NEAR NORTH SIDE — Designs for a controversial Near North Side apartment tower have ping-ponged between the developers and neighbors, who say the building is too dense for the area.
Now, neighbors say instead of the developers going back to the drawing board with their concerns, they offered money.
Fifield Companies wants to build a 39-story, 303-unit building at 125 W. Maple St. Residents in the adjacent building at 111 W. Maple St. long have argued the project will exacerbate traffic, congestion and density issues in the area.
The project was scheduled to be reviewed by the city’s Plan Commission last month, but Fifield “voluntarily deferred” the proposal after it was largely criticized during a community meeting earlier that week.
Since then, developers returned to the 111 W. Maple St. residents with a cash offer to alleviate any deterioration in property values the building might cause, neighbors said.
Neighbors declined to share the amount of the suggested payment, but they said they rejected the offer because it failed to address their other concerns surrounding the building.
“The cash payment was unacceptable because they haven’t addressed the primary issues,” said Rick Miller, a member of the 111 W. Maple St. board. “Our primary issues are the effects this development will have on the community and on the quality of life of this community.”
Block Club reviewed a copy of the letter neighbors sent to Fifield refusing the money. In it, board Chair Ken Green reiterated concerns Fifield’s tower would significantly increase traffic congestion and block sunlight from entering their building.
“I had hopes that you would listen to all neighbors and we could find middle ground,” Green wrote. “However, the offer you sent last week is nothing short of insulting. You literally ignored every single comment and concern expressed at the public meeting.”
Fifield spokesman Adam Gypalo did not directly answer a question about the payment offer and would not say what the company’s latest offer entailed. Gypalo said they have “acted in good faith in an attempt to identify and address common points of interest with our neighbors.”
“We look forward to having fair and honest discussions with the neighboring building,” Gypalo said.
Fifield’s plan has undergone a few iterations since the project was presented to neighbors in July 2020. Its latest version is taller than a 29-story proposal developers showed last fall, but it’s smaller than the 43-story, 406-unit plan presented to neighbors in July 2020.
The developers still plan on buying air rights from the adjacent Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral at 1017 N. LaSalle Drive, and they would build a seven-story community center for the church in the lot between the building using the church’s proceeds from the sale.
Another recent change to the proposal is increasing the building’s setback from 20 feet to 40 feet, creating more space between it and the neighboring building. But the new building’s first nine floors would not have the setback and would be wider than the rest of the building to accommodate 124 parking spaces and a private terrace.
The proposal is expected to go before the city’s Plan Commission Aug. 19.
With Fifield not making the changes neighbors requested, they want the project scrapped altogether.
“At this point, since Fifield doesn’t seem to be interested in what the primary concerns are of our building and the rest of the community, we just don’t want this project to go through now,” Miller said. “We thought they might come back with revised plans, but they did none of that, so we just think these guys aren’t going to be good partners in the community, and we don’t want to see it happen.”
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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