AVONDALE — A developer who was scolded by Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) for posting flyers about a Milwaukee Avenue project before it was approved has reemerged with a scaled-back proposal for the site.
Mark Kappelman, with the residential real estate firm Tri Homes Today, is seeking a minor zoning change to rehab and redevelop a long-vacant six-unit apartment building at 2901 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Kappelman plans to build a nine-unit apartment building — one reserved as affordable under a community benefits agreement — with 1,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space. The developer doesn’t plan to make any changes to the height or the size of the building.
It significantly condenses Kappelman’s original proposal, which called for a 19-unit apartment building and a two-story addition.
The building sits on a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue that has been the subject of debate in recent years.
Ramirez-Rosa recently received Zoning Committee approval to “downzone” the stretch after years of gathering community input. Supporters of the plan have argued the measure will block unwanted dense development, which they say has plagued Logan Square in recent years. Opponents, on the other hand, have slammed the plan, saying it will hurt the area’s economic growth.
Ramirez-Rosa said Kappelman’s new proposal is proof the “downzoning” measure will lead to responsible development. The measure still requires endorsement from the full City Council. But the approval process Kappelman has been winding his way through — soliciting feedback from community leaders — is the same process other developers will be required to go through should the measure move forward.
“This project really shows that through our community-driven zoning process, through our land use and development policy which seeks to preserve existing buildings, we are able to accomplish our goals in this stretch: investment, [but with] rehab of existing buildings and preservation of the existing built environment,” the alderman said.
The alderman’s office is hosting a virtual community meeting on the project Jan. 7. The meeting kicks off at 6:30 p.m. To RSVP, and for more information, visit the alderman’s website.
Should Kappelman receive the necessary zoning approval, the developer will breathe new life into a corner building that has sat empty for many years.
Earlier this year, artist and Avondale resident Lynn Basa enlisted local artist David Orozco to paint a mural of the small grocer that called the building home in the 1920s. Basa hoped the public art would serve as a symbol of Avondale’s glory days and inspire neighbors to reimagine its future.
Prior to the building being empty, it was home to a botanica and a small appliance shop, according to Basa.
When Kappelman first approached Ramirez-Rosa and community leaders about redeveloping the site, reception toward the project was chilly.
Some neighborhood group members raised concerns about the height of the building, the number of apartments and the size of the commercial storefront, the alderman previously said. Others questioned the best path forward given the coronavirus pandemic.
Ramirez-Rosa said he was shocked then to discover Kappelman had posted fliers about the project, as though a community meeting were on the horizon.
The alderman accused Kappelman of trying to “get around” his community-driven zoning process and going rogue.
But Kappelman previously said he had no intention of overstepping. He said the fliers were simply an extension of the community outreach his team had been doing.
Kappelman’s latest proposal, however, seems to quash that beef. The developer couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Wednesday, but Ramirez-Rosa made it clear he supports the proposal.
“I know the community groups that worked so diligently on this — they’re happy and I’m just very happy to see that we have a developer that worked with the community to provide an outcome that’s a win, win, win,” he said.
Bhaskar Manda with Logan Square Neighborhood Association said the original proposal was “way beyond what the community could’ve accepted” but the new one is “generally acceptable to the community groups and does reflect the feedback we provided the developer.”
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