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High-rise plan on edge of defeat

Aldermen who support a 14-story rental development at 1890 Maple Ave. postponed a vote on the project Monday after it became apparent in City Council debate that they were likely to come up short on the vote.

1890 Maple

A rendering looking north on Maple Avenue shows the 1890 site as the building on the left with red awnings.

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, who requested the two-week delay, said after the meeting that he believed opponents had raised complex new issues that needed to be more fully discussed.

His move came after Alderman Anjana Hansen, 9th Ward, said she would vote against the project.

Ald. Hansen said 1890 Maple "is a good project with a good design" and that she liked that it would provide new rental housing units downtown. But she said it would be "cheating residents" to approve a new development while the downtown planning process is underway.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, responded that it was a big mistake to take a project that entered the Plan Commission approval process months before the council adopted a moratorium on new downtown construction projects and effectively subject it to that moratorium.

She also praised the idea of adding new rental housing downtown, saying "it will free up lots of affordable rentals" in the neighborhood that now are occupied by "rich kids" and students at Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management who’ll be attracted to the new development.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she would vote against the project, saying it was "inappropriately sized." She said oversized developments have caused residents to lose faith in the city’s planning process.

"As much as we may need rental, we don’t need it that bad," Ald. Wynne said, noting that a big new rental project is soon to be unveiled for her ward.

Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, said he supports the project. "It’s the best development I’ve seen in terms of its appearance and sensitivity to what we need in this community."

Because of the building’s proposed height, it requires a 6-3 vote by aldermen to win approval.

While Aldermen Cheryl Wollin, 1st Ward, and Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, did not address the 1890 Maple project on the council floor Monday, project supporters clearly felt they were likely votes against it because of their opposition to giving developer Robert King an extension of time to start work on his other project next door at 1881 Oak Ave.

Mr. King won approval for the one-year extension for the 18-story Carroll Place development on a 6-3 vote Monday after promising to make a required $200,000 payment for affordable housing and other city projects on schedule and immediately remove the derelict foundation of an earlier failed development on the site.

Mr. King’s attorney, David Reifman, said that the slow market for condominiums made a delay desirable, but that the developer was prepared to begin construction immediately if the council had denied the extension.

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