UPTOWN — Plans to replace a single-story retail strip on Clark Street in Uptown cleared a key hurdle Tuesday, despite some neighbors saying the five-story building is out of scale with the nearby historic district.
The city’s Zoning Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved MCZ Development’s request to rezone a property at 4511 N. Clark St. to make way for a new apartment building.
The new building will have 56 apartments and 3,400 square feet of retail space. It will contain 28 parking spaces and six units designated as “affordable,” the minimum affordable unit count required by city development guidelines.
Tuesday’s vote marks the furthest a development proposal for this stretch of Clark Street has moved forward in some time. Developers have been eyeing the stretch for years, but objections from neighbors stymied previous projects.
The latest proposal is being opposed by some neighbors in the Dover Street Landmark District, which is one block east of the Clark Street development.
Dover Street neighbors say the project is too dense for the area, and would result in the displacement of the largely immigrant-owned business community on Clark Street. They also say they were iced out the local approval process for this project.
Aldermen on the Zoning Committee, however, said dense buildings are meant for streets like Clark, and that development on the street could help a retail strip in decline.
At Tuesday’s Zoning Committee meeting, eight neighbors spoke in opposition of the Clark Street proposal. Eighteen other neighbors submitted letters in opposition, zoning Chair Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said.
Replacing a single-story building with a five-story apartment complex would change the makeup of Clark Street, and perhaps remove some of the charm of the Dover Street district and the larger Sheridan Park Historic District, some neighbors argued.
“Coming to a neighborhood where neighbors know each other, where there is sky you can see … this is what drew me,” said James Sidney Peryar, who said he moved from Downtown to Dover Street. “We do not want our neighborhood sacrificed to developers looking to make a quick profit.”
Dover Street neighbors say they were excluded from the early part of the development’s community approval process.
Ald. James Cappleman’s (46th) local zoning process requires developers meet with the closest block club. For years, that meant Clark Street projects went to the Dover Street Neighbors Association, but a new Clark Street neighbors group was formed this year, usurping Dover Street’s say over such projects.
A ward-wide community zoning board voted to support the project in October. Three of the five Sheridan Park block clubs supported the project, but not Dover Street.
Cappleman said there are other five-story buildings on this stretch of Clark Street, and that city initiatives like transit-oriented development call for such buildings on thoroughfares like Clark Street.
This particular stretch of Clark is also experiencing a “record level” of retail vacancy, Cappleman said, adding that the business corridor is in a “rapid downward spiral.” Development of the area can be a good thing for the businesses, he said.
“That’s a sign of a retail corridor in serious trouble,” Cappleman said. “More foot traffic can only help business.”
Other aldermen on the Zoning Committee agreed that this stretch of Clark Street, located between bustling Lakeview and Andersonville, could use some revitalization.
Ald. Harry Osterman (48th), whose ward includes portions of Clark Street in Andersonville, said there is a “natural tension” between residential areas and retail corridors. He said the two can coexist for the betterment of both.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said the city’s losing residents is a serious issue that impacts the city’s economy and diversity. Adding more housing will help reverse harmful demographic and economic trends, he said.
“This is not a very large change in the community,” Burnett said. “When we don’t have density in the city, we all suffer.”
The City Council still needs to give final approval for the project.