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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Developer Wants To Demolish Workers Cottages To Build Condos, But Neighbors Worry It Will Disrupt Rooftop ‘Community’

The West Town workers cottages have structural issues, the developer said. Ald. Daniel La Spata won't say if he'll support the project yet.

The owner of 1533 and 1535 W. Fry St. has proposed a demolition and redevelopment of the buildings.
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NOBLE SQUARE — While some neighbors support a proposed six-unit condo building on a quiet West Town block, others worry the project would make it harder to park in the neighborhood and would disrupt the block’s rooftop community.

To make way for the condo building, two workers cottages at 1535 and 1533 W. Fry St. would be demolished. Neighbors shared their feedback about the project with Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) Tuesday at a community meeting held via Zoom.

The project needs a zoning change and La Spata requires a community meeting before introducing zoning change proposals at City Council.

Since taking office, La Spata has said he wants to give the public more of a chance to weigh in on zoning changes than they had in the past, particularly for projects that involve demolitions or the creation of six or more units. 

An early rendering of a proposed six-unit building that could replace two neighboring workers cottages at 1535 and 1533 W. Fry St.

Developer David Schwartz said he anticipates pricing the mid-level, three-bedroom condos in the mid-$500,000s, the ground-floor condos in the $700,000s and the rooftop condos in the $800,000s.

During Tuesday’s meeting, neighbors shared general concerns about decreased street parking and issues with construction crews, citing problems they’d had with other recently constructed homes.

At least three neighbors worried the project would be taller than their three-story buildings, therefore being taller than their rooftop decks. The existing workers cottages don’t have rooftops.

“We want to keep the community of the rooftop outdoor space intact,” Zach Leahy said. “You’re going to completely block us from the city, the rest of the community. It’s a wall.”

The single-family workers cottages that are there now are “quaint and provide historical charm” in the “ever-so-rapid gentrification of the West Town,” Leahy said.

“The street and neighborhood could use a break from work crews and trucks damaging streets and creating both noise and air pollution,” he said.

The developer said an existing condo building next door would be the same height as the 45-foot-tall condo building he aims to build.

Leah Wilmington, who lives next door, said she worried the front of the building would block the sunlight for her front yard.

“Losing that sunlight will kill off my plants,” she said.

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Joe Engleman, a renter on the block, said he worried about the affordability of the neighborhood. He also shared concerns about the welfare of the cottages’ current tenants as well as the safety of building demolition if the coronavirus pandemic continues.

A handful of neighbors, however, voiced support.

“I find [the] critical feedback [surprising],” resident Cody Moon said. “We’ve all benefited from the zoning changes.”

The Eckhart Park Community Council, a neighborhood organization, recently voted in support of the project, another neighbor said.

Mike Skoulsky is the current owner of the cottages and lives on the block.

Skoulsky has previously said the homes have severe structural issues. When he bought the wood frame and partial brick cottages as rental properties, he never intended to demolish or sell them.

But the winter of 2019 “took such a toll” it left one of the buildings with 18 burst pipes.

RELATED: West Town Workers Cottages Would Be Torn Down, Replaced With Condo Building Under New Plan

Schwartz told La Spata he’s willing to work with neighbors to address their concerns if that’s what it takes to get a zoning change — but he believes his vision fits into the neighborhood.

“We weren’t looking to take on City Hall, wage a big fight regarding zoning,” he said. “We thought this was going to be one that seemed to make a lot of sense.”

If approved, Schwartz said construction would not begin for at least another year.

“We can control our timeline,” he said.

At the end of the meeting La Spata said he felt “agnostic” toward the project and would take neighbors’ feedback into consideration before making a decision.

Missed the meeting? You can share your thoughts with La Spata by filling out this feedback form.

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