Proposed 79-foot-tall, 80-unit complex for Downtown Edison Park draws density, parking concerns
by BRIAN NADIG
Density and parking concerns about a proposed 80-unit, 79-foot-tall luxury apartment complex for Downtown Edison Park at 6750 N. Northwest Hwy. were voiced at the Oct. 18 meeting of the 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Committee.
“There’s not one building 80 feet on that (commercial) strip,” an audience member said.
“Why not have it on a smaller scale (and) aesthetically pleasing,” another said.
“It’s crowded over there. If you can do anything to dampen the concern, that would help,” committee member Frank Icuss said to project representatives.
Committee member Marc Pelini said that the requested zoning change is “is not even remotely close” to the existing zoning and density levels in that area.
“This is a radical change from everything else built in the neighborhood,” Pelini said.
However, not all comments about the proposal were negative.
Icuss said that he talked to six area businesses and they said they would welcome more residents, who would be potential customers.
“The business district is dwindling,” Icuss said. “Are we going to let the neighborhood decline … or are we going to attract new (businesses)?”
“I didn’t really get a lot of negative feedback,” Edison Park Chamber of Commerce executive director Amanda Harres said of the comments from area merchants when they were told of the proposal.
A resident expressed concern that the area already has plenty of vacant storefronts and apartments.
“This is not your average for-rent” building, project developer Valdir Barion responded, He added that the planned “ultra-modern” amenities would make the project stand out from existing apartment buildings in the area.
The sixth level would include a variety of rooftop amenities, including a sundeck, a workout studio, a garden, a lounge area and a grilling alcove. The complex also would include a business center with a conference room, a pet wash area, bicycle storage, a grocery drop-off area and an on-site laundry and dry cleaning service.
Also at the meeting, concerns were raised about the project setting a precedent.
“Once you rezone that land, you’re going to rezone everything,” another resident said.
“I don’t really care for the scale and mass” of the project, a woman said.
The advisory committee, whose votes serve as recommendations to Alderman Anthony Napolitano, plans to have additional meetings on the proposal before making a recommendation. About 250 attended the Oct. 18 meeting, which was held in a side room at the Olympia Park fieldhouse, 6566 N. Avondale Ave. Some had to stand outside and listen to the meeting through open windows due to the overflow crowd.
The proposal calls for two six-level buildings, each with 40 apartments, ground-floor retail space and 33 or 34 interior parking spaces, to be constructed in the site of M.J. Suerth Funeral Home, which is still operating but would be torn down under the plan. The site measures about 42,000 square feet.
The proposed B3-5 zoning, the densest classification for a neighborhood business district, is being sought for the project.
The proposal does not maximize the density and size levels allowed under B3-5, and the 80 units would be allowed under the more restrictive B2-3, according to project officials. The B3-5 reportedly is being sought for procedural reasons.
The monthly rents are estimated to range from $2,750 to $3,350, with rents for the eight affordable housing units being about $1,000 lower. Affordable units are usually intended for those households earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income.
In response to questions and comments, project officials said that affordable housing is separate from CHA-sponsored Section 8 housing. The project’s architect said that the planned market-rate rents for 90 percent of the units would be too high to qualify for Section 8 vouchers.
The units would range in size from 1,280 to 1,541 square feet, with having two or three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The units would include large window spaces, Quartz countertops, balconies, a kitchen island, a garbage disposal, dual vanities, a walk-in shower and oversized walk-in closets.
Only 20 parking spaces are required per building due to the site’s proximity to the Edison Park Metra Station, 6730 N. Olmsted Ave., and the proposal requires administrative relief from the city since the project would exceed the required number in a designated transit-served district, according to project attorney Nicholas Ftikas. One building would have 33 parking spaces and the other 34. Tenants would have to pay $100 a month for a parking space.
“Where are the guests going to park?” an audience member asked.
In addition, Icuss expressed concern that there would be no on-site parking for workers in the complex’s storefronts. “Not everyone walks (to work). Some are going to drive in” he said, suggesting that workers could perhaps park on the former Happy Foods site, where a new grocery store is opening next year. The owner of the former Happy Foods site is the developer of the funeral home site.
“We have examples of parking garages (near transit-served areas) that are half empty, (although) maybe not here,” Ftikas said.
“This isn’t Wrigleyville,” an audience member said.
One resident asked why the developer chose rental units instead of condominiums.
Ftikas said that the financing often cannot be finalized for condominium projects until half the units are sold.
According to project representatives, potential commercial tenants in the complex could include a breakfast restaurant, coffeehouse and retail shops.
In recent months several restaurants have closed on Northwest Highway in Edison Park. In the works is a privately owned daycare and a Chicago Public Schools pre-school along portions of Northwest Highway.
On social media there have been debates about whether the business district needs more density to create a larger customer base for the existing restaurants and bars and to attract new ones. Others say the area already is over crowded, with too much parking congestion.
One resident recommended that the M.J. Suerth site be used for senior housing. The funeral home has been operating on Northwest Highway for nearly 100 years.