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‘Misleading’ redevelopment listing could lead to the downzoning of vacant Avondale lot

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The site could be downzoned after the status of a proposed development was “misrepresented” to buyers


A vacant wedge-shaped lot at the northeast corner of Elston and California in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood could be the latest parcel to be downzoned to limit development following a spat between the property owner Howard Stillman and Alderman Deb Mell (33rd). The issue started last month when an entry on the commercial real estate marketplace LoopNet stated that the 0.6-acre parcel at 3154 N. Elston was not only for sale asking $3,250,000, but had approvals in place for a new mixed-use development. The listing was accompanied by a rendering of a six-story structure.

Proposed development site on the NEC of Elston & California. Plans have been approved by Alderman and neighborhood groups. Maximum of 62 residential units on a total of 89,885 SF of buildable area. 9,460 SF of commercial space. 44 parking spaces. Maximum building height of 74-4.

Alderman Mell’s office was quick to respond to a comment thread discussing the development site in a Facebook thread, stating that the LoopNet listing represented a “complete and utter falsehood.” A photo of a strongly worded letter to Stillman’s zoning lawyer Sara Barnes was also posted. “Mr. Stillman has undermined my reputation and the reputations of community groups in my ward in a rapacious attempt to mislead potential buyers,” it reads.

Google Street View

A legislative measure intended to greatly limit what Stillman and company can build “as of right” without having to approach the community or alderman for approvals was introduced by Mell. The proposed ordinance would downzone 3148-3162 N. Elston from B3-1 Community Shopping District to RS-1 Residential Single-Unit (Detached House) District—essentially restricting the site to single family homes or two-flats. The measure would need to pass the Committee of Zoning and the full Chicago City Council to take effect.

While speaking with DNAinfo, Sara Barnes attributed the whole thing to a miscommunication. "I have the utmost respect for Alderman Mell and everything she's done," Barnes said. "And she did not give us approval or any type of formal support," she said. The property owners are currently working to remove or update the inaccurate LoopNet listing.