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Developers Of Logan Square Towers Face Off With Residents In Latest Meeting

By Margaret Paulson in News on Apr 2, 2015 6:30PM

Logan Square residents continue to put the heat on developers looking to cash in on the area’s growing popularity. In a packed meeting earlier this week, concerned and interested community members heard updated plans on the transit-oriented twin towers that well-known developers Rob Buono and Paul Utigard have slated for 2293 N. Milwaukee Avenue near the California Blue Line stop.

The proposal was initially unveiled at the first public meeting in October, which was presented alongside renderings from Wheeler Kearns that showed two dark glass, Mies van der Rohe-inspired towers standing at 15 and 11 stories tall, respectively. After some very vocal community feedback, the proposal was revamped and reintroduced on Monday. The new plan is for the towers to stand at 12 and 11 stories with 213 rental units rather than 253. Of the rental units, 21 will be designated affordable housing. Developers also proposed 68 parking spaces (down from 71) and around 9,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level.

Because October’s meeting was fairly rowdy, Alderman Joe Moreno took written questions ahead of time to avoid the tension caused by an open mic. Still, Curbed Chicago reports that the meeting was marked by shouting from affordable housing advocates and community members who fought to have their voices heard. It likely didn’t help that Moreno began the meeting in a contentious fashion, calling the anti-development flyers popping up around the neighborhood “cowardly.”

While some flyers pan the development as the proposed micro-apartments, others call it “Moreno’s High Rise City” and decry the notion that “They will turn us into Wrigleyville.” One flyer from December was particularly aggressive, calling on residents to tell Moreno to “stop representing the hipsters who don’t live here, but want to move [here], drink fancy cocktails for a few years and then move to the suburbs because it’s too congested and their friends can't find a place to park.”

The flyers come from a group called Save Our Boulevards, which describes itself on Facebook as “a group of Chicagoans concerned with the preservation of Chicago's Historic Boulevards.”

With the cheap swipes and Moreno’s bruised ego aside, residents do have legitimate complaints regarding the impending and swift development of Logan Square. Neighbors are particularly concerned about lack of parking in the area, which will likely only become worse as the area develops. The most outspoken residents also apparently don’t really care for the look, calling it (rather sophomorically) the “vomit plan” and “Mies’ vomit” at last October’s meeting, presumably meaning the style and height doesn’t fit in with the aesthetic of Logan Square’s broad boulevards and low-rise horizon. Concerns about gentrification understandably underlines it all as long-time residents fear being pushed out as prices rise.

But transit-oriented developments, or TODs—passed by an ordinance in 2013—have many plus sides. For starters, they’re more economical. Regular zoning requires a 1:1 ratio for parking spots and housing. However with a TOD, developers can cut parking spaces in half or reduce them further with permission provided that the TOD is located 600 feet from rail stations or 1,200 feet from areas with pedestrian street designation.

According to 2013 research from The Center for Neighborhood Technology, TOD housing reduces drivers on the road, increases transit ridership and fare revenue, creates healthy, more walkable communities and provides economic opportunity for low-income individuals through greater mobility and access to jobs for those without cars.

Though it’s not often the prettiest, and transit-oriented developments do stand out quite a bit (see the 11-story abomination at Ashland and Division), there is a market for transit-friendly living and there has to be a place in the city for it.

If you want to learn more about TOD in Chicago, consider joining Streetsblog Chicago’s TOD Bike Tour on Saturday, April 11 from 1 to 4 p.m. The cost is $20 and you’ll pass by nine sites in various stages of approval (including the one in this article) and be joined at each spot by representatives from the development or architecture firm who will provide more information.