WEST LOOP — The developer behind a luxury condominium proposal near McDonald’s global headquarters can now supersize its upcoming West Loop building from 9 to 15 stories, the Chicago Plan Commission voted on Thursday.
Though substantial, the increase in height is still less ambitious than what Chicago-based Sulo Development previously sought for the vacant lot at 19 N. May St. In 2018, the developer said it wanted to essentially double the height of its project to 18 stories before eventually scaling back the scope of its plan.
The amendment modifies Sulo’s existing 2017 Planned Development zoning that called for a mirror image of its 9-story Hayden West Loop condo development, which opened at nearby 1111 W. Washington St. in 2019.
The latest proposal for 19 N. May comes from Chicago architecture firm Lamar Johnson Collaborative and cuts the count of for-sale luxury units from 73 to 58. Other changes include a move to incorporate more underground parking and relocate garage access to the widest alleyway on the eastern edge of the property.
The revisions were a long time coming — the result of an abrupt change of leadership in the 25th Ward as well as multiple meetings involving local community groups including the West Central Association, Neighbors of the West Loop, West Loop Community Organization, and the 25th Ward Zoning Advisory Committee.
“This project goes back to the end 2018,” explained Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) at Thursday’s Plan Commission meeting, held remotely over Zoom. “But we were very clear with the developer when we resumed conversations that we wanted to have a robust community-driven zoning process. I want to thank the applicant for their patience and willingness to work with us.”
Two members of the public signed up to comment on the proposal.
Mona Makovsky, whose building shares the alleyway with the proposed development, said she is worried about the return of construction-related disruptions she experienced during the building of the Hayden.
“It was my understanding that when the Hayden was built that they had already exceeded what I was told was the maximum height of a building in this neighborhood,” Makovsky said.
Butler Adams, an architecture tour guide on the Chicago River, said he supports the project but is “slightly disappointed” in the latest revisions.
“It’s a little bit shorter and with that change the architecture didn’t really improve, it got blockier and bulkier. I think taller and thinner allows more light and air to circulate around to the area,” Butler explained.
Plan commissioner Linda Searl, who voted in favor of the amendment, echoed Butler’s critique.
“I do agree with our resident architecture critic and commentator that the building is now ‘blockier and bulkier,’ to use his words,” Searl said. “I wish it was a little more refined and I personally would not have minded whether it was 17 or 15 stories. I still think it looks like it’s going to be a good development for this location.”
Since the proposal amends an existing zoning plan, it is not subject to the most recent affordable housing rules that require developments in the West Loop Pilot Area to provide 20 percent of units at an affordable rate. The $75 million project will, however, subsidize the creation of nine single-family townhouses elsewhere in the city.
The developers will also pay over $3 million into Chicago’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, which allows developers to build taller, more dense buildings by paying into a fund to supports small businesses in underserved communities.
The zoning change will next be considered by the Zoning Committee and full City Council for final approval.
At a public meeting in May, representatives from Sulo said they expect to spend six to eight months pre-selling units in the upcoming building before breaking ground on 19 N. May St. The construction is anticipated to take between 15 and 18 months.
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