City Plan Commission Approves Downer Avenue Plan
The first item on the agenda, Resolution 070963, was the heavily debated Downer Avenue Redevelopment Phase II project. The resolution would recommend a change of zoning from General Planned Development to Detailed Planned Development and include a 7-story hotel, an 11-story residential tower, 5 town homes, and a 4-story addition to the Mulkhern building.
Architect Scott Kindness indicated that the Chancery building currently retains only about 50% of its original facade and that they “plan on taking down the entire building to allow this to happen” but that they will “rebuild the 1936 version of the Chancery building”. Clearly he was referring to rebuilding the facade along the first two floors as they will add additional floors with a setback allowing the street level massing to appear similar to its original design. He also indicated the project will most likely break ground in the Spring of 2009 as both pre-sales for the condominiums and finding the operator for the hotel will take time and are dependent on approvals. Architect Matt Rinka explained that the redevelopment of the Mulkhern building would include the 4-story addition, demolishing the drive through and ramp, creation of an urban garden, and will convert the existing upper floor to medical uses.
Despite multiple iterations, and numerous meetings opposition to this change in zoning was brought by local community members who have fought this project from its beginning. Alderman Michael D’Amato pointed out that that “the use is consistent with the General Planned Development, the height is consistent with the General Planned Development, and the massing is consistent with the General Planned Development” further he indicated the plan is simply receiving opposition from the same neighborhood members who opposed this project from the beginning indicating that taking further input was just a delaying tactic and at this point served no purpose. He appealed to the commission that “the anchors on Downer Avenue are dying” and that “I hope you will finally allow progress on Downer Avenue.” The Commission took his advice and recommended it for approval with the conditions that the developer works to shorten the balcony and continues to work with staff on improvements.