Two planned developments along Chicago Avenue appeared on the City Council agenda on April 28. One, at 1515 Chicago (the former Heil and Heil site), moved forward despite controversy over the fate of a mature elm tree and parking setback. The other, at 835 Chicago Ave. (Chicago and Main) was held, in part because developers asked to be able to provide fewer than the required number of parking spaces.
Alderman Judy Fiske, whose First Ward contains the 1515 site, ultimately supported the project despite significant reservations over the tree and parking setbacks. The residential hotel project, she said, “wasn’t the first choice but it’s a lot less disruptive than it could have been.” She cautioned Council on the parking lot setbacks, saying the elimination of the five-foot setback could create a “long term precedent.”
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said the project was not perfect, but it was as close as the community was likely to get. “The next thing that comes down the road” could ultimately be far worse, he said. The extended stay hotel, “compared to what could happen, what could be done there,” is a much better project. “They have come far enough to get my support,” he said.
Concessions included a late agreement by the developer to pay for reconstruction of the alley. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, called the development “one of the most compliant planned developments I’ve seen in a long time.” Both staff and the Plan Commission support the project with little or no reservation, City material showed.
Ultimately, despite a number of citizens’ publicly calling for revisions that would save the elm tree and preserve the five-foot alley setback, Council voted unanimously to approve the project. Ald. Rainey later praised Ald. Fiske for voting for the project despite having reservations, calling the vote an “excellent move” and saying the vote showed, “good leadership.”
Meanwhile, the 835 project was held and will be discussed on May 12. Alderman Melissa Wynne, whose Third Ward contains the project, said there is still work to be done. The City’s economic development team has long sought an office building for the site, but could not find an interested developer. The proposed project would be primarily residential, and it calls for a reduction in the required number of parking spaces.
The request for less parking came in spite of the fact that one of the reasons cited for creating a TIF district at Main and Chicago was a lack of sufficient parking in the area.