Community members respond to Lexington Homes’ recent proposal sited along Chicago River


Lexington Homes

Current site plan provided by Lexington Homes

By Niamh Dillon, Reporter

Big changes could be coming to the California Park neighborhood after a large developer’s recent proposal for the 7.3 acre lot previously occupied by DePaul College Prep.

Community members and panelist representatives met virtually on Oct. 12 to address the proposal made by Lexington Homes, a large suburban home builder, that depicts their plans for a jtmulti-faceted development just a few blocks away from Lane Tech. 

The Department of Planned Development (DPD) requires a community driven meeting for a proposal of this magnitude, as members of the neighborhood are given the right to voice their opinion regarding possible developments that could affect their community and daily lives. 

According to a representative from the DPD, October 2020 marked the beginning of planning for this development, and Lexington Homes has been communicating back and forth with them ever since, making adjustments and accommodations based on feedback and requirements. 

The official proposal located on Ald. Rossana Rodriguez’s website states that there are several components that must be considered in order for permits to be obtained and the project to begin. For example, the project must abide by strict affordable housing guidelines and meet the requests of other official departments, such as the River Ecology and Governance Task Force, due to its riverside location. 

A project of this scale would require a zoning change, which Lexington Homes is requesting, due to the proposed height and density of the project. The change would be from a Residential Two-Flat, Townhouse and Multi-Unit District to a Residential Multi-Unit District with a residential waterway planned development. 

The current proposal would include 88 multi-story townhomes, each with a two-car garage, as well as a six-story apartment building, 3,000 square feet of retail and 391 total parking spaces. 

As far as the community response, the meeting reflected a general opposition and feeling of concern from California Park residents; many expressed their opinions in the comments or directly to the panelists. 

One of the prominent concerns from the neighbors is the possible increase in traffic in an already congested intersection and neighborhood. While a traffic study conducted in February 2021 revealed conditions would support the project, many are concerned that it does not reflect the current conditions and are requesting a more up-to-date report. 

The study predicts a total of around 2,000 daily two-way trips in and out of the site. While that number seems high, the report claims that “it should be further noted that the site was previously occupied by DePaul College Prep and Gordon Tech High School, which generated a significant amount of traffic at full enrollment. As such, not all trips generated by the proposed development will be new or additive to the street system.”

An additional concern that was voiced by neighbors was the detrimental effects the development could have on the environment. In particular, Lexington’s plan for a two-car garage for each townhome was described by community member Carl as “painfully regressive.” 

“Do you even believe in climate change?” Carl said.

Despite the heavy criticism and concern from California Park residents, some did share their excitement for the possibility of this development. After a long meeting, Paul, a member of the neighborhood in attendance of the meeting said, “I am in favor 100% of this project.”  This was a sliver of encouragement in a meeting filled with discontent. 

Another major guideline the developer will need to abide by is the recent affordable housing ordinance that requires 20% of the project to be set aside for affordable housing, which would equate to around 71.4 dwelling units. They have several options when it comes to meeting the guidelines — for example, half of the 20% can either be built or paid “in-lieu” towards a fund that supports affordable housing in Chicago. 

Daniel Hertz, the director of policy for the Chicago Department of Housing, told the Champion that “one of the reasons we create flexibility in affordable housing laws and programs is so projects can be tailored to the needs of the community.” 

The needs and desires of the neighborhood are an imperative component of the development process and no concrete steps towards a City Hearing can be taken without full completion of the Community Driven and Zoning Development Process and the Ald.’s verdict, which is influenced by community input.  

Lexington Homes is only at the beginning of this community process, and they’re looking at a long road ahead until the project can break ground.