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Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

Apartment Plan For Old Salvation Army Site Needs More Parking, West Loop Residents Say

The Chicago Plan Commission is slated to consider the project Thursday.

Developer of the former Salvation Army building heading before Chicago Plan Commission Thursday, despite residents lingering concerns.
[Mauricio Peña/Block Club Chicago]
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WEST LOOP — A plan to build apartments at the old Salvation Army site is slated to be considered by the city’s Plan Commission Thursday — but neighbors are concerned the plan’s limited parking could cause more congestion in the booming neighborhood. 

Uptown-based developer Cedar Street is looking to build a mix of 260 apartments and commercial space in existing buildings at the 3-acre site, located at 1515 W. Monroe St. But the plan’s limited parking — nine on-site spaces and 30 nearby leased spaces are proposed — has some West Loop neighbors worried.

Brian Ferber, vice president of Neighbors of West Loop, said some nearby residents want one on-site parking space for every unit built on site and a dedicated driveway for the development. Ferber has lived across from the former Salvation Army site for about a decade.

The limited parking would exacerbate parking problems in the area, he said. 

“A lot of the buildings that are already here [were] required to have 1:1 [on-site] parking,” said Ferber, who serves as co-chair of the group’s 28th Ward development committee. “For a whole new group people to come and make it that much harder for the existing community to not get parking spaces in a public way — even if it’s permitted — doesn’t seem fair.”

Mark Heffron, Cedar Street managing partner, said the firm spent time with “every neighbor” who has feedback on the project. The developer heard neighbors’ “very specific input, loud and clear” and amended their initial plan accordingly. In addition to the nine on-site parking spaces, Cedar Street plans to lease another 30 parking spots adjacent to the site and will designate two loading zones on Monroe for drop offs and pickups. 

Cedar Street received support “from almost every neighborhood group,” he said.

“The overall community process has been positive. We feel as though we have addressed all of the residents concerns, but we can’t make everyone happy,” Heffron said.

Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) supports the project, and said the developer has worked to address neighborhood concerns. 

“I think it’s a good use of the site, it doesn’t bring the height and density that neighbors thought it would,” the alderman said. “It will maintain character of the neighborhood, and it’s been vacant for an excessive period of time.”

Last November, Cedar Street initially unveiled plans that called for a 288 residential units, a coffee shop and restaurant to be built at the site. That plan included no on-site parking spaces.

Two parking lots are currently located at the site. 

One of the current parking lots on the  3-acre property purchased by Cedar Street in 2015.

Following the meeting, Neighbors of the West Loop welcomed the activation of the vacant land, but raised concerns about the congestion, a need for more on-site parking and a plan for loading and unloading passengers who use Uber and Lyft.

“All the residents want something as opposed to a vacant property…but we want what will be right for the community in five, 10, 20 years,” Ferber said.

Jeannine Norlander, a West Loop resident who moved to the 1500 block of Monroe from the suburbs three years ago, said the rapid redevelopment and growing traffic congestion in the area may cause her to move. 

“We figured we’d get out now before the next mess started,” Norlander said. “We are really unhappy with this development going up across the street.”

But Ira Epstein, a neighbor who has lived across the street from the Salvation Army site for 22 years, welcomes the development — with some reservations. 

“Cedar Street is trying to convince residents that the people who rent from them are millennials who don’t own cars,” Epstein said. “If that’s correct, I get it. if it’s not correct, then we have a serious issue in the neighborhood.”

Cedar Street purchased the former Salvation Army site in 2015.  For more than 70 years, the Monroe site was home to the Salvation Army’s Freedom Center, a community center that housed multiple Salvation Army programs. The property has sat vacant after the Freedom Center moved to Chicago and Christina avenues in Humboldt Park in 2014.

The Near West Side Salvation Army center previously housed the Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Center, a recovery center for people with addictions seeking treatment, and Pathway Forward, a program that helped thousands of men and women transition back into the community after incarceration.

The 1515 W. Monroe facility is about 100 years old.

The developer is asking the city to remove part of the property from the current Planned Development and rezone part of the property to a DX-3 and DX-5 downtown mixed-use district. Part of the property, at 1511-1555 W. Monroe, would be rezoned from a Planned Development to DX-5 downtown mixed-use district to a residential-business planned development, according to a zoning application. 

Cedar Street is also seeking landmark status for the property.