North Avenue apartment plan advances

March 12, 2014

A North Avenue apartment complex advanced after a bruising debate in committee Tuesday night.

The Pasadena Apartments, a four-story, 24-unit project, is planned to be built at the corner of North Avenue and 85th Street, replacing two dated eight-unit buildings that would be razed.

Despite the qualms of neighbors, objections to the removal of trees and testimony from City Engineer Bill Wehrley that a proposed driveway presented a hazard, the Community Development Committee voted 7-0 in favor of a zoning map amendment and preliminary plan approval Tuesday night. Alderman Jason Wilke, who argued for the preservation of trees, a definite landscaping plan and a firm agreement with neighbors, abstained.

The project's height and mass at the edge of a neighborhood of single-family homes have presented issues of concern from the start.

Dealing with neighbors

Developer Cardinal Capital Management's Erich Schwencker said — and residents agreed — that he has spent hours working with them to alleviate concerns about the building's height, appearance and shadowing effects. Aesthetic features have been added to the north side, facing the homes, and he has promised to build a fence — possibly eight feet — that would offer a measure of privacy to the yards, and offered at one point to build a new garage for a resident whose old garage, on the property line, posed a problem.

Schwenker also has said he would find housing in a building next door — a four-family that Cardinal also owns — for a disabled resident of one of the buildings he would tear down. He said this week that he was spending $40,000 or more in addressing neighborhood concerns.

On the edge

But his patience frayed in the face of requests that he save trees lining North Avenue and move a driveway.

"We're at the edge of what we can financially do," he said.

The site plan shows a driveway allowing access from the surface parking lot, north of the building, to North Avenue, a second entering the surface parking lot off 85th Street and a third driveway, also on 85th Street, a few steps south, that allows access to parking under the building.

Troubled by a driveway

"I have a very significant concern about the location of the third driveway," Wehrley said. Opening a driveway at that point would cost a couple of street-side parking spaces, forcing people to park in the neighborhood and impacting customer parking for a business across the street.

He also said the proximity of the driveway to the corner of North makes for a difficult turn left onto 85th Street, especially if a car is parked just south of the driveway, and said that car entering North would block traffic entering 85th from North when it got to the corner.

Wehrley's solution was to put the entrance to the parking lot on the other, east, side of the building.

Schwenker and his architect, Ed Haydin, said the driveway on the east side was narrow, and cars heading into the underground parking on the east side would back up cars behind them. Haydin read from the developer-commissioned traffic study, which said, in conclusion, "The apartment development as proposed will provide safe and efficient access, and there is ample space to allow proper flow and sufficient queuing."

Wehrley said his suggestion would not cost parking spaces, but Schwenker argued that point, saying they could not fit as many cars below the building and on the surface lot

Alderman objects

Wilke offered an amendment that would save trees presently on North Avenue, but Schwenker said that wouldn't be possible. The alderman also was troubled by the lack of a firm commitment on what Schwenker would do for the residents, though he has promised his help. Wilke additionally found the plans lacking in detail on the handling of stormwater and other issues.

Attorney Alan Kesner said the staff would monitor the discussions and agreements necessary with the residents and pointed out that the committee was approving a preliminary plan, and that the developer would be required to return for final plan approval.


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