4-story proposal for Milwaukee & Cullom in Portage Park gains community’s support
by BRIAN NADIG
Plans for a four-story building with nine apartments at the northeast corner of Milwaukee and Cullom avenues appear to be moving forward after the proposal received support from residents at a Feb. 24 meeting hosted by Alderman Jim Gardiner (45th).
“The feedback from what was said from the community was overall positive,” Gardiner said after the meeting. “This would be another community-based development (for the ward).” About 30 people attended the hour-long meeting at Saint John’s Lutheran Church, 4939 W. Montrose Ave.
The 49-foot-tall building would include about 2,300 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and a mix of two- and three-bedroom units on the upper floors.Each unit would include two bathrooms and a balcony, and tenants would have access to storage lockers on each floor and a rooftop deck.
The units would range between 1,400 and 1,600 square feet, with rents at about $2 per square foot, according to project developer Loukas Kozonis of the Mega Group, which years ago built a nearby four-story, 60-foot-tall structure at Milwaukee and Pensacola avenues.
Gardiner said that he will follow up with Mega to make sure the residents’ suggestions are considered. Those recommendations included adding green elements to the roof of the one-story parking garage and installing security cameras around the building.
Gardiner said that he also will be ask the city Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of converting Cullom into a two-way street from Milwaukee Avenue to the first alley to the east. Currently Cullom runs one-way in an easterly direction.
Access to a planned 14-space parking garage in the rear of the site would be from an existing curb cut on Cullom, and making it a two-way street would allow drivers exiting those garage to turn right toward Milwaukee instead of cutting through side streets to reach a main thoroughfare. Up to four parking spaces on the north side of Cullom would be eliminated if the street were to become two-way.
The site, whose address is 4301 N. Milwaukee Ave., was once home to the Finney Company, a promotional products company which has relocated to Park Ridge. About 2 years ago Mega demolished the former two-story building on the parcel.
The exterior of the proposed building would be all-masonry, with storefront windows on both the Milwaukee and Cullom sides of the building.
One resident complained that the design was too modern-looking and did not fit in with the character of the neighborhood. “It looks very plain … no greenery,” she said.
Project architect Allen Olsen said that the trapezoid shape of the parcel created design challenges. He said that the front of the lot along Milwaukee measures about 35 feet wide but in the rear of the lot along the alley the width stretches to about 110 feet.
Project officials said that under the city’s landscape ordinance planters or trees may be installed along the parkway or sidewalks.
At the meeting concerns were raised that the proposal lacked sufficient parking given that some tenants might have two cars, but others said that the area’s public transportation option may attract tenants who do not have a car.
Another resident expressed concern that the commercial space could remain vacant for a long time given that there are existing vacancies in the area. “I’m worried the building will get filled with residents, and they’ll be nothing on the first floor,” she said.
The storefronts would cater to a small café or a convenience-type business, project officials said.
Mega is requesting that the property be rezoned from B3-1 to B3-2. No more than three residential units would be permitted on the site under B3-1, Olsen said.
At the end of the meeting, Gardiner asked if any of the 30 audience members opposed the proposal, and only one hand was raised.
One resident said that the site was an eyesore and that the project would represent an overall improvement for the area. “I’m excited about it getting covered up,” she said in reference to a hole on the parcel.