Residents made it clear that they were not happy with the proposed apartment development on the 7200 block of Harrison Street, as over 100 people joined the plan commission’s public hearing on March 1, many with comment. Additionally, a dozen public comments, which had been submitted prior to the meeting, were read into the record. Overwhelmingly, the public comments expressed concern with one or more aspects of the project.
The project is Harrison Park View Place, a four-story 57-unit apartment building with a rooftop deck on the 7400 block of Harrison Street across from the tennis courts at the park district.
The plan commission voted to continue the meeting in April, pending more information from the applicant in the following areas: Density, both related to the number of units and the size of the building; traffic and parking; sewage and water management; and light and sound from the proposed roof deck.
The applicant, 7400-7412 W. Harrison Street Properties, LLC, was requesting five code variances: a reduction in the number of parking from a required 114 spaces to 68 spaces; a reduction in the minimum lot area per dwelling from 1,250 square feet to 485 square feet; a reduction in corner vision clearance from 5 feet to zero feet; an increase in building coverage to 87 percent; and a reduced loading berth from 12 by 30 feet to 10 by 30 feet.
The proposed building would be four stories tall, the top three accommodating apartments and the first floor housing indoor parking and a lobby and leasing area. There are no plans for retail on the first floor.
Plans as submitted include nine 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom units at 1,132 square feet each; six 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom units at 958 square feet each; 30 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom units at 887 square feet each; and 12 studio apartments at 533 square feet each.
Tim Loucopoulos, one of the developers from the LLC, said that rates for the rentals would be set according to the market feasibility study commissioned by the applicant, which would put the cost of renting the two-bedroom units at $2,010 and $2,375 per month and the one-bedrooms at $1,950 per month. No rate was provided for the studios.
The issues of density, traffic and parking, sewage and water management, and light and sound from the proposed roof deck were the areas of concern from residents and thus the topics for which the plan commission asked for more information at the next meeting.
Density, including both the number of units and the size of the structure, were mentioned multiple times in public comment and in questions from plan commissioners.
Former plan commission member and chair Paul Barbahen, who lives on the 800 block of Hannah Avenue, would be directly impacted by this project and addressed the number of units in the proposed development.
“There are 37 to 38 dwelling units on the block now,” Barbahen said, and adding 57 new units “increases the number of units on the block by 150 percent, which in my view adds too much density to the block.”
Traffic and parking were also issues brought up by residents and plan commissioners during the meeting. A traffic study submitted by the applicant, with pre-pandemic data from 2018, was not approved by village engineers for several reasons, including a lack of traffic count volumes from some of the intersections along Harrison Street. There was also an unresolved conversation during the meeting about whether traffic improvements related to the new project should be based on comparisons with the now-defunct businesses or with the lounge and restaurant in their heydays, when they added traffic to the area.
Safety was also a traffic-related concern. Since the new apartment building would be across the street from the park, residents expressed worry about children and other people crossing the street and being in danger. This danger, they said, could be escalated since the applicant was asking for a variance in corner vision clearance from 5 feet to zero feet.
In terms of parking, public sentiment overwhelmingly reflected the opinion that the requested variance from the required 114 spaces to 68 spaces should not be granted. Although the petitioner referenced Census data suggesting vehicle ownership for renters in the village was, on average, 1.03 vehicles per rental dwelling, many residents spoke out, saying that just because the apartments are close to the Blue Line CTA station and apartment dwellers might take the train to work, it doesn’t mean they won’t also own cars.
Loucopoulos said the types of units in the proposed building were chosen specifically to address this issue.
“There was a thought process to the types of units, and that was to accommodate parking,” Lacoupoulos said. “More studios mean less cars. Only 25% of the units are 2-bedroom, and that in essence controls your parking situation to some extent.”
In addition to concern about enough parking for residents of the new apartments, current residents are worried that without adequate guest parking, visitors to the new apartments would park on their blocks.
Water management was another big concern expressed throughout the meeting. With flooding a known issue in town, current residents said they were worried an additional 57 units would tax the sewer system even more.
A representative from Erikssson Engineering Associates said the current site has no stormwater management facilities at all, but the new building would.
“[Currently] there’s nothing to slow down any of the rainfall from entering the sewers,” the rep said. The new construction, however, would follow MWRD requirements, including installing green infrastructure consisting of permeable pavers and underground storage tanks. “So we’re giving that water a place to store underground on site before it releases to the sewers.”
Light and sound from the roof deck was another area of concern for public commenters. As interim plan commission chair Marsha East pointed out, rooftop decks are a lot of fun for the people using them. For other people, however, they can be sources of unwanted noise or light.
The petitioner’s plans put a limit on the hours the deck could be used, but the plan commission ultimately asked for more information about reduction of noise and light for neighbors of the building.
One resident expressed concern about the fact that 239 condominiums were just converted to rental units on Desplaines Avenue, which they suggested could impact the ability of the owners of the proposed Harrison Street apartments to rent their units.
One resident said he was upset that the comments he’d submitted on time to Steve Glinke, director of public health and safety, were not read during the meeting. He suggested that if his comments were not read, there might be others that also weren’t shared with the public or entered into the record.
Glinke said that the resident had submitted comments via email and was instructed to participate live in the meeting or resend the comments with “for the record” in the subject line.
“I don’t want it out there that we were selectively editing comments,” Glinke said during the meeting. “The comments were taken in total and read into the record.”