WICKER PARK — Residents are continuing to pressure Ald. Daniel La Spata to stop a controversial high-rise apartment project at a busy Wicker Park intersection that was approved by outgoing Ald. Joe Moreno — but the current alderman has been silent on the topic in recent months.
La Spata (1st) introduced an ordinance at City Council to downzone the project in May, but the change hasn’t happened. When asked for an update on the case, ward staffer Nick Zettel said the matter was referred to the council’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards.
“Due to ongoing legal matters regarding this project, Alderman La Spata has no further comment,” Zettel said in an email.
Members of the Wicker Park Committee voted 11-2 last week in favor of advising La Spata to change the property’s zoning.
The project in question, a 16-story, 168-unit building proposed for a parking lot at 1628 W. Division St., was approved by City Council last year following years of fierce neighborhood opposition.
Then-Ald. Moreno, who had just lost a re-election bid, used his final meeting as Wicker Park’s alderman to push through a zoning change for the controversial project. Before the 11th-hour change, the largest a building could be at the site was four stories.
Neighbors who opposed the project when Moreno was in office immediately pleaded with La Spata, Moreno’s successor, to “pull the plug” and scale down the project, arguing it was too tall and too dense 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 has said.
In May, La Spata tried to reverse Moreno’s move by exercising his “aldermanic prerogative” to change the zoning.
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 at the time.
“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.”
Now, however, it’s not clear where the case stands, said Kyle Sneed, president of the Wicker Park Committee that routinely weighs in on matters related to zoning.
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.
Vermilion 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.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.