A group of neighbors is fighting to cut the size and make other changes to a proposed apartments on the Far East Side.
T. Wall Enterprises is seeking to demolish a single-family home and detached barn/garage to build three four-story buildings with a total of 284 rental units plus a clubhouse and pool on a 14.6-acre site at 4103-4119 Portage Road.
The project, to be built in three phases, has won preliminary approval from the Urban Design Commission and a recommendation for a rezoning from the Plan Commission.
But residents who think it’s too big and will create traffic problems, lower property values and cause other problems are hoping to force changes when the proposal comes to the City Council for final approvals on June 2.
The area has no neighborhood association, but Zachary May, a leading critic who lives in the Churchill Heights neighborhood on the other side of Portage Road, has collected at least 20 signatures of property owners asking the council to oppose a required rezoning unless changes are made.
“It’s so high-density,” May said of the project. “It doesn’t fit into the area.”
Ideally, Wall should reduce the height to three stories on all buildings, May said. At a minimum, the developer should shave a story from the structure facing Portage Road and add a decorative fence on that frontage; add mixed-use spaces, preferably a library; explain why trees must be lost; and ensure the project is sustainable and won’t cause flooding, he said.
“We’re trying to work with the developer to make the project better,” he said.
Melissa Huggins, a consultant representing T. Wall Enterprises, said the developer is willing to work with the neighborhood.
Wall is exploring if a fourth floor facing Portage Road that’s already stepped back can be further moved away from the street or eliminated, Huggins said. But eliminating units can make the project unfeasible, she said.
The developer will provide the requested fence, is open to library space in the clubhouse, will provide assurances on flooding, and explain any loss of trees and sustainability, she said.
“These kind of changes (to an area) are difficult,” Huggins said of the process. “It’s particularly hard when a neighborhood isn’t organized.”
Ald. Samba Baldeh, 17th District, who has worked with neighbors to identify potential changes, said he is trying to mediate a good-faith compromise and will determine his final position after seeing what Wall offers.
A staff report says the proposal is generally consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan but has residential density greater than recommended in the Hanson Road Neighborhood Development Plan. The neighborhood plan, however, was crafted before the development of the American Center business park and other projects east of the nearby interstate, which make the site attractive for multifamily residential development, it says.