I sponsored a community meeting in February and a follow-up meeting on May 3rd on a proposed zoning change to allow construction of a new residential and commercial development at 1557-61 W. Howard (the former Wisdom Bridge Theater building and the former DevCorp North office building).
The modified proposal was met with overwhelming support at the May 3rd community meeting, which approxmately 30 community residents attended, and in e-mails sent to my office. My Zoning and Land Use Advisory Committee recommended I support the proposal, as well. Accordingly, I have decided to support the zoning change.
The proposal calls for a seven-story building with 60 residential units and 15,000 to 30,000 square feet of commercial space on the first and second floors. The proposal also includes 60-75 parking spaces located within the building.
The first three floors of the proposed development would contain parking and retail and office space. No commercial or office tenants have been identified, but the developers have indicated a desire to locate a live theater company at the site. The top four floors would consist of either condominiums or rental units depending on market conditions at the time the project is completed.
The property currently is zoned B3-3. A zoning change to B3-5 is required to allow for the proposed development.
The developers initially proposed a modernistic facade design, which engendered a significant amount of community opposition at the February meeting. Based on that community input, I asked the developers to come up with a more traditional facade design that was more in keeping with the surrounding architecture. The developers came up with two different versions of an art deco brick facade.
Though some community members expressed a preference for the original modernistic design, the vast majority of comments I’ve received favor the art deco designs.
The proposed development would replace two dilapidated buildings. The building at 1557 W. Howard, which one housed the Wisdom Bridge Theater, is in particularly dangerous condition and will soon be demolished by the City of Chicago (the demolition cost will be borne by the property’s owner).
The developers emphasized at the community meetings that they cannot guarantee they will be able to secure a theater company for the site, but I’m currently working with them developers to identify some potential live theater companies and several community residents have provided leads. Even if a theater does not end up in the development, the project will still provide a needed shot in the arm for Howard Street’s re-development and replace two deteriorating buildings with an attractive new structure.
The developers will continue to seek tenants for the retail and office space, and once they have secured commitments they are confident they will be able to receive financing. If for some reason they are unable to do so, I will introduce an ordinance changing the zoning back to its original designation.
If you have any questions or further comments, please reply to this e-mail or call my office at 773-338-5796.