LOGAN SQUARE — A controversial proposal to open a new music venue along the Logan Square/Hermosa border won’t be moving forward.
Ald. Felix Cardona Jr. (31st) said Tuesday he won’t approve the zoning change required to get the venue off the ground after fielding pushback from neighbors in the area.
“I listened to the community and the community voted no, so my decision is going to be no,” Cardona Jr. said.
Cardona Jr. sent out a letter to constituents Monday evening. In the letter, the alderman said his office had neighbors vote on the proposal at a recent community meeting and then continued to accept votes for a week after the meeting “to get a better sense of the community that would be directly impacted.”
Cardona Jr. only counted the votes from residents who live within a close radius of the site at 2537 N. Pulaski Road. The final results were 75 in favor and 95 not in favor, the alderman said in the letter.
“I know I can’t please everybody, but I listened to the community,” Cardona Jr. said. “I heard their voices.”
Reached by phone Tuesday, Mark Falanga, the lead developer behind the proposal, said he found the results “a little surprising.”
“The vote at the meeting was a favorable vote for us. … I thought that positive vote would continue through the remainder of the week,” Falanga said.
According to Falanga, roughly 55 percent of neighbors who attended the meeting voted “yes” and about 45 percent voted “no.” Cardona Jr.’s office would not confirm the results of that vote.
Falanga and his partners, Scott Miles and Evan Meister, were planning to repurpose the old marble manufacturing plant at Wrightwood Avenue and Pulaski Road and convert it into an 1,000-person-capacity music and event venue with a mini food hall.
Throughout the months-long community process, Falanga stressed that the venue would be used for community events, farmers markets and an after-school program when it wasn’t hosting live music shows. He said the venue would offer a “strong” Latin music program catering to the community’s Latinx population.
Falanga said he and his partners were prepared to enter a community benefits agreement with Logan Square Neighborhood Association, but the community group pulled out of the agreement. Members of the group said the terms were unsatisfactory.
The fact that the proposal was ultimately rejected, Falanga said, is disappointing, but not earth-shattering.
“We were hoping and expecting a positive outcome, but from day one there was always the possibility that this use would not be approved,” the developer said.
Falanga said his team is now planning to conform to the current zoning parameters and lease out the industrial building to a manufacturing company, possibly an interior finishes manufacturer. There are a number of interior finishes showrooms in the area, he said, pointing to Studio41 and Climate Guard Windows.
But Falanga noted that the music venue would’ve been a much better use for the building.
“We felt that it was such a good use for that building,” he said. “In the course of our exploration of this idea, we’ve brought in a couple hundred people — band promoters, sound technicians, concert-goers — and everyone saw the space as this incredible music venue right away. There wasn’t anyone who said, Oh my gosh, a music venue doesn’t make sense here.”
For many neighbors, though, the music venue was a flashpoint in the neighborhood’s debate over gentrification. Several at the community meeting said they opposed the venue because it would drive up rents and property taxes and ultimately push longtime residents out of their homes, further exacerbating displacement in gentrifying Logan Square and Hermosa.
“Alderman Cardona, you need to work on protecting affordable housing and making that your top priority so we don’t have to choose between letting something cool happen and displacing our neighbors,” one neighbor said at the meeting.
Logan Square Neighborhood Association has been a vocal critic of the proposal for this reason. The neighborhood group’s youth leaders led a protest against the proposal days before the meeting, urging neighbors and Cardona Jr. to vote “no.”
“We fundamentally believe that this zoning change will tear our community apart just like The 606 and just like Thalia Hall in Pilsen,” Traolach O’Sullivan, 17, said at the protest.
Other concerns over the noise and trash the venue would produce were raised at the community meeting.
Cardona Jr. on Tuesday pointed to those concerns, and not gentrification, when asked about his decision to reject the zoning change.
“I’ve seen it in the past [with] other music venues and how it plays out down the road. And basically, you’re going to have traffic, you’re going to have people — they’re going to come out intoxicated, going through the alleys, defecating on peoples’ properties. And I don’t want that,” the alderman said.
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