By Igor Studenkov | For the Bugle
The long-vacant land between Milwaukee District-North Metra line, Capulina Avenue and an existing residential development on the west side of Ferris Avenue may soon get seven buildings with a total of 36 townhouse units.
Like many other parcels near the Morton Grove Metra station, the land traditionally was a mix of commercial and industrial uses. More recently the village was looking to bring more residential and commercial development to the area. Since Dan DiMaria was elected mayor in April 2013, he’s been advocating for turning the area around the Metra station into a mixed-use, transit-orientated downtown area – something that Morton Grove currently doesn’t have.
During the Village of Morton Grove Board of Trustees’ July 24 meeting, Nancy Radzevich, the Morton Grove Community & Economic Development director, gave a presentation reviewing the legal hurdles the townhouse project needs to clear in order to become reality. Though the village is still ironing out a few details, the project already earned support from DiMaria and Trustee John Thill.
According to board documents, the village purchased the lots that made up the property over the course of four years, between 2005-2009, using funds from the Lehigh Ferris Tax Increment Financing District. As Radzevich explained during the July 24 meeting, contamination from past industrial uses was a major issue – especially at the northwest corner.
“ Over the past few years, actually several years, the village has been working with some environmental consultants and doing some investigation on the property.,” she said. “And last year, we got approval of our redevelopment plan for the site from the [Illinois Environmental Protection Agency], and we found an interested developer in Lexington Homes.”
When the Chicago-based developer originally submitted the application in the fall of 2016, it sought to build 34 townhouse units. But at the board document indicated, it withdrew the applications after discovering “unexpected development challenges” and realizing that utility relocation would cost more than they originally thought. The village tried to persuade them to change its mind and, as a result, it offered to let them build two more units to help offset the costs.
Lexington is currently proposing to build seven buildings. Three buildings would be made up of five attached townhouses each, two buildings would be made up of four attached townhouses and the remaining two would be made up of six and seven attached townhouses. Each townhouse would have a two-car garage and two-and-a-half floors of living space. The board documents noted that each unit could have up to three bedrooms, but Lexington is keeping its options open to see what kind of demand there will be in the market once construction starts.
One issue that came up during the planning process was the shortage of parking in the area. To help address that, Lexington agreed to include 17 visitor parking spaces, as well as six on-street parking spaces on the south side of Capulina Avenue, which would be open to area residents and visitors. The parking spaces will be time-restricted to discourage Metra commuters from using them.
It should be noted that the development would be directly served by Pace’s Route 210 on weekdays. Route 250, which primarily runs along Dempster Street, is located within walking distance of the site.
As Radzevich explained, between the two extra units and the extra parking, Lexington’s proposal exceeds the maximum lot coverage limits for this particular zoning district – which is why they are applying for a Special Use Planned Unit Development.
The application went before the Morton Grove Plan Commission on June 19. Radzevich explained that five residents spoke, expressing concern about the project density, increases in traffic and parking.
The Plan Commission wound up approving the application, but it attached some conditions. Most notably, it would legally require Lexington to limit visitor parking to residents and guests, spell out responsibilities of the owner association and create several mechanisms to ensure Lexington and its successors comply with village regulations.
“I’ll note that we typically do Plan Commission report with the ordinances, but we don’t have the ordinances because we’re still working on a redevelopment agreement,” Radzevich told the trustees.
The village board would still need to approve the special use. As of this writing, it is not clear when the finalized ordinances will come before the village board.
Thill said he was already looking forward to the development.
“Nine years we’ve been waiting for this,” he remarked. “Nine years. And now, to get it back on the tax rolls – its fabulous.”
“You took the words out of my mouth, Trustee Thill – this is great,” added DiMaria. “More development in Morton Grove, let’s keep it coming.”