Plans unveiled for redevelopment of former Sears site at Six Corners
by BRIAN NADIG
The proposed 10-story redevelopment project for the former Sears department store at 4730 W. Irving Park Road would include 421 apartments, 13 townhouses, a health club and retail space.
Details of the project were announced at a Dec. 17 community meeting at Schurz High School which Alderman Jim Gardiner (45th) and bout 250 people attended. Details of the proposal were not released prior to the meeting at the request of the developers, according to Gardiner.
“This is not final,” Gardiner said after the meeting. “I will do my very, very best to bring the community’s concerns to the developer and see what adjustments can be made.”
Gardiner added that he plans to meet with homeowners who live near the site given that their lives would be most impacted by the redevelopment.
The overall concept of the project was well-received at the meeting, but several audience members asked for the project to be scaled back in size and for more green space and pedestrian amenities to be included in the development.
“I’m a little concerned about the height,” one man said.
Others said that the commercial area was desperate for development and that the height should not be an issue. “Some things are going to make us uncomfortable. The calendar only goes one way,” a man said.
Under the proposal, portions of the Sears building would be demolished, with the original corner facade at the intersection remaining and with the original building height of 80 feet unchanged. Commercial space would be on the first floor with 133 apartments on the four upper floors.
There also would be a new 10-story structure with 288 apartments on the northern half of the parcel. A 600-space parking garage also is planned and an outdoor plaza area where farmers’ markets and festivals could be held. A total of about 790 parking spaces is proposed.
A pedestrian bridge over Cuyler Avenue, which would run through a portion of the site would be accessible from Cicero Avenue and would serve as a connection between the 10-story building and the parking garage. The development site also would be accessible from Kilpatrick Avenue among its east end.
The townhouses, which will be rental units, are intended to serve as a buffer for the residential neighborhood to the north.
The development also would include approximately 100,000-square feet in commercial space, including a 40,000-square-foot health club.
A 2018 marketing plan for the site showed a movie theater as part of the project, but it has been ruled out due to the costly expense of a theater build-out and concerns about that industry’s longevity, said developer Richard Tucker of Tucker Development, which is developing the site along with its owner, Seritage Growth Properties.
The development team also plans to do a partial buyout of the city’s affordable housing requirements, which normally require 10 percent of the units be affordable, or 43 for the current proposal.
The project would require an approximately $4 million contribution to the city’s housing fund as part of the planned buyout, which would leave the project with 11 on-site affordable units. The below-market rate units are intended for those earning about 60 percent of the area’s median household income.
A woman said that a buyout should not be allowed because too many families in the community are already rent- or mortgage “burdened,” paying more than one third of their income for housing.
Information on the projected rents for the apartments was not presented at the meeting, but most of the apartments would be studios and one-bedroom units, the developers said.
The parcel is located across from the former Bank of America at 4747 W. Irving Park Road, where a plan for a 10-story, high-end senior housing complex called the “Point at Six Corners” has stalled following Gardiner’s opposition to the proposal. Initial plans called for a one-story retail center on the bank site.
Gardiner has said that the senior project does not conform to the recommendations in the Six Corners Master Plan and has said that the rents for the building would be too high for the average senior in the community. The master plan, which was created in 2013, recommends a four- or five-story structure for the former bank site.
Former alderman John Arena, who played an active role in the creation of the master plan, said in 2018 that despite the plan’s recommendations, he would support a 10-story structure on the bank site due to its triangular shape, creating construction and design challenges for the developers.
However, at the time Arena ruled out a 10-story building for the Sears site and other large development site at Six Corners.
Regarding the Sears’ parcel, the master plan states, “Depending on future upper-floor uses, the original two-story window bays along the building’s Cicero Avenue and Irving Park Road elevations, as well as other design and architectural features removed during prior renovations, could be restored and rehabilitated to make the building more attractive.”
At the end of the meeting, dozens of residents stood and held up signs in support of the Point.
Some of the Point supporters reportedly organized a set of written questions for the meeting that were critical of Gardiner’s handling of development issues and called for more transparency. The questions were assigned to different people to ask at the meeting.
Gardiner has expressed concern that Arena, who now serves as a deputy commissioner in the city Department of Planning and Development, played a role in organizing the group that asked those questions. Gardiner said that when Arena was hired, the mayor’s office and planning department told him that Arena would not be involved with 45th Ward development issues given that the department oversees zoning for the city.
“It’s direct conflict of interest,” Gardiner said. “I’m waiting … to see how the planning department is going to handle this situation.” Gardiner added that the mayor’s office has discussed the matter with him and is taking the matter seriously.
“How can I in good faith worth with the department if it’s deputy commissioner is going to actively work against me,” Gardiner said.
A spokesman for the planning department issued the following statement:
“The allegations, which the former alderman denies, are unacceptable for a professional civil servant. The Department of Planning and Development has addressed this matter internally.”
A man who read one of the prepared questions at the meeting posted on Facebook that while Arena was outside the high school collecting petition signatures for a candidate, the former alderman did not write the questions. The man said that questions were scripted in advance to avoid repetition and to make sure key issues were covered.
Toward the end of the meeting former 38th Ward alderman Thomas Allen urged audience members to “put away the knives” and “just dial it down” in reference to some of the rhetoric. He said that the community has a great opportunity to set the tone for the future of the shopping district.
When Allen was alderman from 1993 to 2010, the 38th Ward included portions of Six Corners.