Decision on Six Corners site up to new alderman
by BRIAN NADIG
A zoning decision on the redevelopment of the former Bank of America property at 3911 N. Milwaukee Ave. will be in the hands of 45th Ward alderman-elect Jim Gardiner, while a trial on the city’s attempt to condemn the Mayfair Lumber site at 4825 W. Lawrence Ave., has been delayed until December.
Plans for a luxury senior living complex on the site at Six Corners has been in the works for nearly 2 1/2 years and appeared headed for approval last winter. The site has been an empty hole in the ground since the former bank was demolished in 2016.
However, in January the proposal was pulled from the agenda of the Chicago Plan Commission, which eventually approved it in April.
The proposal then hit a roadblock in the City Council Zoning Committee, which adjourned its April 23 meeting prior to a hearing on the project due to a lack of a quorum. The committee had approved other proposals without a quorum, but some aldermen sought to stymie outgoing Alderman John Arena’s request to have the project heard so that Gardiner would have more time to review the plan and seek possible revisions.
It was later learned that the city Department of Planning and Development had concerns about the project’s lack of on-site affordable apartments for low-income seniors, but the department ultimately threw its support behind the proposal, according to documents released by the city through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Plans call for the project to meet the city’s affordable housing requirements by constructing 10 off-site affordable units, which would be intended for households that make up to 60 percent of the area’s median household income. The off-site units would be constructed in one or more buildings within 2 miles of the main development site.
However, the redevelopment agreement between the developer and the city does allow for on-site affordable units as a secondary option. The on-site affordable units would include the amenities of the market-rate apartments, which the developer has compared to a cruise ship on land.
It appeared that Arena may have had one more chance to get the proposal through the zoning committee before his aldermanic term ends on May 20, but the committee canceled its May 13 meeting. Gardiner has expressed concern whether area seniors could afford the project’s rents. The on-site units would consist of a mix of 247 independent and assisted living units, with monthly rents estimated to range from $4,400 to $7,200.
The Six Corners Master Plan calls for a series of mixed-use buildings of up to five stories on the site. The development team has argued that the size of the proposed building is required to off set the costs of staffing, services for the seniors and non-rentable support spaces, such as a computer room or a library.
In other news, a trial on the condemnation of the Mayfair lumberyard site has been delayed to accommodate experts who may testify in the case, said city Department of Law spokesman Bill McCaffrey. The city is looking to relocate its Department of Water Management facility at 4900 W. Sunnyside Ave., there, although the gas station for city vehicles would remain at the Sunnyside site.
The city filed the lawsuit in 2013, but the city and property’s owners have been unable to come to an agreement on the land’s value. Last year the city’s highest appraisal of the 5.82-acre parcel came in at $5.11 million while the owners’ lowest appraisal was at $17.25 million.
Also in the ward, a hearing on the city’s motion to have a lawsuit challenging the zoning for a planned 16-story building at 4849 N. Lipps Ave., dismissed could be heard in the next few months. The building, which would include a 200-space parking garage and 114 apartments, would be located next to the Jefferson Park CTA Transit Center.
The lawsuit charges that the size of the parking garage would violate the tenets of transit-oriented development by attracting more traffic to the area and that the building would be too large for the 25,000-square-foot parcel, which under the zoning code is too small by itself to accommodate the planned square footage of the structure.
The planned development ordinance for the project includes the site of the nearby 10-story Veterans Square at 4849 N. Milwaukee Ave., so that the unused floor area of the building can be allotted to the 16-story building.
Without the allotment from Veterans, the size of the 16-story structure would have to be reduced by more than 50 percent, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in 2017.
The lawsuit contends that the combining of the properties is unprecedented. "They are not abutting or contiguous. They have had very different zoning classifications, scale and use for decades," the lawsuit states.