“Are you for or against?” I was asked as soon as I took a seat inside Logan Square’s Candela Restaurant. I didn’t know it at the time, but “Neither, yet. I’m here to learn about the proposal before I form an opinion,” was nothing if not a safe response.
That man soon left the seat next to me, to be replaced by two young women, one of them assuring me most of the crowd would be against the Dual Tower proposal being presented last night by developer Rob Buono. “It’s just too big for here.”
After a quick introduction from 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno, the meeting was started by Daniel Hertz, a public policy student at the University of Chicago. Mr. Hertz addressed Logan Square’s shrinking population — almost a third of the population has been lost in recent years, as well as about 10,000 residents in the 2000’s. He described the economic advantages the 253-unit complex would bring to businesses along the Milwaukee Avenue corridor.
His reception was a challenge of his data, which he says came U.S. Census figures, but which one resident insisted should only come from going door-to-door and getting info from the locals. And then, after being asked where he lives (right here in Logan Square), for how long, what he does, and where he goes to school, it was determined that “let’s accept that this is his opinion, and that we might just have differing opinions, and go from there.”
Developer Rob Buono took the floor next, going over the details of the project, from explaining the basics of transit oriented development to illustrations on how shadows cast by the Dual Towers will affect neighboring buildings at different times of the day. He spent about 20 minutes going over details before alderman Moreno opened the floor for questions.
Concerns about flooding in the area of Milwaukee/Belden/Washtenaw would be handled by green spaces on roofs of the two towers, and by the dog park included in the complex, both built to handle rain water and allow it to slowly dissipate into the city’s sewer system. And if civil engineers determine that won’t quite be enough, an underground vault would be added to hold additional water.
A question of the developer’s $3,500 contribution to the Moreno campaign was met with rebuke by the alderman. He assured the skeptical crowd that he doesn’t operate based on who does and doesn’t contribute money to his campaign. He insisted the donation would have no bearing on his decision-making process.
Another resident stood and demanded to know exactly how much profit the developer stood to make from this project, and how much his profit would be if he built the towers as 100% low income units, instead of the 10% currently planned. Buono’s response was that typically, a developer hopes for a 10-16% return on investment for a successful project. But of course, an unsuccessful project could result in the loss of millions. As for the 100% low-income scenario, he basically said that was a moot point, as “no lender on the planet” would extend funding for a purely low-income building.
This clearly was not Mr. Buono’s first rodeo. He remained calm and professional throughout the meeting, though he was up against a solid anti-Dual Tower crowd. The height of the buildings, 11 and 15 floors respectively, the idea of having “glass towers” that would be out of place in a low-profile neighborhood like Logan Square, and parking shortages were the most-mentioned issues. Many in the crowd remained unconvinced that the developer would be able to fill 253 units with people who don’t need cars to get around. The 73 proposed parking spaces within the project didn’t impress many, who pointed out that the lack of walking-distance grocery stores alone would mean most new residents would have to own vehicles.
At this point, Alderman Moreno teased the crowd with an announcement that he, “really wants to make tonight, but it’s only 99.6% certain,” so it’ll have to wait until November. But he would have news about a “very big development” that seemed related to a grocery store. But we’ll all have to wait until Thanksgiving at the latest, he pledged, to find out what that’s about.
This is a development Rob Buono believes in, and Logan Square, he feels, is the perfect location. On this night, Logan Square wasn’t convinced. The overwhelming majority of people at the public meeting believe the towers are too high, there will be “atrocious” traffic and parking problems, the units are too small and too expensive, and it just isn’t a good fit for the neighborhood. Subsequent discussions, and the ultimate decision on going forward with the Dual Tower, will be interesting to watch. Stay tuned.