Height concerns raised on senior housing plan
by BRIAN NADIG and KEVIN GROSS
Concerns about the height and economic impact of a proposed 10-story senior housing and retail complex at 4747 W. Irving Park Road were expressed at a June 21 community meeting hosted by Alderman John Arena (45th).
About 225 residents attended the meeting held at the Filament Theater, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave.
One audience member said that the proposed height would set a precedent, noting that the Six Corners Master Plan calls for a four- and five-story development on the site.
The 10-story height for the project is due to the triangular-shape of the parcel, located at the southeast corner of Irving Park Road and Milwaukee Avenue, which created design challenges, Arena said. He added that the redevelopment of other large parcels at Six Corners would not be as tall.
"Unfortunately, this place is a batwing. It’s the hardest place to design," Arena said.
In a recent Facebook post, Arena wrote: "The (senior housing proposal) proposal is a total of 10 stories at the corner, stepping down to one story about halfway south on the Milwaukee Avenue leg. The breakdown at the corner is one floor retail, one floor parking, one residential services floor and seven residential floors.
"The master plan suggests four-five stories at the corner stepping drown to three stories along Milwaukee. The proposal groups that density at the corner which makes the building more efficient while netting about the same density that the plan envisioned."
Last year the site’s developer, Clark Street Real Estate, let lapse a construction permit, which would have allowed a one-story, 100,000-square-foot retail center with rooftop parking on the parcel. An aide to Arena has said that the difficulty in making the one-story plan feasible was that the developer might have overpaid for the land.
The revised project would feature a landscaped pedestrian walkway with an entrance on Irving Park Road that would lead to a 16-foot-wide public plaza on Milwaukee Avenue. There also would be two smaller mid-block passageways on Milwaukee, and opportunities for artwork and outdoor seating in the walkways.
The current proposal calls for 141 assisted living units, 38 memory care units and 86 independent living units, with no skilled nursing care offered. The units would be available for people age 62 and older.
The development also would include 50,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor, including an Aldi grocery store.
Clark Street owner Peter Eisenberg said that all of the retail would front Milwaukee Avenue in an effort to generate foot traffic for other nearby businesses.
Some residents raised concerns that a predominantly assisted living complex would not generate enough new shoppers for the Six Corners business district. One resident said that the development could make the area look like "a geriatric neighborhood."
Ryan Companies vice president Dan Walsh said that the project would include "active" seniors who would have a significant impact on the area’s economy. Ryan is the lead developer on the senior living portion of the project.
"Just because someone is old and retired, it doesn’t mean we don’t go out," one man said at the meeting.
The proposed Point at Six Corners complex would be just "one piece of the pie" in revitalizing the business district, Arena said.
A residential building, possibly with hundreds of apartments, reportedly is being considered for the redevelopment of the Sears site at 4730 W. Irving Park Road. In addition, the six-acre Peoples Gas facility at 3955 N. Kilpatrick Ave. could be redeveloped, as the facility is relocating to Peterson Avenue and Pulaski Road.
"We’re trying to figure out what Six Corners will be for the next couple of generations," Arena said.
The senior housing proposal would include a cafeteria for the estimated 120 daily workers and in-house dining options for the residents living there. There also would be 237 parking spaces that would serve the Clarendale-operated senior building and the site’s ground-floor retail tenants.
Access to the parking would be from Kilpatrick Avenue that runs along the eastern boundary of the site. In response to parking concerns, project officials said that many of the tenants would not have cars, and a shuttle service would be provided for tenants. One resident said that the project could bring "eight to 10 ambulances a day" and create additional problems relating to traffic and first responders.
The building would generate close to $17 million in property taxes over 10 years, including $1.4 million in revenue for the Six Corners Special Service Area, Walsh said.
Plans call for the Aldi to open late next year, while the senior housing would take longer to construct, Walsh said. In addition, a dedicated bike lane on Milwaukee along the curb would be removed.
In response to concerns over the Aldi having a "bad reputation," Aldi director of operations Chester Arthur said after the meeting that the business would be a good anchor for the area and has become a more upscale brand.
"Someone who hasn’t shopped at our stores in 5 years might have a bit of an outdated image of us," he said.
A woman expressed concern that the business district has a "glut" of businesses such as cell phone stores. "Are you going to hold these (storefronts) for more exciting things, restaurants?" she said.
Eisenberg said that he is confident that the project’s retail team can attract businesses which would add vitality to the commercial area. "We’re a $120 million catalyst for attracting additional (stores and development)," Walsh said. "I’d guess this area hasn’t had that investment in 10, 20 years."
Another woman said that a lot of younger families in the neighborhood are looking for some high-end retailers in the area.
Arena said that in the last couple of years he has reviewed 16 different redevelopment plans for the site, including a theater in one of the plans, and that he feels confident that the current plan would improve the economic vitality of the commercial area.
Also at the meeting, Eisenberg apologized for the condition of the development site that has remained a large hole where water collects since a bank was demolished there in 2016. He added that he would have built the one-story retail center if the retail market had not taken a downturn.
"I feel like you did a bait and switch," one man said.