A developer is seeking city zoning approval to build an apartment high-rise on what he calls “the last great piece of land on Lake Shore Drive.”
It’s a nearly two-acre site at Lake Shore Drive and Waveland Avenue in Lake View that has survived attempts to put something on it. The plan from Jonathan Holtzman, chairman of City Club Apartments, calls for 333 units in a two-section complex of 19 stories and six stories.
Holtzman said he’s timing his project for an economic revival once the world bounces back from the coronavirus. His proposal to rezone the site, thus allowing for the project, was submitted last week to the City Council.
“This location is an 11 on a scale of one to 10,” he said. Holtzman promised a project with unit designs and sizes that appeal to renters in various age brackets and family situations. He criticized other developers for focusing on millennials and designing projects to please pensions funds and insurance companies that invest in the buildings.
“The renter is the customer, and we think the customer of the future wants lots of choices,” Holtzman said. He has completed several projects in Chicago, including some from his prior company, Village Green, which he sold in 2016.
His zoning application will trigger community hearings led by Ald. James Cappleman, whose 46th Ward includes the property, and a review by the Chicago Plan Commission and the City Council. Holtzman said despite the current economic crisis, he hopes to see a recovery that will allow him to get a construction loan later this year.
“The best cycle is building in a recession and leasing it up as the economy improves,” Holtzman said. He said the project is a more than $100 million investment.
The property is just east of the 48-story condo building called the New York. Despite having an address of 3660 N. Lake Shore Drive, the New York is set back from that highway. Opposition from its residents to past projects that could block views of Lake Michigan has helped kill proposals for the vacant land.
Holtzman said he has a letter from the condo association supporting his proposal. The association couldn’t be reached for comment, but Cappleman also said the New York is supporting the project.
The developer said he hopes community discussions can be in a virtual format if large gatherings continue to be ill-advised.
Cappleman said he’s waiting to hear if local groups think virtual meetings will suffice. He said he’ll abide by the recommendation of his 46th Ward zoning committee but likes the project’s modern style. “What we should not try to replicate is a past age. We want a building that is striking for 2020,” he said.
At 19 stories, the proposed building is shorter than what other developers have wanted on the site. It’s also positioned to minimize blockage of lake views. The project would include parking for 145 vehicles.
In 2005, onetime condo king Nicholas Gouletas settled a three-year legal fight with the city over the zoning on the property. The settlement allowed Gouletas to pursue plans for a 28-story building, but he had to scuttle the project.
One issue likely to be debated is the level of affordable housing required as part of the market-rate development. Jack George, the project’s zoning attorney, said his reading of the city ordinance tells him the developer must offer 11 units at lower rents to be deemed affordable for households earning up to 60% of the area’s median income.
The ordinance provides for a 10% setaside of affordable units. George said current zoning allows for 228 units on the parcel, so the setaside should apply only to the 105 additional units the developer wants.
“That’s certainly an argument he can make. He needs to take that before the city,” Cappleman said.