Alderman Gardiner says Elston condo proposal needs to be scaled back further given residents’ concerns
by BRIAN NADIG
A proposed 18-unit condominium project at 5850 N. Elston Ave. likely would have to be scaled back if it is going to move forward after the overwhelming majority of residents at an Aug. 12 community meeting hosted by Alderman James Gardiner (45th) raised parking and other concerns.
“After listening to the concerns from the neighbors and the neighborhood in general, I think it’s quite clear the developer is going to have to sharpen his pencil and draw up something … that’s more in line with what our community wants,” Gardiner said after the meeting.
At the end of the meeting, none of the 65 audience members raised their hands in support of the project, but the vast majority raised their hand in opposition. During the meeting, only one resident spoke in favor of the proposal.
In addition, after the meeting 30 residents filled out a survey for the Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association, and 27 respondents opposed the proposal, two were undecided, and one voiced support, according to association president Joe DiCiaula.
The meeting was held at the Kolping Center, 5826 N. Elston Ave., a fraternal Christian organization that supports food pantries, Boy Scouts, churches and other nonprofit groups. The development would be constructed 4 feet 4 inches from the center’s building.
For years Kolping has leased the adjacent parking lot at the former Elston Avenue United Methodist Church, which the project’s developer, Hudson Construction Services, plans on purchasing and replacing with a series of three six-flats, each with eight outdoor parking spaces (24 total for the project), front yards and balconies, and a basement. The second- and third-floor units would have three bedrooms and two bedrooms, and four bedrooms and three baths for the duplex units (first floor plus basement).
“That large of a (unit) is going to have one car? They’ll come with four cars,” a woman said. Under the zoning code, only 18 parking spaces, or one per unit, would be required for the development.
The asking price would be about $335,000 for the upper floor units and about $435,000 for the duplexes. “They’re priced to move,” project developer Michelangelo Siracki said.
At the meeting, a Kolping representative recommended that the developer reduce the size of the project so Kolping, which opposes the current development proposal, could purchase some of the land in order to maintain a portion of the church’s parking lot. Siracki responded that he would consider an offer from Kolping.
The elimination of the parking lot would leave Kolping with no off-street parking, and several residents said that events at Kolping combined with the additional parking congestion from the 18 condominiums would be too much for the neighborhood to handle given the area’s existing parking problems. One resident noted that overnight parking on Elston is not allowed during the winter.
DiCiaula said after the meeting that he hopes the parking needs of Kolping ca be addressed in any new development on the block given the important charitable work which the society does for the community.
Concerns also were raised about increased alley traffic due to the project and the height of the development. The peak of the proposed buildings would be at about 39 feet, compared to the church at 42 feet 3 inches and Kolping at 33 feet 9 inches (a flag on the building extends a few more feet). The official height, as measured under the zoning code, of the proposed buildings would be 31 feet 7 inches, which measures up to the ceiling of the top floor.
In response to concerns that snow from the parking area behind the proposed buildings could be pushed into the alley, project officials said that the snow would be kept on site or hauled away.
Under the site’s existing RS-3 zoning nine dwelling units could be constructed on the parcel, according to project attorney Nicholas Ftikas. The proposal calls for the 24,700-square-foot parcel to be rezoned to B2-2.
Initial plans called for 24 condominiums, but the proposal was later revised. “We got some initial feedback from the community, and you thought that was too aggressive,” Gardiner said.
Both Gardiner and Ftikas said that the project would not require any affordable housing units because it would be constructed as three separate buildings, with different addresses and condominium associations and no single building would have 10 or more units. Affordable units are required for zoning projects with 10 or more units.
A resident disagreed, arguing that affordable units would be required because the project would be built on contiguous lots as part of the same development.
A city Department of Planning and Development spokesman said that the department could not comment on the specifics of the project given that a zoning application for the proposal has not been filed with the city.
The initial bylaws for the condominium associations would require that the units be owner occupied, but the associations could later change that.