North Ave. luxury apartment proposal nixed

Chicago alderman pulls support for the proposal after community backlash

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By IGOR STUDENKOV

Contributing Reporter

Chicago Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) will not be supporting the proposed luxury apartment development at 6600-6700 W. North Avenue. The alderman announced his decision on Oct. 25, after multiple public meetings. 

Ahead of the alderman's decision, a number of residents expressed opposition to the project, arguing that it was too dense for Galewood. They also expressed concern about traffic, as well as the fact that renters would be less invested in the community than homeowners. 

Meanwhile, Taliaferro and Lee Owens, president of the North Avenue Business Association, argued that denser developments would bring more customers to Galewood businesses, many of which have been struggling to earn profit.

The said that, despite those arguments, the 29th Ward North Avenue Business Development Committee voted against the proposed development, which spelled its doom after community members were also vocally against it. 

While the ultimate sign-off on developments belongs to the Chicago City Council, the body of aldermen typically defers to the wishes of the alderman in whose ward a particular development is being proposed.  

The proposal came from Albany Park-based Noah Properties, which wanted to build luxury apartments on the land that includes a former U.S. Bank branch building, the bank's parking lot and the parking lot used by the Redeemer Church of Chicago.

The complex would comprise 80 two-bedroom units, most of which would be leased for $1,800 a month. Ten percent of the units would be made affordable. Depending on whether tenants must pay utilities, "affordable" rents for such apartments can range between $934 and $1,067.

The project would require a zoning change and since zoning changes don't traditionally get approved without the local alderman's support, the proposal went to Taliaferro. He, in turn, asked the North Avenue Business Development Committee to vet it.

Four public meetings were held in September and October. During a meeting on Oct. 10, the issue of Noah Properties' donation to Taliaferro's 2015 election came up. 

An analysis of state election records shows that Noah Prosperities donated $1,000 to Taliaferro. Records also show that the company has also made donations over $1,000 to at least two other Chicago aldermen since 2013. 

A search of city legislative records maintained by the Office of Chicago City Clerk reveals several instances where the City Council approved zoning changes and exemptions from zoning requirements for properties owned by Noah Properties, some of which were in wards whose aldermen took the company's donations. 

Some zoning changes took place in wards whose aldermen did not take in campaign contributions from Noah Properties, which did not respond to requests for comment regarding the Galewood project and the donations.

On Oct. 25, Taliaferro posted a statement that appeared on the ward website, in his ward newsletter and on various social media accounts. In it, he emphasized that he and the committee took the feedback they received into account.

"First, let me thank everyone who came out to our community meetings, sent e-mails, called my office and posted via social media," he wrote. "Trust me that all comments were considered in the final vote regarding the proposed project. […] Having your voices heard has been my commitment to you. I will continue to ensure that we will not stray from this process."

Between public feedback and the committee vote, the course of action was clear, he said.

"After multiple community meetings, the Committee vote, and listening to the residents of Galewood, I will not support the proposed project," Taliaferro wrote.

CONTACT: igorst3@hotmail.com 

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Judith Alexander from Oak Park  

Posted: October 31st, 2017 4:41 PM

Just to clarify, the name of Ald. Taliaferro's committee is "the Galewood Business Development Committee". It was this committee that voted against the project. The North Avenue District, which I chair, did not take a formal position on the proposed project. However, we are on record as supporting more residential development in The District. Due partly to the Internet, there is simply not enough market demand for retail or office space to absorb all the vacancies. Residential development clearly has to be part of the solution, in our view. It will provide more customers for District businesses. Ald. Taliaferro and NABA agree with this, as noted in your article. Speaking for T-NAD, I did make a statement to this effect at a 29th ward community meeting.

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