Six Corners Sears project nears City Council approval after surviving affordable housing debate
A rendering of plans for the old Sears site at 4730 W. Irving Park Road. [Novak Construction/MG2 Architects]
The massive Six Corners Sears development cleared a major hurdle Wednesday, overcoming disagreement about the lack of affordable units which led to one alderman pushing to halt the project.
The City Council’s Committee on Zoning signed off on the proposal to redevelop the building at 4730 W. Irving Park into a six-story mixed-use development with 207 luxury apartments. Alds. Michael Rodriguez (22), Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25) and Maria Hadden (48) voted no. The plans now go to the full City Council for a vote.
The development, led by Novak Construction, would include a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments ranging from $2,750 to $3,000 per month, sitting on top of about 50,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. The building also will have a pool, dog walk and communal areas.
Only six of the 207 units would be made affordable for people earning 60 percent of the area median income. The developer would meet the rest of its affordability requirement by paying about $2 million into the city’s Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund.
A new Affordable Requirements Ordinance, overwhelmingly passed earlier this year, increases the percentage of affordable units that must be offered in major developments from 10 to 20 percent in wealthy and gentrifying neighborhoods.
The Six Corners project was submitted before the stricter requirements go into effect Oct. 1, and meets the mandates under the current ordinance. Jake Paschen, executive vice president of development at Novak, said the company decided on six affordable units because it “makes sense for the development and for us… financially.”
Hadden rejected the contention Novak couldn’t build the project if they had to include more affordable units.
“Seeing a pool in the roof of this development makes me think that this developer could probably do a little bit more and there are options” for more affordable units, Hadden said.
In an effort to force Novak to incorporate more lower-cost apartments, Hadden asked Ald. Jim Gardiner (45), whose ward includes the development, to pause the project.
“Historically, especially in the Northwest Side of the city and other parts of the North Side, we’ve had communities again and again reject affordable housing,” Hadden said. “Our racial segregation is deeply tied to our economic segregation.”
But Gardiner rejected a delay, saying that risked Novak walking away from the development altogether.
“It comes down to numbers often times,” Gardiner said. “If somebody is saying they will not be able to do that if extra costs ensue, I am not in the position, nor is my community in a position, to play this back-and-forth poker game to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to call your bluff, I think you can afford it.”
Gardiner and the developers’ attorney, Tyler Manic, said the project was near shovel-ready and would revitalize the once thriving business corridor.
“Having this development is absolutely vital for local businesses, local residents, especially the businesses that are struggling through this pandemic … God only knows what other restrictions are going to be coming due to this pandemic and I think it is vital that we move forward with a proposition that is well-accepted within our community, that’s on the table, because we can’t tell what the future will bring,” Gardiner said.
The building would include 270 parking spaces and 68 bike spaces. The developers submitted a zoning change last month that would allow for residential units. A vote on that change will take place next month.
The city’s Plan Commission also approved the project in August following a debate on affordability. Plan Commission members vowed to work harder to hold developers accountable for more affordable housing units with the new ordinance, but commended Novak for revitalizing the long-vacant art deco building built in 1938.
The old Six Corners Sears building has sat vacant since 2018, frustrating neighbors and business owners who hoped to see something — anything — open on the prime neighborhood corner.
“We hope that this will successfully set the tone for parcels that are yet to be developed around it,” said Maurice D. Cox, commissioner for the Department of Planning and Development.
A final vote on the project is expected during the Sept. 14 City Council meeting.
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