City planners signed off Thursday on development that would bring to downtown four new high-rises representing a $700 million investment.
The Chicago Plan Commission, plowing through an unusually long agenda amid criticism about affordable housing, approved a two-tower proposal for a hotel and residences at 525 S. Wabash Ave. The buildings, to be connected by retail space including a food store, would replace a parking garage and a surface parking lot.
The commission, which reviews major zoning proposals before they get to the City Council, also backed two residential towers totaling 1,053 units at 601 W. Monroe St., currently a parking lot.
The Wabash project, across Ida B. Wells Parkway from the Auditorium Theatre, is a plan from Northfield-based Interforum Holdings. It calls for 777 residential units, and the developer plans to meet requirements for 78 affordable units as defined by city ordinance by providing them on-site.
For the Monroe towers, developer Pacific Reach Properties plans buildings of 47 and 40 stories. Their 105 affordable units include 26 on-site, with Pacific Reach providing money to build the rest at other locations. It has promised improvements to adjacent Heritage Green Park.
Those projects, while substantial, were relatively uncontroversial. Public testimony focused on criticism over another development that was approved, the redevelopment of the former Sears store in at the northeast corner of Irving Park Road and Cicero Avenue in Portage Park. The plan for 207 residences calls for 21 affordable units, only six of which would be built on-site.
Advocates for more affordability told the commission the setaside was inadequate. Portage Park’s alderman, Jim Gardiner (45th), said the project is needed to improve the shopping district. Demanding more from the property owner, Novak Construction, is irresponsible, Gardiner said. “Our community cannot afford to risk playing a high-stakes poker game in an attempt to perfect this development,” he said.
Due for consideration later today were other major projects, including a long-range plan from Onni Group to put five buildings on the south end of Goose Island at 901 N. Halsted St. With a maximum of 2,650 homes and 300 hotel rooms, the project foresees an investment of $1.3 billion over 20 years.