Edgeville Buzz

After Downzoning, East Andersonville Faces First Developer Poised To Test The Measure

Over the past few years East Andersonville residents have worked to tighten building restrictions in order to avoid more demolitions of area homes to make way for luxury condominium complexes. But just as they thought downzoning was the answer to save its historic homes, one developer has become the first to test the limits of the measure.

The historic graystone at 1436 W. Berwyn was the tipping point for the East Andersonville community who have seen the neighborhood become ultra-desirable to both buyers and developers. Residents worked to downzone the area to prevent its 190 two-flats and 18 single family homes located there from the demolition ball.

Bordered by Foster, Bryn Mawr, Clark and Glenwood, East Andersonville was zoned RT-4 which made homes vulnerable to developers with plans to tear them down. An organized campaign to restrict developments through RS-3 rezoning was successful and gained Alderman Harry Osterman’s support, a crucial factor that laid the groundwork for the process.

One developer who recently purchased a home at 1443 W. Summerdale, is now testing the boundaries of the RS-3 zoning with a new property. After an initial request six months ago to upzone the building to allow for construction of a third story was denied, he recently went to the zoning administrator to request three variances which were also declined.

That developer is now looking for additional ways to build out on the property. Current plans are now to eliminate most of the property’s green space in order to tear down the existing facade and rear of the building to allow for a build-out in both directions.

Though virtually nothing but a section of the outside side wall and floors in between would remain of the original property, the new owner is well within his right to do most of the work including a teardown and rebuild of the facade. However, the FAR (floor area ratio) must stay within a certain percentage of permitted floor area that a building has in relation to the total area of the lot on which the building stands. A rule that has prevented a green light to proceed.

Also causing concerns is a new large rooftop garage that would extend from the East to the West property lines with a walkway that would connect to the home. Some neighbor’s feel that it would create a fortress-like structure that will block sunlight, decrease green space, limit alley access, and not allow for a trashcan setback.

After the East Andersonville RS-3 rezoning success, the Alderman helped set up a new Variance and Appearance Committee (VAC) at the East Andersonville Residents Council (EARC) to keep residents involved. The purpose of the group is to hear new construction plans in order to gauge community support or opposition.

“The plan for 1443 W. Summerdale is the closest thing to demolition without actually tearing down the whole home that I have ever seen,” said VAC member Tamara Schiller. “It is the first building that EARC has had to deal with since the downzoning. The developer wants to get around the rules because he bought right after the downzoning. There are all different restrictions such as the setback to the front and the setback to the alley. But he does have room to buildout and still be within the proper zoning. He can still legally move forward but must stay within the FAR.”

EARC is now trying to find a suitable agreement in order for the project to move forward. The FAR will not allow the developer to buildout in both the back and the front, however there are no variances needed to build the rooftop garage.

“You just can’t stop everything,” Schiller added. “Initially there was a variety of opinions and some (VAC) people wanted to just tell the developer ‘no.’ But the majority of the committee wanted to negotiate to at least save the facade of the building. So we are now trying to work with the developer’s lawyer and architect.”

Recently EARC sent a proposal to the developer that would garner their support for the needed FAR variance allowing most of the work to proceed if the he would keep the home’s facade intact.¬†However, the developer rejected that proposal saying that the facade cannot be saved due to cost. An opinion that EARC members do not agree with and could force them not to support any of the needed variances.

Schiller believes that this project is a big test for newly formed VAC. Due to Andersonville’s ever increasing popularity, it could signal the future of how resident’s voices play into the overall community direction.

Though both parties are still in talks, EARC’s support of a variance request will most likely help influence the Alderman. Then it is up to the Chicago Zoning Board to make a final decision.


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