UPTOWN — A developer’s controversial plan to build an apartment complex on a Weiss Hospital parking lot, once considered dead in the water, has officially been endorsed by the neighborhood’s alderman after a controversial approval process that has angered some neighbors.
Lincoln Property Company’s proposal to build a 12-story apartment building at Weiss’ lot at 4600 N. Marine Drive has the support of Ald. James Cappleman (46th), the Uptown alderman announced Wednesday. The project will now move forward to the city approval process after originally being voted down by Cappleman’s zoning advisory board before the board reversed its decision.
Last month, Cappleman’s zoning advisory board rejected the development in a razor-thin vote. One week later, the Northalsted Business Alliance said its representative voted against the wishes of the chamber group, which asked that its vote be changed from opposing the project to supporting it.
That flipped the vote to 16 in favor and 15 opposed. Cappleman usually follows the guidance of his zoning committee. But since the vote change was so unprecedented and the vote so close, Cappleman said he would make a final determination on whether to support the project.
In a letter to members of his zoning committee, Cappleman said he supports the development. The project will boost affordable housing options in the ward while allowing for investment into Weiss Hospital, Cappleman said in his letter.
“There were many great counterpoints that were raised, but in the end, the positive aspects to this proposal outweighed the negative repercussions,” he said in the letter.
The controversial 314-unit development will be considered by the city’s Plan Commission on July 15. It then will require support from the city’s Committee on Zoning and the full City Council. Some neighbors will continue their campaign against the project, which has already garnered two protests in Uptown.
Lincoln Property Company is under contract to buy the Weiss parking lot, where it is proposing to build a courtyard-style apartment building.
The 314-unit building would include 136 parking spaces, a bike room and a rooftop deck. Plans call for eight affordable units with Lincoln planning to satisfy its remaining affordability requirement with a $3.1 million payment to Sarah’s Circle for a housing facility in Uptown.
Selling the parking lot to a developer would make better use of a lakefront property and inject cash into Weiss, a community hospital, supporters have said. Opponents say the development could further gentrification in Uptown and doesn’t have enough affordable units. Opponents say they don’t trust Weiss’s new ownership group, which has been criticized for buying and promptly closing a suburban hospital.
In his letter of support, Cappleman said the development will help add a diversity of housing options in the ward. While some said the planned eight on-site affordable units was not enough, Cappleman said funding the Sarah’s Circle project will create housing for very low-income people and those experiencing homelessness, compared to “affordable” units in new developments that are usually offered at 60 percent of the area median income.
A new apartment complex will also alleviate pressure on “naturally occurring affordable housing” in the ward, Cappleman said.
“A number of valid and reliable research articles have shown that building more apartments, including luxury units, will help stabilize or lower area rents,” the alderman’s letter reads.
Cappleman’s letter was addressed to the Lakeside Area Neighbors Association, the neighborhood group surrounding Weiss Hospital that has strongly opposed the development.
Marianne Lalonde, president of the neighborhood group, said she was not surprised to see the alderman’s support of the project and that the local approval process calls into question the role of Cappleman’s zoning board.
“There is no surprise,” said Lalonde, who ran against Cappleman last election. “It’s been pretty clear from the alderman’s tone and language that he has been supportive of this proposal.”
Lalonde and other members of the local zoning board were angered by how the local approval process played out, including the allowing of a vote to be switched after a meeting.
Some on the committee were also angered that neighbors of Lake View Towers, an affordable housing complex near Weiss Hospital, were unable to vote on the development proposal.
Lake View Towers’ main representative was not available to make the zoning board meeting due to health reasons, but the neighbors’ group did not properly anoint a new representative in time for the board meeting on the Weiss proposal, according to emails reviewed by Block Club Chicago. The group was seeking to vote “no” on the proposal, but was not allowed to do so, they said in emails to the alderman.
The voting issues highlight flaws in the local zoning process, Lalonde said.
“It’s de-prioritizing the voice of people who live in affordable housing … who are going to be the most impacted by this development,” she said. “I hope this shows other alderman that our community process is not a community process.”
Cappleman previously said his zoning committee is advisory in nature and is meant to gauge the neighborhood’s opinions on a development.
“I believe because I have always supported the decision of the zoning committee, I have given the false impression that their final vote decides the matter. It doesn’t,” Cappleman said in a statement. “In this particular case, I agree with the outcome of the zoning committee’s decision, even though it was an extraordinarily close vote.”
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