At the end of October of last year, we reported on the community meeting in Logan Square for a Dual Tower residential complex proposed by developer Rob Buono. Round Two of the public input process was held Monday night at Haas Park, with 1st Ward Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno once again presiding.
The Alderman began this meeting, as he did the first, asking those in attendance for polite, orderly discourse, without bullying or interruption, and thanking them for their respectful participation. Then, clearly agitated, he held up a flier that had been circulated in the neighborhood, that he called “cowardly.” (I did not have an opportunity to read the memo, but a resident seated next to me told me it was mostly a political slam against Moreno. The resident threw his in the garbage.)
The tone for the meeting got worse about halfway through the Alderman’s introduction, when, after interrupting him for a second time, and being told there would be no third time, an unhappy resident stormed out of the meeting, declaring the project’s future “is already decided.”
Developer Rob Buono took the floor to go over pertinent statistics on the buildings, and in particular, the major changes made in response to objections from the public to the original plans. The biggest difference is the elimination of three floors from the North Tower. Once planned for 15 floors, the new design cuts it down to 12 floors, while the South Tower remains at 11 floors. This results in the North Tower being about 33 feet shorter than originally planned.
The number of residences in the North Tower has been reduced to 135, down from 176. The smaller tower remains at 78 units. Overall, a 16% reduction in total units. While parking spaces — always an important issue with area residents — were decreased from 71 spaces to 68. With the decrease in overall units, this means an increase in parking-per-unit from .28 to .32-per-unit. And, despite fewer overall units, the percentage of affordable units stands at 13.78%, well above the 10% the city requires for transit-oriented developments.
Then things kinda broke down. Alderman Moreno handed out note cards for attendees to write their questions on, rather than open up the floor to an open mic format. Questions were read and answered about the Center for Neighborhood Technology (its representatives were present, and are in favor of the project), the use of units for sub-leasing or AirBnB purposes (the developer is very much against that, and hopes for to keep it out of the buildings) and the 12-story height of the North Tower. “Overzealous development,” in one attendee’s words (the developer feels this is the right height for the Milwaukee Corridor project). When asked why he felt this was the right plan for the area, Mr. Buono responded that no developer proposes a plan he thinks won’t be successful. No one spends millions of dollars if they think they’ll fail.
But for all the questions read and answered, many in the crowd continued to complain that their concerns had not been addressed. At one point in the meeting, some shouted as the Alderman attempted to read from the note cards in his hand. Those against were louder than those for, and things got rather heated until the alderman adjourned the meeting.
The adjournment was deemed rather abrupt by many, though Alderman Moreno’s kept his promise to stay afterward and talk to constituents one-on-one to continue hearing their opinions and concerns.
With the planning process, the zoning committee hearing, and city council approval still to come, the Dual Tower project has a long road ahead. And these first two public forums show there is still considerable opposition to it. It remains to be seen if the developer will be forced to scale down this proposal yet again to appease the masses, or if its current state will be enough to gain the approval of Alderman Moreno. There is surely no doubt many in the crowd Monday night are not satisfied, and have only begun to fight.
Update: March 31, 2015 @ 12:23pm
Editor’s Note: If you weren’t able to make it to the meeting and want to see it for yourself, Brian Quinn was good enough to record the event on video. You can view it by following this link.