by BRIAN NADIG
The Chicago Planning Commission is expected to approve a proposal for a 297-unit apartment at 8535 W. Higgins Ave. for the second time in four years this summer. despite the objections of alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st), but getting city council approval could be a much more difficult task.
“We don’t need this development. We need jobs. Put a commercial building there, ”Napolitano said. He added that GlenStar Properties’ proposal would likely never get off the committee despite the early approval of the commission, whose votes serve as recommendations to the board.
In June, the council’s zoning committee voted 11-2 to have the proposal postponed with the intention of putting her to death in committee, but the city’s planning department wants the proposal to be heard before the committee of the city. plan, which approved a similar proposal from GlenStar in 2017. The proposal is on the committee’s agenda on July 15, but it is expected to be postponed for at least a month.
If the commission approves the seven-story project, Napolitano said, the committee would then vote to support or reject the proposal or to postpone it indefinitely.
Napolitano said he suspected the committee would vote broadly against the proposed zoning change, as several committee members expressed dismay at GlenStar’s attempt to get virtually the same proposal the committee rejected in 2018 and approved. in 2021.
“The GlenStar project would be the first residential development built in this submarket since 1968, over 50 years ago. Homeowners, developers and tenants widely agree that Chicago needs more housing development to meet growing demand and affordability of housing, ”said project attorney Peter Friedman.
In 2018, GlenStar filed a lawsuit against the city in an attempt to have the project built, but then dropped the lawsuit and announced plans for office and commercial development on the plot, which is an underutilized section of the land. in front of the Marriott O ‘Lièvre.
Napolitano said there were 7,000 reasonably priced apartments in the O’Hare corridor and many of them were vacant. He added that the proposed residential project would not fit into what is a predominantly commercial stretch of Higgins.
The proposal continues to be at the center of the debate on the prerogative of the aldermen, which is the unofficial practice of the council which refers local affairs to the alderman of the district concerned. In essence, this practice gives each city councilor control over virtually all local legislative matters, such as zoning, parking permits, and road signage.
In 2018, then alderman John Arena of Ward 45 encouraged other aldermen to go against Napolitano’s wishes and support Higgins’ proposal, but the committee rejected it 7- 5. At the time, some aldermen rented the project because it would have included 30 affordable housing (at reduced rent).
However, Napolitano said, the proposal made no more than seven affordable units until shortly before the committee vote. GlenStar has agreed to increase the number of affordable units to 30 in a last ditch effort to gain approval, he said.
The current zoning request does not specify how many affordable units would be included in the development, but indicates that a minimum of seven would be built and up to 23 additional units are expected to be built or purchased.
The city requires that at least 10 percent of the units in a development be affordable, but that developers can opt for a buyout of up to 75 percent of the affordable units required in which approximately $ 125,000 for each of those units are paid into a city housing fund. The minimum will drop to 20 percent later this year, with a maximum redemption of 50 percent.
“There is a need and demand for new high quality multi-family housing that is affordable and accessible to entry-level professionals, emergency responders, teachers and staff in the O’Hare area,” said Friedman. “These (affordable) units will be set at affordable rent levels for households earning up to 60% of the region’s median income. For example, the rent ceilings for 2021 are set at $ 947 for a studio apartment, $ 1,208 for a two-bedroom unit and $ 1,395 for a three-bedroom unit.
Napolitano said the project had never been about affordable housing, arguing it would target young professionals and average rents would be in the high end, with only a small number of affordable units. He said when he first met GlenStar several years ago, the plans called for a maximum buyout of any affordable housing requirement.
The 2018 proposal was approved by the 41st Neighborhood Zoning Advisory Committee, but Napolitano said he decided to go against the committee’s recommendation due to growing concerns about high-rise development proposals. density that his office had received from residents.