing gateway for the Jefferson Park business district, which he said has been marked by vacant lot for far too long.

Also in the 45th Ward, plans are being made to renovate the former Finney Company building at 4301 N. Milwaukee Ave. Finney, a promotional products company, has relocated to Park Ridge.

Under a preliminary proposal, the height of the building would increase from 25 to 51 feet to allow for an increase from two to nine residential units on the upper floors. The apartments would range in size from about 1,400 to 1,700 square feet, and there would be an elevator in the building and 14 parking spaces in the rear of the lot.

Mega, which has acquired the former Finney building, is seeking to rezone the site from B3-1 to the less restrictive B3-3. A community meeting on the project will be held, but a date has not been set, Brugh said.

Meanwhile, a status hearing has been set for Wednesday, Jan. 24, on a lawsuit that seeks to stop a planned 16-story, mixed-use building at 4849 N. Lipps Ave., next to the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal. The lawsuit, which was filed on Sept. 26 by resident Ron Ernst, objects to the zoning change which the City Council approved for the project.

Also, changes are in the works for the redevelopment of the former Bank of America site at 4747 W. Irving Park Road. The project was halted months ago, and a portion of the bank structure remains on the site.

Original plans called for a retail center with rooftop parking, but a mixed-use project with residential units reportedly is being considered. The Six Corners Economic Development Master Plan calls for a four- or five-story building on the site.

In the 38th Ward, Alderman Nicholas Sposato said that he plans to support a zoning proposal that he calls for the conversion of a 2 1/2-story office structure at 5744 W. Irving Park Road into a six-unit luxury apartment building. Sposato said that no objections to the project were raised at a recent community meeting.

The projected rents of $2,500 to $3,000 a month for the apartments have raised concerns from Neighbors for Affordable Housing in Jefferson Park, which is calling for an increase in low-income and affordable (below-market rate) housing on the Northwest Side. The group argues that there needs to be more affordable housing in "areas of opportunity" like Jefferson Park in an effort to end segregation.

Sposato said that while the projected rents are high, the development would be an improvement for the area.

"I’m a market-rate type of guy because that’s what my community wants," he said.