President's Message

by Mary Szpur

Thanks to all who came to the EVA holiday party at Happy Village in December. We had a nice mix of old and new members—in fact, a few people came whom we haven’t seen in years, and that was wonderful. We enjoyed delicious food and desserts brought by everyone who came, and an excellent “Holiday” cake from our new Dominick’s. Thanks to Grace Rappe
and Marjorie Isaacson for all their help.

We have had a few snowfalls so far this winter, and I would like to ask everyone to please keep their sidewalks shoveled. Unshoveled walkways can be quite hazardous. If you have an elderly or infirm neighbor who is unable to shovel his or her own sidewalk, please consider shoveling a path in front of their home. Performing this simple service can make a big difference in the daily life of our community.

Of interest regarding the upcoming EVA meeting on January 8 is the fact that a local business owner will be asking our membership to consider his request for a new liquor license. Much of the East Village community is under a liquor moratorium—please see the related article in this newsletter for more background on this issue, and please come to the meeting to discuss this issue with your neighbors.

Our other speaker scheduled for the January meeting is 1st Ward Streets and Sanitation Superintendent Manny Gonzalez. As any city service connected to waste disposal and street maintenance is of great importance to all of us, and how effectively it runs holds great sway over our day-today lives, I hope you come to hear the superintendent give his state of the ward address, and to discuss any issues you may have.

The Iowa caucuses are big news this week, and this reminds me that EVA will be having its own officer elections at the March meeting. I am proud to say that we have several excellent and qualified candidates running, but we would also like to ask you, our members, to also consider running for one of the officer positions. If you are interested, please email one of the officers at the emails listed in this newsletter, or simply come to a meeting and let one of us know.

East Village Association Board of Directors Meeting Minutes

6:30 PM December 10th, 2007, Happy Village Tavern

Submitted by John Sekowski

Attendance:8

1. Planning – the following was discussed

a. 1624 West Division

b. 1916 West Chicago - The developer, Ranquist, is still investigating to develop the property.

c. 1011 North Damen – existing industrial property will likely be demolished and developed with new condominiums.

d. Division & Ashland – former Pizza Hut site – The developer has presented a modified plan to the alderman including rooftop parking. The committee also expressed the need for EVA, the first ward alderman, and the department of development and planning to meet all at the same time to discuss the extending the pedestrian oriented district to Ashland Avenue. More press coverage was also discussed as a tool for exposure (and pressure).

e. Division & Ashland – west of the MB bank – plans are in the works to develop a condominium building with first floor parking, and small strip mall-like retail extending close to the Milwaukee Avenue side. Also, the first floor of the existing MB bank is proposed to be occupied by the pharmacy chain CVS.

An issue currently in the 43rd ward was discussed concerning the issue of residential building connectors was shared with the Board. Enclosed walkways between the main structure and the garage structure along the alley side have caused controversy /concern that they are built on land that are required to be green space.

2. Scott Rappe to present an artist piece at the next meeting.

3. Damen and Augusta Foods owner wishes to pursue a packaged liquor license.

Meeting adjourned.

Planning, Preservation and Development Committee Report

by Scott Rappe

Pizza Hut/Walgreens

The East Village Association expects to receive a letter from Department of Planning & Development in which the department will take a position regarding vacating the alley which presently bisects the Pizza Hut property. We also understand that Alderman Flores has asked the Department of Planning & Development to extend the Division Street ‘Pedestrian Designation’ to include the Wendy’s and Pizza Hut properties. This will correct an oversight dating from the adoption of the 2004 zoning ordinance.

Bear Stewart

The possible development of the Bear Stewart property on Damen, just north of Augusta was mentioned in last month’s newsletter. This elicited some conversations about whether this property, one of the last large undeveloped parcels in East Village would serve the community better as green space.

Alderman Flores commented that the purchase of this land might compete for resources needed to build a new branch library adjacent to Commercial Park. The Thirteenth District Police Station on Wood Street is the other major undeveloped parcel. It is already owned by the City, and has building which could potentially be adapted to serve as a library or fieldhouse. Alderman Flores noted that the Police property is not large enough to build the City’s prototype new police station if and when this becomes necessary.

1916-24 Chicago Avenue

As a result of a quirk in the zoning map, this property has two zoning classifications, RT-4 of the residential lots to the north
and B3-2 consistent with Chicago Avenue. In order to develop it, the entire property must be changed to one or the other classifications.

In general, Ranquist Development and EVA agree that the property should be zoned B3-2, but doing so would free the developer’s hands to demolish the attractive building at the northeast corner of Winchester and Chicago. In an effort to discourage demolition and spur renovation of the building, Alderman Flores has floated the idea of giving Ranquist Development a zoning change to R3-3, in exchange for preserving the Chicago and Winchester facades of the corner building.

Unfortunately Ranquist Development still intends to demolish the building behind the facades. This is not in the spirit of preservation and is a terrible waste of resources. Although the proposed B3-3 classification would allow a building much larger than would be appropriate on the site (31 units, 65’ height, 37,500 SF), EVA would insist on a covenant to restrict these parameters.

A representative of Ranquist Development has stated that they would increase both the height and number of units in the proposed building if they are to keep the existing building facades. In addition to concerns regarding demolition, EVA members have been vocal in their concerns regarding traffic congestion, alley access and parking. There is also the question of whether building a five story building on this block of one, three and four story buildings is appropriate. It is important to note that Ranquist Development has a contract for, but does not own the property.

Comments regarding these issues are welcome, as always.

Mixed-Use, Multi-Story Development comes to Ashland Division (But not where you think!)

By Scott A. Rappe

After months of rumors about a development coming to the large parking lot behind the MB Bank, permits have been issued and construction has begun. This week heavy equipment began work on a new 33 unit development with ground floor retail space and both surface and underground parking.

Sited almost directly across Division Street from the proposed Walgreens, this development is mostly consistent
with the community’s goals for the Pizza Hut site.

According to Mike Anzani of RDM Development, the project will include two four-story buildings and conversion of the MB Bank lobby into a CVS pharmacy. The first building will be built immediately west of the existing bank and fill nearly the entire
parking lot, leaving a driveway between it and the existing chiropractic office to the west. This driveway will lead to another four-story building that will be located at the rear of the triangular-shaped property.

The building fronting on Division Street will have a small storefront space where MB bank will relocate. The rest of the ground floor will consist of a driveway and covered grade level parking serving a rear entrance (the bank’s current parking lot entry)
to CVS. Above this will be three floors of condominiums. The rear building will be similar, with three stories of condominiums above ground floor retail space.

The project is being done ‘as-of-right’ under the property’s current B3-2 zoning, meaning that it did not require any concessions or variances. As such, it will be consistent with the rest of Division Street in terms of height and density. Unfortunately this also means that it did not require any community review.

While the drawings show an attractive contemporary building, most of the Division Street frontage will remain driveway and grade-level parking, as it is now. Had community input been requested, more emphasis on street-facing retail would have been requested.

Like the Wendy’s and Pizza Hut properties across the street, the MB Bank parking lot was inexplicably exempted from the 2004 zoning ordinance’s ‘Pedestrian Street’ designation that covers Division Street all the way to Leavitt. This
special provision protects the pedestrian-oriented retail character that has made shopping destinations of portions of Division, Armitage, Halsted and Lincoln.

It is to their credit that RDM Development understood the importance of this, and did not create a strip mall instead. I have written previously about the wasteland of parking lots and fast food chains that cut off the Polish Triangle from the booming stretch of Division Street to the west. This development is a big step in the right direction to mending this torn section of urban fabric.

It is also vindication of the East Village Association’s advocacy for a large mixed-use development on the Pizza Hut site across the street. Despite Walgreens' protestations to the contrary, RDM Development’s plans prove that there is a demand for residential and retail development adjacent to the Polish Triangle.

We can now add a developer, with money on the line, to all those who have already expressed their support for a mixed-use, multi-story transit-oriented development on the Pizza Hut site. It is time for Walgreens to get with the program!