Community input: Duel over duo tower project on Milwaukee Ave. in Logan Square


The large audience is reflected in mirrors behind Robert Buono, who was presenting his Logan Square project

A duel over a proposed duo tower complex along the 2200 block of N. Milwaukee Ave. included a diverse group at a meeting called by 1st Ward Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno in Candela, 2451 N. Milwaukee Ave., Thursday evening, Oct. 30. But the response started months ago. 


Alderman Moreno listens to comments

In April, the Greater Goethe Neighborhood Association (GGNA) reviewed the project of Robert Buono and his partner Paul Utigard and stated that: 

The two towers are very tall and out of character and scale with the surrounding neighborhood buildings. Although we understand the project team’s desire for density around the California Blue Line stop, we recommend that the tower heights be less than the original plan proposing 14 and 10 stories. [The latest proposal is 15 and 11 story buildings.] 

The construction of this project, as well as the other three proposed projects in proximity, will create significant congestion on Milwaukee Ave and near by streets for 20 or more months. A coordinated construction plan for all the projects is needed to minimize traffic problems for pedestrians, bicyclist, car drivers and CTA busses.

Due to the density of this project, we would request that additional affordable housing units be made available. [This is not going to be done.] 

We also suggest that this project participate in funding a centrally located public green space on Milwaukee Ave between California and Western. The project should also incorporate public green space with benches and landscaping on its Milwaukee Ave street front plan. 


Robert Buono contemplates as residents speak

On Thursday, input and comments, about the proposed Transit Oriented Development (TOD) residential-retail complex, centered around the concerns that the project is too tall, too dense and not in keeping with the character of the neighborhood. Put another way by a resident, "You are proposing to put a vertical small town in the middle of our neighborhood." 

At the beginning of the meeting a resident, Daniel Hertz, used statistics to try to give perspective to the area and the proposed project. He showed a loss of about one-third of its population between 1950 and 2010, using census stats.

Based on that data he concluded that there were fewer customers for local businesses and fewer taxpayers to support public services, fewer public transportation users and had less diversity. 


Paul Levin

As pointed out by Paul Levin, Executive Director, Logan Square Chamber of Commerce, to this reporter after the event, "The whole culture of Chicago changed after the War. People were leaving the City and there were not as many cars." 

In fact the entire City lost about one million in population between 1950 and 2010 when it dipped to 2,695,598.

"I think of Logan Square as a layer cake. There is a layer for each economic level: low, medium and high income. Over the years the thickness of each layer changes. This community was built by the middle class who were able to move further away from the heart of the city as they earned more money. It was not a place where people came when they immigrated from another country." 


Andrew Schneider

"One of the reasons I moved to Logan Square initially was because I worked in the suburbs and I wanted a quick access to the highway," said Andrew Schneider, President of Logan Square Preservation. "Many people in the neighborhood don't use public transportation much because they have to use their cars." 

On Hertz's point about revenue related to lost services in Logan Square, resident Jane Heron pointed out that revenue collected from the developer will go into the City Treasury. "City Services in Logan Square do not change because of revenues generated in Logan Square." 

Attendees speak out
Many people spoke at the meeting after Buono made his presentation.

Concerns and feelings expressed by Logan Square residents echoed those of residents who moved into many West Town neighborhoods starting in the 1970s. Their expressions are understandable and valid. 


Lynn Stevens, community resident and city planner, expressed her opinions

Decisions made for projects such as this will impact thousands of people who are in Logan Square now. Many will have their lives disrupted, some will have to leave, some will be lost in the dust and others will thrive. That is what progress delivers. 

On the other hand, most people know that for survival and growth of the neighborhood, change is necessary. The journey from now through that change, however, may feel like being on or watching Nik Wallenda's journey earlier this week. 

Perhaps there is solace in knowing that journeys do end. But, it is important to remember that community members can channel the changes. Ways to do that channeling are to be involved in community organizations, in this case the GGNA; attend meetings such as this; and express concerns to your alderman. 

Constructive suggestions can and do make a positive difference for everyone. 

The specific issues brought up at the meeting were: 

Proposed height and density would set a precedent

Milwaukee Ave. would become a tall canyon and the population (number of units) would become too dense for the neighborhood. 

Vintage buildings that are home to many small businesses and in fact have become the incubators for other businesses would be leveled. "I'm afraid this would be the death knell for those small businesses," said Andrew Schneider, Logan Square Preservation's (LSP)  President. Those concerns preclude LSP from supporting the plan as presented. 

Buono and Moreno explained the necessity and importance of putting density close to a transportation hub. They pointed out that more and more people, particularly young people do not want to drive. They do not even obtain a driver's license. They do ride bikes and take public transportation. 

The height of the proposed complex is a concern because everyone in the vicinity is in a low-rise structure. In response to the height of the buildings casting shadows on the surrounding buildings, Buono showed a series of illustrations depicting the shadows at different times of day. 


This resident asked several questions

There were concerns about air flow and rain run-off. Buono explained the requirements for water when building a project in the City, assuring everyone that that issue is covered.

Residential displacement and affordability of the area

Several residents expressed their concern and anger over believing that they may have to move yet again, having been displaced from other neighborhoods. 

It was pointed out that even the "affordable rents" were based on income that exceeds what many families in the community earn. 

Others have expressed the fact that what developers see as "affordable" for young people coming into the work force is not. One of the factors is the large amounts of debit they are carrying from their education. 

Buona explained the economics of building and maintaining the complex. "It costs between $180,000 to 200,000 for a 700 sq. ft. one-bedroom. The return on that at affordable housing rates is about $8,400 per year. I have to raise the other rents to make that possible. Return on invest, if a project goes well, is 10 to 16%. On the other hand if it doesn't work, we could have substantial losses. It is a lot of risk." 

Detrimental for traffic and parking

One resident pointed out that people are already parking on their street to use the Blue Line. Another resident said that having a car is necessary to get to grocery stores and to work. He predicted that with added units, without onsite parking for each unit, would cause complete grid lock. 


One of the other questioning residents

Other concerns were that no retail parking spaces are being considered. This is a concern for retailers and for residents who will be vying for residential parking. 

Concerns for the character of the neighborhood

Among the long-lasting concerns regarding the change in the character of the neighborhood are the aesthetics of the proposed building design. For many, the two towers are too big glass boxes and not reflective of the area. 

While height, density and physical structures all play into the "character of the neighborhood," so does the kind of available retail for consumers. 

Many people said that the one thing that has been identified as a community need for a long time is grocery shopping within "walking distance." 

Buono explained that building a food store was their first choice. However, the site does not have the features looked for/required by that industry. 

Moreno said that if he were a freshman alderman, he would announce something about a project that would answer their concerns. As he is not, he would not. But he did promise to announce it before Thanksgiving. 

As has been seen in other neighborhoods, the cost of units, both residential and commercial, can and does drastically change the diversity and thus the character of an area. 

Levin points out, however, that rents have been going up even in the vintage buildings. "People are pretty much paying the rental range presented. 

"Logan Square does need more middle income residents. Residents need to be able to afford to buy from the smaller businesses, not need to purchase at stores of economic scale," he explained. Examples are shopping at the Viking Ski Shop, 3422 W Fullerton Ave., and Play, 3109 W Logan Blvd., versus Wal-Mart and CostCo. 

What happens during construction?

Construction disruption is not as long lasting as that which is being constructed, however, a 20-month time line per project can be an indicator of long term stress for many. This is particularly true since there are multiple projects on the books for that stretch of Milwaukee Ave.  


Rob Nellis

After the meeting someone suggested that City pre-planning could lessen the disruption. Examples would be adding sewer, water and gas lines to accommodate ALL the new changes at the same time could minimize the "torture." 

What is next?
"Re-zoning is not a developer's right, It's a privilege," Sally Hamann, GGNA President, reminded everyone. 

Resident Rob Nellis, who was been a city manager, said to the audience, "This is their Vomit Plan. They throw this out there but they have several more they can present." He urged everyone to not agree to this but assured everyone that it could and would get better. 

Moreno explained that the process for this project will be that the developers will bring back revised plans to his office and that Greater Goethe Neighborhood Association and the community would be kept in the loop on the project.



Greater Goethe Neighborhood

Oh for pete's sake. I am so tired of this Greater Goethe Neighborhood Association controlling what is allowed in the neighborhood. Commercial development is a good thing, GGNA advocate. We are talking about a development that would bring more people and economic activity to an otherwise still very depressed portion of Milwaukee Ave. That's what economic development is all about. Are the members of GGNA happy with the huge empty lots and abandoned buildings on this stretch of Milwaukee Ave? They shouldn't be. A new commercial development would change the character of the neighborhood for the better.

Max Gerber

The business on this site was Max Gerber. It was a thriving business. Many long term employees lost their jobs. It was closed because a developer knew Alderman Moreno would give him a zoning change. He was therefore able to offer many times what it was worth as a job producing commercial business.

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