Developer pushes apartment plan for Lake Shore Drive site

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A developer is seeking city zoning approval to build an apartment building 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 anything on it. City Club Apartments president Jonathan Holtzman’s plan calls for 333 units in a two-section, 19-story, six-story complex.

Holtzman said he is planning his economic recovery plan once the world recovers from the coronavirus. Its proposal to rezon the site, thereby enabling 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 tenants of different age brackets and family situations. He criticized other developers for focusing on millennials and designing schemes to please pension funds and insurance companies investing in the buildings.

“The tenant is the customer, and we believe the customer of the future wants a lot of choice,” Holtzman said. He has done several projects in Chicago, including some from his former company, Village Green, which he sold in 2016.

Its zoning application will trigger community hearings led by Ald. James Cappleman, whose 46e The neighborhood includes ownership and review by the Chicago Plan Commission and City Council. Holtzman said that despite the current economic crisis, he hopes to see a recovery that will allow him to secure a construction loan later this year.

“The best cycle is to build during a recession and rent it out as the economy improves,” Holtzman said. He said the project represents an investment of more than $100 million.

Jonathan Holtzman, President of City Club Apartments

The property is just east of the 48-story condominium building called the New York. Although it has an address at 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 vacant land.

Holtzman said he had a letter from the condo association supporting his proposal. The association could not be reached for comment, but Cappleman also said New York was supportive of the project.

The developer said it hopes community discussions can take place in a virtual format if large gatherings continue to be ill-advised.

Cappleman said he was waiting to hear if local groups thought virtual meetings would be enough. He said he would respect the recommendation of his 46th Ward zoning committee, but liked the modern style of the project. “What we shouldn’t try to replicate is a bygone era. We want a striking building for 2020,” he said.

At 19 stories, the proposed building is shorter than other developers wanted on the site. It is also positioned to minimize blocking lake views. The project would include parking for 145 vehicles.

In 2005, former condo king Nicholas Gouletas settled a three-year legal battle with the city over zoning of the property. The settlement allowed Gouletas to proceed with plans for a 28-story building, but he had to scuttle the project.

One question likely to be debated is the level of affordable housing required under the changing market rate. Jack George, the project’s zoning attorney, said his reading of the city’s ordinance told him the developer had to offer 11 units at lower rents to be deemed affordable to households earning up to 60% of the median income in the region.

The ordinance provides for a 10% reserve of affordable housing. George said current zoning allows for 228 units on the parcel, so the set-aside should only apply to the additional 105 units the developer wants.

“That’s certainly an argument he can make. He has to take this before the city,” Cappleman said.

The Lake Shore Drive development site, with the New York condo tower to the west.

The Lake Shore Drive development site, with the New York condo tower to the west.

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