IRVING PARK — A maligned plan to build apartments and dozens of townhouses along a residential street at the former DePaul College Prep Campus will not go forward after the local alderperson refused to support a zoning change for the property.
Developer Lexington Homes applied for a zoning change in June to build a six-story apartment building and 88 townhomes between four and five stories high at the former site of DePaul College Prep, 3633 N. California Ave.
More than half of the neighbors surveyed by Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez’s 33rd Ward office said they didn’t want the development built because of its height, significant density, a design that doesn’t fit the neighborhood’s “current character” and lack of public and green spaces, the alderwoman said.
Lexington needed a zoning change for the project to move forward and Rodriguez-Sanchez said Tuesday she would deny it.
“The developer is probably going to be upset about this, but this is what the community wants at this point,” Rodriguez-Sanchez told Block Club.
Nate Wynsma, Lexington’s Vice President, told Block Club his firm is still interested in building at the address and is working on “significant revisions” to their plans he expects will be complete sometime this week.
“[We] shared that update with the Alderwoman’s office prior to her announcement,” Wynsma said.
DePaul College Prep High School announced in 2019 it would open a new, 17-acre school campus on the other side of the river in Roscoe Village.
The school rented its former California Avenue location from the Congregation of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ religious order. After the school moved, the now-vacant property was put on the market.
Lexington’s proposal would have built a six-story apartment building and 88 townhomes between four and five stories high at 3633 N. California Ave., adding 357 homes along the North Branch of the Chicago River. The townhomes would have costed $599,000-$800,000, and rents would have been $1,399-$2,900, according to the plans.
A revised version of the plans also may have included 52 affordable apartments, the developer previously said.
The City Council’s zoning committee was scheduled to review the proposal at its July 20 meeting, but it was pulled from the agenda the day of the hearing. At that point, the developer had yet to participate in the ward’s community-driven zoning process, Rodriguez-Sanchez previously said.
And after a contentious community meeting hosted by neighbors in September, the developer promised her office they’d submit revisions by November incorporating the public feedback they’d received.
But by December, Rodriguez-Sanchez said her office got “radio silence” from Lexington, which is another reason she decided to deny their proposal.
“They didn’t communicate with us until after we let them know we were going to deny their zoning change. Then Lexington responded that they were going to make significant changes they were going to send me,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said. “Next week is winter break, what are you talking about? You want us to check your revisions over the holidays?”
Any revisions Lexington submits for the site will be considered a new application and will need to start from scratch with the ward’s community zoning process, Rodriguez-Sanchez said.
“No one has submitted anything to me yet but there are people who are starting to think about what that space could be for the community. Thinking about how we preserve that green space,” she said. “And people are more enthusiastic and interested in having something there that will preserve green space and potentially be used for environmental education and preserve the river for public enjoyment.”
The California Park Neighborhood Association is one of the groups who organized neighbors against the project during the community zoning process, which some residents had never experienced before.
“I’m so proud of our members and other neighborhood groups who weighed in. And I really appreciate Ald. (Rodriguez-Sanchez) for following through on her promise to listen to us,” said Iris Sanchez Hacker, the association’s vice president. “That’s just refreshing and I couldn’t thank her enough for just letting her constituents speak and vote on this.”
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