LINCOLN PARK — A Lincoln Park property owner struggling to find commercial tenants during the coronavirus pandemic wants to convert part of a building into apartments.
“If it wasn’t for COVID, we wouldn’t be in this position,” said KJF Properties owner Shariff Fakhoury, who manages the building at 2144–56 N. Clybourn Ave. with his brother.
Representatives for Fakhoury presented the proposal at a Thursday town hall hosted by Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) and the Sheffield Neighborhood Association. The developers need to secure a zoning change to create nine apartment units on the building’s vacant second floor while keeping commercial units on the first floor.
The first floor of the building is fully occupied, housing a gym, eye doctor, hair salon and sushi restaurant, said development consultant Madeleine Doering Hill, who represented the firm at the town hall.
But the building’s second floor remains empty, and finding commercial tenants has been made more difficult because of the pandemic, Hill said.
“The goal here is to keep this building viable and breathe new life into it with this new use, [but] our current zoning does not allow residential” units, Hill said.
The apartments will vary in size and consist of seven two-bedroom units and two one-bedroom units, Hill said. None of them will be affordable housing.
The property qualifies as a transit-oriented development, so it won’t have parking spaces, but it will have bike racks installed on the first floor, Hill said.
The zoning change would also apply to the adjacent building at 2142 N. Clybourn Ave., which is also owned by KFJ Properties, said Paul Kolpak, the firm’s development attorney.
The property was included in the zoning change request so it would conform with zoning on other nearby properties, but the firm has no current plans to redevelop the building, Kolpak said.
Hopkins reassured residents concerned about a “bait-and-switch” scenario by stressing the request is for a Type 1 zoning change, meaning the developers can’t change building plans after getting the zoning approval.
“They can only do what they’re asking permission to do,” Hopkins said.
Neither Hopkins nor the neighbors expressed support or lack of it at the meeting.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.