After a surprise flip-flop vote by the 46th Ward Zoning & Development Committee to suddenly support a plan to build a 12-story apartment complex on a parking lot next to Weiss Hospital, Ald. James Cappleman (46th) has officially endorsed the controversial Uptown development in a two-page letter to neighbors.

Developed by Lincoln Property Company and designed by Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, the proposed courtyard-style building slated for 4600 N. Marine Drive calls for 314 high-end rental units, parking for 136 cars, and a rooftop deck. The project drew criticisms from some in the community. One Uptown local told Block Club Chicago that the community was  "at a tipping point" and did "not need any more luxury housing."

Recognizing concerns about gentrification within the 46th Ward, Cappleman noted in his letter that the appetite for luxury rental units in the area is not going away and that keeping the supply of that type of housing low will reward developers that demolish or convert existing lower-rent units into high-end units. 

"If we don’t provide more apartments to meet the demand for upgraded units in the ward, developers will go after our naturally occurring affordable housing (as they have already done, building as of right) and I want to avoid that," wrote Cappleman. "A number of valid and reliable research articles have shown that building more apartments, including luxury units, will help stabilize or lower area rents."

Cappleman also addressed the affordable housing component of the plan. Under Chicago's Affordable Requirements Ordinance, the project at 4600 N. Marine Drive is required to subsidize the equivalent of 31 affordable rate units. The developer will provide eight of those below-market-rate apartments on-site and satisfy the remainder of its commitment by providing a direct payment to nonprofit Sarah's Circle to help build a facility at nearby 4700 N. Sheridan serving women who are either experiencing homelessness or who are at high risk for it.

"While I appreciate efforts to get as much affordable housing within the proposed development itself, my job as alderperson is to look at the big picture of affordable housing in our ward, especially housing for those who are living on the streets or who are at high risk for experiencing homelessness," Cappleman wrote. "Unfortunately, we do not have enough housing in our ward for those who are most vulnerable."

Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, Inc.

These factors led Cappleman to adopt the same position as the 46th Ward Zoning & Development Committee and put his support behind the proposal. "There were many great counterpoints that were raised, but in the end, the positive aspects to this proposal outweighed the negative repercussions," the alderman said. 

With Cappleman now on board, the controversial development is on the fast-track for city approval and will head to the Chicago Plan Commission in two weeks. The commissioners will vote on the project's zoning amendment as well as a Lakefront Protection Ordinance application. 

Given how vehemently some in the community opposed the plans, expect the public comment portion of the July 15 meeting to get long and heated.