JEFFERSON PARK — Plans for proposed condo buildings on the land of an old church did not sit well with some Far Northwest Side residents at a public meeting last week.
Hudson Construction Services wants to build an 18-unit condo project at 5850 N. Elston Ave. that would replace the United Methodist Church lot, which has been for sale for more than a year. The project calls for three three-story buildings, each with six condos, and a total of 24 parking spots.
Out of the more than 50 people present at the Thursday meeting, which was held next to the church at the Catholic Kolping Society, 5826 N. Elston Ave., only one person spoke up in favor of the project. The supporter said the prices of the condos — $325,000-$425,000 — are in line with nearby sales and the community should welcome new residents.
The majority of neighbors said they’re concerned the development does not have enough parking spaces and it would bring unnecessary density to the area. Some also took issue with its size and design.
The three buildings would be about 39 feet tall, including each peak, according to renderings of the project shared with Block Club. The church’s height is 42.3 feet and the Kolping building is about 34 feet tall.
Some neighbors said they don’t support the project because it would take away parking for events held at the Kolping Society, a Catholic nonprofit which has used the 25 parking spots on the church property since 1970 under an agreement with the church owners, Kolping Board President Jon Groll said.
“Even if we have a board meeting there with 10 people, they would have to park on the side streets,” Groll said. “We also have concerns with parking in the back because that is an alley that goes onto side streets, into a blind T-intersection. There are always issues at that intersection.”
Groll said he often sees people speed down the alleys and has seen them almost hit residents. He said parking would make snow removal and passage through the alleys more difficult in winter, another reason why neighbors expressed opposition to the project.
Ahead of the meeting, the Kolping Society passed out letters of opposition to neighbors and encouraged people to call Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) to urge him not to support the project.
Gardiner said at the meeting a decision has not been made about the development and it would only move forward with the community’s blessing.
“The developer won’t go forward with it if the community is not on board,” Gardiner said. The developer has “not purchased the building yet.”
A vote was taken at the end of the hour-long meeting and no one raised their hand in favor of the project, which was disappointing to see, project manager Michelangelo Siracki said.
“We were laughed at,” Siracki said. “I didn’t think it went well because we were scoffed at. Everything we tried to do in order to make the property fit the height profile, fit the look and then understanding that density is going to increase … it did not go well.”
Siracki said he understands the congestion concern and that adding 24 parking spots, which is more than one per unit, is in line with the city’s zoning requirements.
He said his team has been as sensitive as possible to add parking and listen to the community, saying the company has worked on the proposal since October.
Neighbors also asked the developers why single-family homes could not be built on the property instead of condos, since the area is home to many families.
“Single-family homes on Elston are not going to sell with today’s construction prices,” Siracki told Block Club. “The cost of the land, development and the cost of construction is going to make these houses far more expensive than what you could buy another house for in the neighborhood.”
Siracki said this is why the development would need a zoning change, as the site’s existing RS-3 classification is intended mostly for single-family homes and two-flats.
The plans presented to the community Thursday were updated from the project’s original submission, which called for three four-story eight-flats. Gardiner previously called those plans “a little aggressive,” according to Nadig Newspapers.
Siracki said the decision now lies in Gardiner’s hands.
The alderman, who hosted the meeting, told those at the meeting he would make a decision about the project in the coming days. But he told Nadig Newspapers the development should be scaled back further, given community concern.
If the proposal is killed as it currently stands, Siracki said he’s unsure if it will be financially viable.
“What is the point where the project is still financially feasible and most of the people are happy?” he said. “I don’t know what that is; nobody really knows what that is.”
While the Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association has yet to formally take a stance on the proposal, the group said neighbors suggested fewer units, selling the property to another church or leaving the parking lot for Kolping and building on the other lots.
Association President Joe DiCiaula said the community would be happy to consider other proposals if developers can find a “cost-effective project that would also align with what the neighbors would be able to accept.”
“I don’t think anybody wants to see a vacant church, so people want something to be done,” DiCiaula said. “How can that best be accomplished while also supporting the Kolping Society? They have done a lot of good in the community.”
Groll, of the Kolping Society, said he would consider supporting an amended proposal if the development wasn’t as close to his building, if the parking situation was fixed and if the project had fewer units. He said having 60 bedrooms for 24 parking spaces is too much.
Ideally, he wants to see the church lot kept and to get a neighbor that could serve as a community center and religious organization.
“In a perfect world, there would be another service organization go in there [to follow] the trend towards more non-denominational community spaces,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Development said the city has not received a zoning application for the proposed development and could not comment further.
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