Commission okays Six Corners Sears redevelopment despite affordable housing concerns
by BRIAN NADIG
The Chicago Plan Commission at its Aug. 26 meeting approved the six-story, retail-residential redevelopment proposal for the former Sears site at Six Corners despite concerns that only six of the planned 207 high-end apartments would meet the city’s affordable housing criteria for below-market rate rents.
Several members of Neighbors for Affordable Housing testified that approval of the proposal was being rushed in large part to avoid the higher affordable housing requirements which kick in on Oct. 1, noting that project developer Novak Construction is opting for the maximum allowable buyout of the city’s affordable requirements.
After Oct. 1, the minimum number of required on-site affordable units would be 20 (with the developer buying out 20 additional affordable units by paying into the city’s housing fund).
Novak executive vice president of development Jake Paschen said that the company looked at several “scenarios in regards to affordable housing” and determined that the current plan made economic sense in terms of meeting the project’s preservation goals. “It allows us to preserve the existing building,” he said, adding that building’s Art Deco elements would be maintained and enhanced.
Paschen said that the project evolved in the past year, with the first plan calling for only single-story retail on the site but that it was revised after getting input from Alderman James Gardiner (45th) and and community groups.
Several commission members said that they were happy to see that a portion of the 1938 retail building is being preserved, but member Linda Searl expressed concern that the primary four-story height of the building was not being maintained.
“I’m a little disappointed that that fifth floor (of apartments) is being added to Sears,” Searl said. The proposal also calls for a six-floor rooftop amenity space with a pool, workout room and a dog run.
Planning commissioner Maurice Cox that the project would set the “tone” for additional redevelopment in the area. He added that efforts can be made to “push harder” for more affordable housing on “future parcels” that will be redeveloped at Six Corners. Two of those future redevelopments could be the former Peoples Gas site at 3955 N. Kilpatrick Ave., where retail and residential construction is proposed, and a city-owned parking lot at 4050 N. Laporte Ave., which the city reportedly wants to sell for a townhouse development.
At the Sears site, rents have been previously described at about $2,750 for a 1,000-square-foot apartment. A Target department store also reportedly is in the works for the ground floor, and 275 parking spaces, including some spaces in an underground parking garage, are planned.
“Is (the project) perfect? Nothing is,” Gardiner told the commission. “It will help current businesses thrive … and attract (new businesses),” Gardiner said.
Gardiner said that the the Sears redevelopment project is one on several in the works for the Six Corners commercial district, adding that the area is seeing $400 million in investment as a result of these projects.
The Sears project is excepted to generate 32 full-time jobs after it is completed and $600,000 in additional property tax revenue.
Gardiner said that the $90 million project received favorable feedback from the Old Irving Park Association, Six Corners Association, Six Corners Chamber of Commerce and Six Corners Special Service Area Commission.