Long-Argyle site where 48 units were planned is now for sale, as failed or delayed development projects in Jefferson Park all too common
by BRIAN NADIG
Is Jefferson Park the place where development comes to die?
There are several examples in Jefferson Park where buildings have been demolished and nothing new has been built, or land is rezoned for a dense development and nothing is still built.
One example is the 28,000-square-foot parcel at 5338-52 W. Argyle St., which was rezoned in 2016 for a controversial 48-unit apartment complex. A “for sale” sign for the undeveloped parcel was posted on July 23.
At a community meeting about 5 years ago, the developer threatened that the property would remain vacant if he didn’t get the required RM-5 zoning to build his apartment complex. He got the zoning he wanted, but the project was never built and the land is now for sale.
About 15 years ago single-family homes were planned for the site, which includes a former storage yard for the Cowhey cement-mixing business, but that project also went nowhere.
The site’s RM-5 zoning was approved as a “Type 1” zoning amendment, meaning that a zoning change would be required if a new owner wanted to build anything other than the 48 apartments, which would have to be split into two 24-unit buildings, as specified in the amendment.
Another former Cowhey parcel, located at 4849 N. Lipps Ave., was rezoned in 2017 for a 16-story, 114-unit building with a 200-space parking garage, but it has not been constructed. The parcel has been used as a makeshift parking lot for years.
Another undeveloped property, where three buildings were demolished, was rezoned in early 2019, for a five-story building with 31 apartments at 4900 N. Milwaukee Ave., across from the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal. There are no issued or pending construction permits for the project listed on the website for the city Department of Buildings.
And in the early 2000s, the city Department of Planning and Development encouraged a local developer, the Mega Group, which also owns the Lipps parcel, to buy and demolish buildings in the 5200 and 5300 blocks of West Lawrence Avenue.
At the time the department said that it would condemn any properties which Mega was unable to acquire on its own, and the city took two property owners to court.
The department eventually put the redevelopment of Lawrence on the back burner and ended up paying $1.46 million for some of the properties, which about 10 years later were sold to Mega for $1. In 2020, a four-story building was constructed at 5201 W. Lawrence Ave., but several other lots on Lawrence remain undeveloped and are being used for the storage of commercial vehicles despite a pedestrian-street zoning designation prohibiting new surface parking lots along a main thoroughfare.
One of those undeveloped lots is the former home of the Sportif bike shop at 5225 W. Lawrence Ave. The building was demolished about two years ago, but no redevelopment plans have been announced for the site.
The business district also has numerous empty storefronts in the 4500 to 4700 bocks of Milwaukee that in some instances have been vacant for decades. About 15 years ago the city considered condemning some of these properties, but eminent domain lawsuits were never filed.