WICKER PARK — At his final meeting as Wicker Park’s alderman last year, the newly-defeated Proco “Joe” Moreno pushed through a zoning change for a controversial Wicker Park project, allowing a 16-story building to go up at a popular neighborhood corner.
Before the 11th hour change, the largest building permitted at the site was four stories.
But the man who took his seat in the City Council, Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), is now moving to reverse Moreno’s move, exercising his “aldermanic prerogative” to change the zoning once again.
The project in question, a 16-story, 168-unit project proposed for a parking lot at 1628 W. Division St., was approved by the City Council last year following years of fierce neighborhood opposition.
Neighbors who opposed the project when Moreno was in office immediately pleaded with La Spata to “pull the plug” and scale down the project, arguing it was too tall and too dense for the site, and would make crowding on the nearby Blue Line even worse.
Instead, the freshman alderman tried to broker a compromise between property owner Robert Mosky and neighborhood leaders. That plan ultimately didn’t work out, La Spata said.
So this month he introduced an ordinance at City Council to change the zoning of the project to “B-3-2,” a classification that allows retail stores but restricts the height to about 50 feet, tall enough for about four stories.
Invoking “aldermanic prerogative” was not a decision he made lightly, La Spata said. But in the interest of “community-based zoning” policy, he said he felt it was the right thing to do.
“I really believe, based on the community’s interests, based on how these processes are supposed to work … this is the fair and right zoning decision,” he said. “This zoning is fair and grounded in development. A little bit more reflective of hopefully what the community’s wishes are.”
The Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards will review La Spata’s request next month.
Kyle Sneed, president of the Wicker Park Committee that routinely weighs in on matters related to zoning, celebrated La Spata’s decision. Sneed lives around the corner from the site.
“As a neighbor, no one was saying we don’t want anything there. It was just, ‘Build something that makes sense and is reasonable,'” he said. “I’m happy to hear [La Spata] took into consideration feedback he got from neighbors and the neighborhood organization.”
Mosky has not responded to repeated calls for comment. His RDM Development owns multiple properties near the site, including the CVS at 1200 N. Ashland Ave. and a 33-unit apartment building at 1624 W. Division St..
Next door at 1640 W. Division St sits Wicker Park Connection, a 15-story, 140-unit apartment tower.
West of the site, another firm, Vermilion Development, is building dozens of million-dollar condos and 12 town homes at 1650 W. Division St.
Vermillion has protested Moreno’s zoning change, even filing a lawsuit against the city to stop it last year. The suit alleged the city violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act as well as a six-month city zoning approval deadline when Moreno pushed through the zoning change on his way out of office.
Neighbors who live on Paulina Street have said they are worried another big apartment complex would worsen commutes on the CTA Blue Line.
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