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Plumbers union proposes offices, parking for Near West Side

Local 130, a fixture in the neighborhood for decades, begins to answer some of the questions neighborhood residents have had about the property’s future.

Plumbers Local 130 auditorium, 1340 W. Washington Blvd. Under a zoning proposal from the union, the auditorium would remain while a parking garage and an office building would go up on adjacent property.
Plumbers Local 130 auditorium, 1340 W. Washington Blvd. Under a zoning proposal from the union, the auditorium would remain while a parking garage and an office building would go up on adjacent property.
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For years, as development swept through the neighborhood, people who live and work on the Near West Side have wondered what could happen to property owned by Local 130 of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers and Technical Engineers union.

Running along the 1300 blocks of Washington to Randolph streets west of Ada Street, the site includes a training center and auditorium the plumbers use routinely and make available for community events. But the property is dominated by a surface parking lot, an obvious development candidate in an area transformed by new construction.

Wednesday, the plumbers union proposed to the City Council a zoning change that would allow construction on the site. Plans call for a seven-story parking garage for more than 500 cars on Randolph and a six-story office building on Ada. The union’s training center and auditorium would remain.

The filing triggers a series of meetings involving the union and community groups, with residents’ opinions to be forwarded to Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., whose 27th Ward includes the area. The proposal could be revised, or neighborhood opposition could block it.

If Burnett supports it, the proposal for a zoning category called a planned development would go before the Chicago Plan Commission and the City Council.

Local 130’s zoning application does not indicate it has enlisted any developer or general contractor to assist with the project. The union’s leadership and their zoning attorneys could not be reached for comment Friday.

The Chicago-based OKW Architects produced renderings included in the zoning application.

Carla Agostinelli, executive director of the West Loop Community Organization, said the group’s development committee will start reviewing the proposal in October. She said she was pleased the project seeks to address a shortage of parking in an area that has become increasingly congested, at least before COVID-19.

“Parking is the golden nugget of the West Loop,” she said. “But at this point, we’re uncertain of what the community reaction will be.” She said it’s not known how much of the parking will be available to residents, or at what price.

Agostinelli said if life returns to normal, residents and employers might use cars more heavily if there’s an aversion to public transit. The plumbers, longtime anchors on the Near West Side, have made their parking lot available for festivals and events.

“They’ve been wonderful community partners,” she said. The zoning application said Local 130 has owned the property since 1925.

The proposed office building on Ada would include 205,000 square feet. It’s not known if the plumbers have any commitments for renting space in the building. Especially in a troubled economy, developers prefer to building office space only after tenants are secured.

Reached Friday, Burnett said he wasn’t sure if the project can proceed as planned. He declined to discuss specifics, referring questions to the city’s Department of Planning and Development. A department spokesman declined to comment.