Luxury senior housing cruises at plan meeting
by BRIAN NADIG
Residents would be prohibited from moving into the proposed 10-story, luxury senior complex at 3911 N. Milwaukee Ave. until developers finalize plans to build 10 off-site affordable housing units for households making up to 60 percent of the area’s median income.
That contingency was part of a proposal that the Chicago Plan Commission approved at its April 18 meeting. The location of the off-site units has not been determined, but the units must be located within 2 miles of the development site in order to meet the city’s affordable housing ordinance requirements.
Alderman John Arena (45th) testified in favor of the proposal, but final approval by the City Council can’t occur until May 22 at the earliest, which is after alderman-elect Jim Gardiner will have been sworn in.
The city Department of Housing would have to approve the off-site affordable units before the city would issue an occupancy permit for the senior complex. The off-site units are required because the developers opted not to have any on-site affordable units for low-income seniors, and Arena does not allow developers to buy out of their affordable requirements by paying into the city’s housing fund.
The 248 on-site units, consisting of independent and assisted living apartments and memory care units, reportedly would range in rent from about $4,400 to $7,200 a month. One project official has said that the project would provide "cruise ship" amenities to the building’s tenants.
At a community meeting last year, it was reported that the off-site units would be intended for seniors and that the convent at Saint Cornelius Church, 5252 N. Long Ave., was being considered. Arena later said that the convent did not appear to be feasible for the project. In addition, city officials recently said that the off-site units would not have age restrictions.
Neighbors for Affordable Housing founding member Sara Gronkiewicz-Doran praised the project and said that she wished that the city had extended a pilot program for increased affordable housing requirements to the Portage Park area so that there would have been more than just 10 off-site units. Arena unsuccessfully fought for the program to be brought into his ward along Milwaukee Avenue.
"Ten (affordable) apartments is going to make a significant difference in our neighborhood," Gronkiewicz-Doran said. The city’s 10-percent affordable housing requirements only apply to the project’s 101 independent living units and not the assisted living apartments.
Area resident Jacquelyn Hathaway said that the project ignores the area’s need for more affordable housing for seniors and that the developer should be required to include on-site affordable units.
Hathaway asked the commission to delay its vote. "The new alderman should be allowed to have input on the project," she said.
Arena said that having the off-site units would bring additional housing to the area, "increasing the number of wallets … to take advantage of the amenities" and new stores coming to Six Corners.
The south end of the complex would include a one-story retail section with a grocery store as one of the possible tenants, according to the city Department of Planning and Development. Clark Street Properties and Ryan Companies are developing the project.
The site also would include public plazas and a second-floor parking garage, with access from Kilpatrick Avenue.
Resident Catherine Brennan testified that the project’s $125 million price tag is a welcome investment in a business district that has "way too many vacant and boarded-up large storefronts."
City officials also said that the project meets the retail and pedestrian-friendly guidelines of the Six Corners Master Plan, which calls for a building of up to five stories on the development site, where a bank was once located. Arena has said that the one-story retail section of the complex offsets the 10-story building, creating a "net" height in line with the master plan.
Previous plans had called for a one-story retail center with rooftop parking and no residential uses on the site.
Across from the development site is the Six Corners Plaza, which is being renovated, and plans call for a Ross Dress For Less store to open there, Arena said.
The revitalization of Six Corners is on its way, and the future redevelopment of the former Sears site at 4730 W. Irving Park Road will bring additional businesses and shoppers to the area, Arena said.
"It’s finally the time for Six Corners to come back," Arena said.