Milwaukee Ave. developer setting new standards for cooperation with community

Date: 
07/31/2014
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From the Polish Triangle looking north along Milwaukee Ave.

LG Construction & Development, 2234 W. North Ave., is setting new standards for cooperation between developers and community organization, resulting in a better development for both. LG first met with the Wicker Park Committee's (WPC) Preservation and Development Committee (P&D) in November 2013 regarding 1237-53 N. Milwaukee Ave. Their final plans will be presented to the WPC membership at a Aug. 6 membership meeting at The Southern, 1840 W. North Ave. 

"I commend the Wicker Park Committee's rigorous push for excellence in design. Many developers would not do what they request, but it is about the future of Wicker Park. The buildings will be around for 50 to 100 years or more, so it is important that they are done right," said architect Gabriel Leahu, who designed the building and is also the project's manager. 

As Ed Tamminga, P&D Chairman and architect, puts it, "This is a good example of a developer cooperating with the community to rid the area of a terrible architectural injustice [the Bank of America building]." 

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Along Milwaukee Ave., looking south

LG's plans are for a 16,400 square foot key piece of real estate facing the Polish Triangle at the tip of Ashland and Milwaukee Avenues. It is part of the gateways to the neighborhoods of Wicker Park, Pulaski Park, Noble Square and East Village. 

Purchased from Centrum Properties, the parcel includes 1237 to 1253 N. Milwaukee Ave., on which LG plans to construct a rental retail and apartment complex. Part of the purchase, however, included an obligation to fulfill on a 15-plus-year lease with Bank of America (BA) for the occupancy of the ground floor corner space. In that lease the property owner is not allowed to disrupt BA business service, customer access or block the views of their space. Those restrictions placed a challenge for LG in the development of the property and concerns of the community group for the visual impact on the area. 

The BA lease means that they can not tear down the existing structure and structurally they cannot add multiple floors above it. However, both the developer and community agreed that the visual statement for that location needs to be strong. 

The plans that LG will present are the result of a great deal of give and take between them and members of the P&D committee since their first presentation last November. The subject of the meetings included everything from the basic design, visual impact on the area and mix of apartment sizes to the exterior materials to be used. 

As a combination of a Planned Development (PD) and Transportation Oriented Development (TOD), LG is requesting a zoning change from B3-3 to B3-5. Under the combination of developments, they are proposing that the tallest part of the 7-story structure be under 80 feet high and have zero parking requirements. An alley at the back will be the access for trucks and all refuse will be stored in the building.

With the bank on the first floor along with a large retail space that may be split into as many as 4 spaces, the unit mix on the remaining 6 floors are planned to breakdown as 6 studios (approx. 700 sq. ft.); 12 one- bedroom, one-bath (approx. 850 sq. ft. ); 3 two-bedrooms, two-baths (approx. 1,100 sq. ft.) and the remaining 37 as one-bedroom, one-bath plus den (approx. 950 sq. ft.) units. 

The rental prices will be determined by the company managing the complex and the market rate when the building is ready for occupancy early in 2016. Current market rates are well above $2 square foot per month. 

Along Ashland

From Ashland Ave., the back of the building can be seen over the mall parking lot

LG will retain ownership of the building, with Jonathan Splitt Architects Ltd. as architect of record. 

According to 1st Ward Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno, the size of this project will mean that the affordable unit requirement will be 10 units. While the ordinance indicates that a developer can buy out of this requirement by paying a one-time amount per unit, Moreno is animatedly apposed to a buy out. 

"We desperately need affordable units in our Ward," he says and explains that a zoning change is off the table if they want a buyout. 

LG is a local company owned by Brian Goldberg, Barry Howard and Marc Lifshin. "We love the area here and plan to stay for many years. We strive for excellence and will be back to do more projects," said Leahu. 

"We want a good relationship with WPC and the community. So, we are particularly cautious of what we show and what is realistic." Current meetings with P&D have been focused on the exterior building materials. 

Brian Goldberg said, "We are very honored to have been able to work with a group with such dedication to their neighborhood, and are proud of the design that is the result of so much positive collaboration and cooperation.  We look forward to working in this wonderful neighborhood for many years to come."

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