Aldermen support upzoning on Montrose, Lawrence Ave


Northwest Side aldermen recently voiced support for zoning proposals in the 5600 blocks of Montrose Avenue and Lawrence Avenue.

Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) said that he supports a proposal to build two six-flats at 5540 W. Montrose Ave., replacing a one-story medical building that he has described as "an eyesore." Sposato held a community meeting on the proposal on Nov. 28.

Under the site’s existing B3-1 zoning, no more than four residential units are permitted. The proposed B2-3, which allows ground-floor residential uses in a business district, would permit up to 28 units on the 11,280-square-foot parcel.

However, the Type 1 zoning ordinance for the project would limit new construction to two six-flats, each three stories tall, according to project attorney Mark Kupiec.

Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association zoning committee chairman Ron Ernst called the project an example of "zoning exploitation" because the proposed B2-3 zoning is out of character with the surrounding community.

The developer would be receiving several "bumps" in zoning, jumping over the more restrictive B2-1.5 and B2-2 classifications, Ernst said. The maximum units allowed on the site is eight under B2-1.5 and 11 under B2-2.

Kupiec said that the six-flats, which would be about 34 feet tall, were designed to reflect the style and height of existing buildings to the east along Montrose. He said that it would have been "awkward" to design a project with only 11 units, leading to a five-flat and a six-flat.

Ernst said that the owner was aware of the site’s zoning when the property was purchased and that the site’s redevelopment should be restricted to the existing guidelines. The association has a general policy of opposing upzoning.

While the project would be located on a main thoroughfare, all-residential buildings are not unusual on Montrose, and storefronts were ruled out in part because there are several vacant commercial spaces in the area, Kupiec said.

Each unit would have two bedrooms and two bathrooms, with balconies on the upper floors. Outdoor parking is planned for the rear of the site.

One of the 12 apartments would be designated as "affordable," which would be reserved for a family earning about 60 percent of the area’s median income, Kupiec said.

The city’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance also allows developers the option of paying a fee to the city in lieu of having on-site affordable apartments, and those fees can be used to build affordable housing elsewhere in the city.

Meanwhile, Alderman John Arena (45th) supports a plan to rezone an existing 2 1/2-story building at 5647 W. Lawrence Ave. to allow a former doctor’s office on the first floor to be converted back to its reported original use as an apartment, said Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh.

Existing apartments are located on the second floor and in the basement. Currently the building is considered nonconforming because the site’s B1-1 zoning permits only one residential unit. The proposed B2-2 would allow for up to three units on the property.