LINCOLN SQUARE — A nonprofit developer is trying again to build an affordable housing complex in the heart of Lincoln Square after their previous attempt at the project didn’t materialize last year.
Community Builders shared new details for their re-imagined building at 4715 N. Western Ave. during a two-hour community meeting Tuesday. The proposed site is a public parking lot owned by the city and across the street from the Western Brown Line stop.
The developer’s first proposal didn’t get off the ground after the company lost out on $1.5 million in city tax credits they’d banked on to help build out the project. Community Builders said they plan to apply for the credits again this summer with the hope of submitting a formal proposal to Ald. Matt Martin (47th) to review later this winter.
Some residents, while supportive of more affordable housing, have said they are worried about losing a primary source of parking for the dense commercial area. The new proposal would retain all but two of the available public parking spaces.
“We definitely spent a lot of time [on parking], and rightfully so. But this is the most amount of time we’ve ever spent on a development concept around parking,” said Will Woodley, Community Builders’ director of development. “But it makes sense for this site and development to focus on that.”
The revised proposal is a five-story building with 5,000 square feet of ground floor retail, 51 affordable apartments, 41 public parking spaces and nine parking spaces for apartment residents.
The current parking lot has 47 spaces, of which 43 are used for metered public parking, three are used by Enterprise and one is used by ZipCar.
The developer also is seeking a transit oriented development status for the building because it is so close to the CTA station.
The building will also feature enclosed bicycle parking, a rooftop terrace and a lounge for residents on the fifth floor, in-unit washers and dryers, energy-efficient appliances and on-site property management.
The apartments are a mix of studios, one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms and are broken up into three rent tiers based on area median income.
The tax credits the developer is seeking would also require the apartments to remain affordable for a minimum of 15 years and additional agreements with the city may require the affordability requirements to remain for at least 30 years, Woodley said.
“We’re actually required to not jack up the rents over one year. The most the rents would ever go up is approximately two or three percent a year,” Woodley said.
The apartment rents are aimed at helping people who may already live and work in Lincoln Square but otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford housing in the neighborhood, Woodley said. That could include artists who work or spend time at the neighborhood’s cultural institutions, including Old Town School Of Music, DANK Haus, the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative and Ainslie Arts Plaza.
“This really is the group that we’re focused on trying to provide quality apartments that are affordable in the long run,” Woodley said. “We think this is very relevant to all the shops businesses and shops on Lawrence, Lincoln and Western. These folks are, if they haven’t already been, priced out of Lincoln Square over the last decade.”
In the year since the developer missed out on the tax credits, Martin’s office has held three community meetings to solicit feedback about what residents want to see at the site. Community Builders representatives said they have incorporated those comments into their new designs.
The revised project also includes design and infrastructure features, like the use of masonry and more pedestrian friendly streets, from the 2019 master plan for Lincoln Square, Woodley said.
Twelve of the 16 neighbors who spoke during public comment supported the revised design.
Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas also joined the public comment to read a list of questions she said her office received about the proposal, some of which were answered during the presentation. She said she is involved with neighborhood festivals, was concerned about parking and claimed neighbors contacted her office about the Lincoln Square proposal because they felt Martin’s office wasn’t being responsive to their concerns. She was not immediately available for additional comment.
“I have never gotten as many calls as I have gotten over this project,” she said during the meeting.
Earlier this year, DANK Haus raised concerns about community organizations losing space to host portions of Maifest and German American Fest if the parking lot is redeveloped. Festivals like those are critical for exposure and fundraising, and the lot is also used for private and cultural events held at DANK.
Woodley suggested Tuesday festivals could reconfigure their layout and remain in the same general area, similar to how Apple Fest has done in the past. In a statement Wednesday, DANK Haus’ board of directors said they were pleased that their concerns were being considered by the developer.
“[The developer] mentioned a willingness to work with the DANK Haus and other planning organizations to come to mutually agreeable alterations to festival space,” board members said. “We look forward to working with them to ensure that our community and cultural outreach and our beloved Lincoln Square festivals can continue.”
A recording of Tuesday’s meeting can be viewed here.
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