This story has been updated with comments from Fifield developers.
NEAR NORTH SIDE — Developers have scaled back plans for a controversial luxury condo tower on the Near North Side, but its would-be neighbors say the revised proposal is still too close to their building.
Neighbors previously blasted Fifield Companies’ plans for the 43-story tower at 125 W. Maple St. during a July community meeting, claiming the proposal was too large and too close to their 34-story building next door.
Since then, Fifield’s developers have scaled back their proposal to a shorter, 29-story building with fewer units and parking spaces. But residents of the Gold Coast Galleria, which sits east of the planned development at 111 W. Maple St., said Tuesday that the concessions weren’t enough.
“For over four months, we have repeated our concerns about your project, and sadly you have chosen to ignore them,” Galleria Condo Board President Ken Green said in the letter.
Fifield’s revised proposal would eliminate about a third of the building’s condominiums and more than half of its parking spaces, leaving the tower with 269 units and 98 parking spots.
It would also curve the north and south ends of the tower by three feet to allow a little more sunlight and airflow between the towers.
The developers would still buy air rights from the adjacent Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral at 1017 N. LaSalle Drive, and build a 7-story community center for the church in the lot between.
The new proposal also didn’t add any of the setbacks from the edge of the lot that neighbors requested, leaving a 20-foot shared alley that would be used to access both buildings’ garages, according to the Gold Coast Galleria’s condominium association.
“There’s still no room for sunlight or airflow, and traffic congestion is already a nightmare,” condo board treasurer Wolfgang Suess said. “I’ve been stuck in the alley trying to get onto Oak or Maple Street, and it’s quite impossible as is.”
Suess lives on the 32nd floor in one of the west-facing units that would have been completely blocked by Fifield’s original proposal. Under the revised, shorter plan, he’d be “staring right at the top of their building with its mechanicals whirring.”
A Fifield spokesperson said the firm was aware of the Galleria’s complaints, claiming that apartment views aren’t protected by the city’s zoning rules.
“As views are not considered when determining zoning approvals, this small group seeks to play by different rules than the rest of the city of Chicago, and notably, deprive the city of critical tax revenue and economic development,” the spokesman said.
Fifield’s representative said the new development would bring in $1.3 million annually in property tax revenue. The firm will also contribute $3.7 million to the city’s Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund and another $4 million to the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund.
“We look forward to formally unveiling the proposal at a community meeting in the near future,” the spokesperson said.
But Suess said Fifield’s changes to the proposal didn’t address any of the neighbors’ quality-of-life concerns, which include more than just views, and that the revised tower would still diminish property values at the Galleria.
The condo association hired real estate appraisal and consulting firm Byrnes and Walsh to inspect the Galleria and estimate the Fifield Tower’s impact on its value.
According to the appraisal report, which was based on Fifield’s previous offer, properties at the Galleria would see at least a 16 percent drop in value with a projected loss of $37,838 per unit.
“There are a lot of people living on the west side of this building who put their life savings into their apartments,” Suess said. “It’s their nest egg, and this is just going to be a transfer of wealth from one person straight to Fifield.”
In their letter to Fifield, Galleria residents asked the developer to set its new structure back at least 60–80 feet, possibly by using the cathedral’s lot to create a much larger building that could incorporate the future community center and church parking.
“They’d get double the width of the building and could lower its height while making some green space in the back,” Suess said. “I don’t see how that can’t work.”
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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