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Albany Park

Neighbors Criticize Lack Of Affordable Housing In Developer’s Plan For Condos At Former Twisted Hippo Site

The city's Zoning Board of Appeals will have final say on the project, which now features first-floor commercial space in one of the buildings.

Developer Alan Candea's proposal for condo buildings at 4343-4357 N. Richmond St. The rendering was presented during a March 29, 2023 community meeting hosted by Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd).
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ALBANY PARK — A developer has reworked plans to build 24 condos at the former Twisted Hippo Brewery and Ultimate Ninjas Gym site, but neighbors are still concerned about a lack of affordable housing and its design.

Developer Alan Candea and his wife, Colette, want to build four buildings with six condos each at 4343-4357 N. Richmond StThe lot has been vacant since a massive fire destroyed the two businesses in February 2022.

After neighbors complained about the initial design, Candea reworked the plan of the northernmost building along Montrose Avenue to add 2,363 square feet of commercial space on the first floor in addition to six condos on the upper floors, he said. 

Prices for the condos would range from the mid-$500,000s to about $700,000, said his attorney, Rolando Acosta.

Candea is asking the city of a special-use permit to build the project, but he does not need a zoning change, Acosta said. The permit request requires review from the Zoning Board of Appeals, which is separate from the City Council and does not require backing from Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd).

The zoning board is expected to review Candea’s proposal April 21, Rodriguez-Sanchez said. 

The 33rd Ward office is collecting feedback via the community zoning process to present comments to the zoning board, Rodriguez-Sanchez said. 

Candea previously said he would still pursue construction if the special-use permit isn’t granted.

Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
The vacant lot at 4343-4357 N. Richmond St. on Feb. 23, 2023.

The condos would be a mix of three-bedroom, two-bathroom and four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath units, according to the plans shared with Rodriguez-Sanchez’s office.

There would also be 24 parking spaces in four garages, according to the plans. 

Neighbors raised concerns about the condo prices, lack of green space and the facade of the building that will be along Montrose Avenue.

“It’s just a brick wall [along Montrose]. Can some windows or glass block or something be added there just to improve the appearance?” said John Friedman, of Horner Park Neighbors. 

Montrose Saloon owner David Putman said he appreciates the addition of commercial space to the building facing Montrose and asked if Candea is looking for a food service business like Twisted Hippo for the space. 

“We really are in dire need of that around here,” Putman said. 

Candea said the plans were still preliminary and he’d change the side of the building facing Montrose to include a primary entrance to the commercial space and other design features to beautify the facade. 

“We’re going to add more windows and we’re going to add more doors to make it more appealing for the first-floor commercial. If you look at all of the projects I’ve ever done, I’ve never cut corners,” Candea said. 

Candea doesn’t have a commercial tenant for the property but said the first floor could easily serve as a gym, cafe or sandwich shop. A full-service restaurant with a kitchen would be a harder sell to people living in the above condos, he said. 

“You just don’t know who the tenants are going to be. But the nicer the neighborhood gets over there, the more density we create, the better the probability of getting some great tenants that are going to benefit the neighborhood,” Candea said.

Candea is also building 18 residential units across the street at 2924 W. Montrose Ave. That four-floor building will include retail and a garage with 31 parking spaces, according to plans. 

Rodriguez-Sanchez previously rejected Candea’s request for a zoning change for that project after neighbors complained about posts the developer’s brother made on social media during unrest in 2020.

Twisted Hippo had been at 2925 W. Montrose Ave. since 2019. Chicago’s craft beer community rallied around the brewery with fundraisers following the fire.

The brewery later began brewing at District Brew Yards in the West Loop while its owners look for a new permanent Albany Park location. 

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