Chicago Avenue plan expands to 59 apartments plus retail

East Village Association board meeting minutes
December 9, 2013
Submitted by Meghan Quinn

Developers Steve and Randy Fifield of the Fifield Cos., attorney Larry Lusk and others came to present a new project they would like to build at 1822-50 W. Chicago Ave. Chris Fifield of Fifield Construction & Realty, who is Steve’s son, had presented to EVA the previous 39-unit mixed-use, live/work plan. However, Steve Fifield's company has taken over the project and will develop the site.

The new proposal is for a 4-story, 59-unit, mixed-use apartment building that would require a zoning change from B3-2 to B3-3. The ground-floor retail is split into 2 non-adjacent larger spaces, each of which can be further divided into multiple storefronts.

If built to the current zoning, the affordable housing component requirement would not kick in. However, at the larger size, 10% of the units would be required to be affordable housing. Fifield stated he would not include these units in the proposed mix, but would instead meet the requirement by paying into the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund. This requirement specifies $10,000 for each unit built; therefore he would be required to pay $590,000 into the trust.

Fifield stated that he wants the zoning change in order to build something unusual in appearance. The unit mix is meant to include options for many types of tenants, from singles to families, and to give a quality option to those who can't afford to buy. As proposed, there would be 5 studios ($1,200-1,300 monthly rent), 18 1-bedroom units ($1,500/mo.), and 36 2 and 3-bedroom units ($2,000/mo. and up).

Some board members were concerned about negative effects that uncovered parking in the rear of the building could have on Commercial Park, which it faces. They feel that the increased traffic and car exhaust is not safe for children and parkgoers. The developers stated that in their experience 40% of renters do not have cars, and of those who do, many do not drive on a daily basis.

McKnight asked if the 12 parcels that make up the site have been consolidated into one PIN yet, and Lusk reported they have not. McKnight inquired if they would be willing to sell all or any of the parcels to expand Commercial Park with frontage along Chicago Avenue. Fifield responded that he would not be willing to sell any part of the property, and had turned down offers by other developers. McKnight pointed out that a previous city plan has Commercial Park located on that site, but Lusk responded that he had met with the Chicago Department of Transportation, which does not want children to have to cross the alley between the site and existing Commercial Park. McKnight feels park expansion assumes the alley would be vacated.

Fifield asked if EVA would be amenable to an upzone if part of the property could be annexed to Commercial Park, to which McKnight responded that it would be a possibility.

Two Chicago Avenue neighbors stated that they strongly believe in keeping a consistent street wall and feel it would be strange to have a strip of green space in the corridor. One suggestion in lieu of the park expansion was for Fifield to agree to give money to beautify Commercial Park. McKnight said this would be a hard agreement to enforce. EVA vice president Peter Locke believes that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a flow between Commercial Park and Chicago Avenue by way of a lively thoroughfare fronted with commercial space and including seating, green space and other amenities.

Randy Fifield appealed to the group, explaining that the couple cares about our community, wants to cultivate what’s right, and is here to collaborate with us on the best project for the neighborhood. In response, one resident noted that, while seemingly a small detail, the trash enclosure on the current plan is directly across from the playlot and should be moved. Fifield agreed to look at moving it, and suggested there could be a green wall to provide a better view for parkers.

There were further questions about the parking plan, and Fifield stated that access would be controlled to allow only residents to park there, and that parking would not be provided onsite for retail patrons.

Fifield conceded a false start with the original plans, and while it could be possible to build as of right, he doesn’t think it's the right project for the neighborhood.

As for the next steps, the EVA board will discuss the project and keep in touch with Fifield. Lusk requested that McKnight and/or Locke meet with the city on the possibility of an alley vacation. Lusk stated that if the city is willing, Fifield would cooperate in the discussion.

Meeting commenced at 6:40pm, adjourned at 8:01pm at West Town Bakery & Diner, 1916 W. Chicago Ave. Attendance: board members Neal McKnight, Peter Locke, Meghan Quinn, Stephen Rynkiewicz, Rob Schickel, Tom Tomek, KK Goh (partial)

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