Housing Bulletin-Triple Threat to Big Developments

Three proposed residential developments in three different parts of the city have been put into slowdown mode in recent weeks, all thanks to new aldermen elected in the spring.

Aside from the fact that two of the projects have prolific architect Lucien Lagrange attached, there are no connections among the players on the three projects and the three aldermen apparently acted independently. But there’s certainly a case of “two’s company, three’s a trend” here: Aldermen are asking developers to look extra-hard at preserving historical buildings and settings.

Two weeks ago, 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly announced he’d like to save the Lakeshore Athletic Club at 850 N. Lake Shore Drive. Fifield Cos., which has a contract to buy the gracious 1927 building from Northwestern University, wants to tear the structure down, saying there’s no economically viable way to get enough condos and parking spaces into it. Reilly’s announcement put that plan (and a Lagrange replacement building) into question, if only temporarily.

Then late last week, 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti introduced in the City Council a proposal that would essentially force the developers of X/O, a pair of sleek Lagrange towers 33 and 45 stories high proposed for the South Loop, to put up shorter buildings, not more than 23 stories. The developers, Kargil Development LLC, had been criticized broadly in the neighborhood for planning something so big and so modern across the street from an architectural gem from the 1880s, Glessner House.

And in Bucktown, a project has been lingering since late spring, when 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack told the developers he would prefer they find a way to preserve a historical façade. That project, an eight-story mixed-use building that would wrap the familiar Northwest Tower at North, Milwaukee, and Damen, was announced the day after the former alderman, Ted Matlak, widely believed in the neighborhood to be too pro-development, lost a runoff to keep his seat.

Waguespack let the developers, 1600 North LLC, know he wants them to determine if they can retain the façade of the Hollander Fireproof Warehouse at 1616 N. Milwaukee, says his chief of staff, Paul Sajovec. And “there are density issues” about the new eight-story structure that would embrace the picturesque Tower from two sides, he says. As originally announced, the project would include 51 apartments, parking for 248 cars, and some office/retail space.
Sajovec told Deal Estate this week that Waugespack is “definitely not saying, don’t build anything there, he’s saying there might be a way to do something that’s more responsive to the character of the neighborhood.”

Both Reilly and Fioretti made sure they telegraphed the same message-that they’re not opposed to development, they just want to see if the developers can do something more suitable.

Point taken, says Alan Schachtman, a Fifield vice-president on the Lakeshore Athletic Club project, but course unchanged. “We presented to the alderman a week ago, and we are giving him time to absorb all the thinking that went into our proposal,” Schachtman told Deal Estate on Monday. “We think we’re right, and we think he’s going to agree that we can build an absolutely fabulous building on that site.”

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