WEST LOOP — During a heated West Loop development meeting that Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) abruptly stormed out of Tuesday night, some residents living near a proposed six-story condo building have asked a developer to go back to the drawing board.
But Burnett took on residents in the audience who criticized the location of the building, calling them “selfish.”
Zev Salomon of ZSD Corp and zoning attorneys Michael Ezgur and Rolando Acosta presented revised plans for a 79-foot-tall condo building at 123 S. Peoria St. The proposed six-story building includes 25 condos and 42 parking spaces in the property that extends from Peoria to Green streets.
Architecture firm Sullivan Goulette and Wilson have been tapped to design the brick and steel building.
Ahead of Tuesday’s gathering, Ezgur said Salomon had listened to residents’ concerns during meetings with nearby residents and community organizations, and used their feedback to address some concerns by reconfiguring the luxury condo units, keeping the parking entrance at 128 S. Green Street and adding privacy screens to some of the balconies.
Despite the changes to the original proposal, some residents said the building remained too close to the other buildings and compromised their privacy and safety. They also said it would deprive natural light to the residents at 850 W. Adams St. and Illume, 111 S. Peoria St.— a controversial development where neighboring residents raised similar objections ahead of its construction a few years ago.
Early in the meeting, Burnett said he didn’t make decisions based on window views. “If you bought a place … and you expected to keep that view, shame on you. Shame on the person who sold it to you because everything that has been built in this ward has blocked someone’s views.
“I try to do what’s right. I’m not trying to be popular. We are not here to make everyone happy. We are here to make the community better,” he said.
Burnett said many of the concerns expressed by residents boiled down to views being blocked.
“I know how all of you … feel. I’ve gotten all of your emails. I know what your concerns are. I hear you. I think it’s very selfish to be quite honest with you,” Burnett told residents gathered at Revel Fulton Market, 1215 W. Fulton Market St.
“I just need you all to know that when your building was built I got my butt kicked for your building,” he told residents of Illume.
The Illume development was initially unveiled in 2014 as a rental apartment, but received pushback from surrounding residents for its proximity to Mary Bartelme Park, according to DNAinfo.
At the time, neighbors said they didn’t want more rentals in the neighborhood and were concerned the new building could present safety issues for existing condo owners. During the heated development meeting, Burnett said he thought the West Loop was starting to become “a bigot neighborhood,” according to another report from DNAinfo.
In 2016, residents of a condo development just north of Illume at 111 S. Peoria filed a lawsuit against the city and project’s developer LG Development, alleging the city failed to adequately notify neighbors about hearings concerning the proposal, gave neighbors too little time to comment at meetings and accepted a development application that failed to meet the city’s requirements.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, Burnett said it would be “unfair” to block the proposed development based on the same argument residents — in a once disputed building — are now making against a similar building. “I’m treating you like I treated the building next to you. The building next to you was against your building for all the reasons you’re against [this] building,” he said before storming out after a resident asked about if he had received contributions from the developer of the project. Several firms associated with the proposal have donated to Burnett’s campaign in the past.
Jeremiah Bickham, who lives in the property next to the proposed condo building, said neighbor concerns had “nothing to do with views. This is about a light source … people always conflate the two and that’s nonsense.”
Bickham along with other residents suggested the developer should consider commercial retail or a community amenity at the narrow property instead of another condo building.
Mika Cusick, a resident of the Illume building, cited the West Loop Design guidelines as a reason for why developers should consider a commercial retail or a community amenity, instead of their current proposal
Cusick said with the boom of development in the neighborhood, this was a time to “exhaust all the possible opportunities…to serve the community” and do something “innovative.”
The project’s developer said there were other opportunities retail for another vacant lot on the North Side of the park.
The property is currently being used as parking lot and is zoned to allows for commercial, office space and retail developments. The developer is seeking a zoning change to allow for a residential development, Ezgur said.
Under current zoning, the developer said a much larger building could be constructed with more parking.
Carla Agostinelli, executive director of the West Loop Community Organization which hosted the meeting alongside Ald. Burnett, did not state whether the community group would support the project.
Given the alderman’s departure during the meeting, Agostinelli said she would attempt to bring Burnett to the table for another meeting to discuss the proposed development meeting with residents once more.
Armando Chacon, West Central Association president and Mary Bartelme Park Advisory Council president, said the project was initially well received by both organizations he represented and didn’t expect for the project to become so “contentious.”
Following the meeting, Chacon said West Central Association and Mary Bartelme Park would reconvene before making a decision on the proposal.
Matt Letourneau, president Neighbors of the West Loop, said the organization was aware of the concerns from residents directly around the proposed site and noted that the developer had also addressed some of those concerns. The organization was evaluating the project along with feedback before making a final assessment on whether they would support the project.
Although Burnett said he did not have plans for another community meeting, he said he would still listen to feedback from residents before making a final decision on the proposed development.
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