LINCOLN SQUARE — An affordable housing development proposed for a city-owned parking lot near the heart of Lincoln Square is causing some tension in the neighborhood, with some worried about losing a needed parking lot.
The Community Builders, a nonprofit development and property management firm, wants to bring a six-story building to 4715 N. Western Ave., the parking lot that sits just north of the Western Brown Line “L” station.
Though taller on Western, the corner building would only be three stories tall on the Leland Avenue side and include public parking.
Some residents and business owners are circulating a flyer opposing the plan because it will mean the elimination of a parking lot at the address. Parking in the area, which includes the bustling Lincoln Avenue business corridor, is notoriously tight.
The development would include 42 one- and two-bedroom apartments. The mixed-income building would include apartments reserved for residents who earn between 30 percent and 80 percent of the area median income.
The first floor would be set aside for commercial retail. Renderings of the development are not yet available.
The developer plans to ask the city for a zoning change and a “Transit Oriented Development” designation because of its close proximity to the Brown Line stop, as well as the host of nearby bus stops, including the 81, 49, X49 and 49B.
The “TOD” designation allows a developer to offer fewer parking spots than a typical building. The developer is proposing enough spots to replace the ones that currently exist in the public lot on the site — and only a few would be reserved for tenants of the building.
The developer also applied for low-income housing tax credits for the project.
Lincoln Square resident Horst Siegel has circulated a flyer in the neighborhood trying to rally neighbors and business owners against the project.
“Leave the parking lot as it is. People have to park. That’s what feeds the neighborhood retailers,” Siegel said. “This area is like a treasure chest that you don’t see in Chicago anymore.”
He’s lived in Lincoln Square for 40 years and owns the building at 4718 N. Lincoln Ave., which currently houses half of Merz Apothecary. A flyer he is circulating says popular Lincoln Square area retailers and institutions are “at risk” if the public parking spaces are taken away.
The bottom of the flyer says it is an ad “paid for by concerned Lincoln Square area neighbors, businesses and friends.”
The open parking lot is used during street festivals like Mayfest for carnival games. The flyer says removing an open space like that “puts at risk beloved cultural institutions” and that the new building would put an additional “burden on already strained infrastructure.”
But not everyone is against the plan.
“I think it’s a great idea for a great area. I wouldn’t foresee it taking too much away from like community,” said Katie Noonan, who lives in the area. “The Brown Line and buses are accessible right here which is good, especially for people who maybe are lower income and don’t have a car.”
Jim Collinsworth, who was riding his bicycle past 4715 N. Western Ave. on Thursday night, said he was not worried about the festivals losing access to the parking lot.
“I’d say most of the festivals here suck. It’s more like drunk fest when they use it. So giving up parking lot access to a festival to set up tents is definitely not an issue for me,” he said.
The proposed project isn’t an issue to Collinsworth because it’s in line with all the new condos and apartment complexes he’s seen go up along Lawrence Avenue north of the parking lot. And he did appreciate that the developer for the project at 4715 N. Western Ave. is a nonprofit pursuing affordable housing.
Siegel said he isn’t worried about neighborhood festivals losing access to the parking lot if the building is built.
“I’m not worried about those festivals. They can always find some other place for those tents,” Siegel said. “This is not the issue. No, I just want them to leave the parking lot as it is.”
Some of the information regarding the project on the flyer was not accurate, like the height of the building. Additionally, the flyer does not mention the public parking component the developers say they want to include in the new building.
Ald. Matt Martin (47th) said he was disappointed a flyer “claiming a number of falsehoods” has “misled” the neighborhood about the development’s details.
“Our office has not received a formal proposal to consider the development. If the tax credits are allocated, [the developer] will go through the office’s regular development process. This includes further presentations to the ward’s zoning advisory council and neighborhood associations, as well as the opportunity for online feedback and community meetings,” he said.
Laura Reimers, Martin’s chief of staff, further clarified that the city is responsible for relocating any lost pay-to-park parking spots.
“This is fairly common practice. We’ve relocated a number of pay-to-park spots already for various reasons. That said, the preliminary plans from the non-profit developer do include rebuilding public parking spots in the development,” Reimers said.
When told about the flyer’s inaccurate information, Siegel said he was skeptical of the developer’s promises over the public parking component. He wants guarantees from developers that public parking will be a part of their new building.
“There’s a need for affordable housing. I have no problem with that,” Siegel said. “If the developers guarantee to replace all the parking spaces over there. Okay, then I have no problem with them.”
Will Woodley, The Community Builders’s director of development, says his firm is still in the process of securing low-income housing tax credits for this development and is waiting on the status of their application.
He expects to give the community an update on the project early this year.
Josh Mark, the 47th Ward’s director of development and infrastructure, said the development is reliant on the tax credits, which Mark called the No. 1 source of funding for affordable housing in the nation. They are administered by the city and state, but provided by the federal government, he said.
“Even though the idea is not far enough along for community meetings, our office has made sure to communicate about it with the relevant neighbors associations,” Mark said.
Those groups include Heart Of Lincoln Square and the Ravenswood Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce, he said.
“I’m a big advocate for better income housing,” said Dana Stemo, who was walking past 4715 N. Western Ave. Thursday night. “I used to live near Logan Square and it’s gotten very pricey. I’m not opposed to more affordable housing here, but I’d definitely like to know more about it.”
The Community Builders have built over 100 properties in 14 states and Washington, D.C. In Chicago, the firm has been involved with nine properties including The Shops And Lofts At 47, located at 747 E. 47th St., Oakwood Shores Apartments, 3859 S. Vincennes Ave., and the Cornerstone Apartments, 747 E. 47th St.
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