PORTAGE PARK — After surviving a months-long debate over a lack of affordable housing units, the proposed redevelopment of the former Sears at Six Corners passed the full City Council Tuesday, clearing the way for construction.
Supporters hope the long-anticipated project will help revive the prominent Northwest Side intersection and draw in more businesses. But opponents said not enough of the apartments being built there will be affordable.
The project got thumbs up from a majority of the council members, but Alds. Michael Rodriguez (22nd), Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) and Maria Hadden (48th) voted “no” because of the low number of affordable apartments. They also objected to it when it was before the City Council’s Committee on Zoning last week. That panel signed off on the proposal, setting the stage for the full City Council to green light it.
Plans to redevelop the historical building at 4730 W. Irving Park Road include converting it into a six-story housing and retail development with 207 luxury apartments. The building will include 270 parking spaces and 68 bike spaces.
The development, led by Novak Construction, will include a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments ranging from $2,750 to $3,000 per month, sitting on top of about 50,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. The building also will have a pool, dog walk and communal areas.
Only six of the 207 units will be made affordable for people earning 60 percent of the area median income. The developer will meet the rest of the city’s affordability requirement by paying about $2 million into the city’s Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund.
A new Affordable Requirements Ordinance, overwhelmingly passed earlier this year, increases the percentage of affordable units that must be offered in major developments from 10 to 20 percent in wealthy and gentrifying neighborhoods.
The Six Corners project was submitted before the stricter requirements go into effect Oct. 1, and meets the mandates under the current ordinance. Jake Paschen, executive vice president of development at Novak, said the company decided on six affordable units because it “makes sense for the development and for us … financially.”
Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) has touted the project, saying it will revitalize the once-thriving business corridor and boost the economy of Six Corners.
“Having this development is absolutely vital for local businesses, local residents, especially the businesses that are struggling through this pandemic,” Gardiner previously said. “… God only knows what other restrictions are going to be coming due to this pandemic and I think it is vital that we move forward with a proposition that is well-accepted within our community, that’s on the table, because we can’t tell what the future will bring.”
The city’s Plan Commission approved the project in August following a debate on affordability. Plan Commission members vowed to work harder to hold developers accountable for more affordable housing units with the new ordinance, but commended Novak for revitalizing the long-vacant art deco building that dates to 1938.
The old Six Corners Sears building has sat vacant since 2018, frustrating neighbors and business owners who hoped to see something — anything — open on the prime neighborhood corner.
“We hope that this will successfully set the tone for parcels that are yet to be developed around it,” Maurice D. Cox, commissioner for the Department of Planning and Development, said at the August meeting.
Now that the project fully passed, developers said construction could start in March and last 18 months.
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