Gary Grossinger walked out of the Aug. 20 Chicago Plan Commission meeting grinning ear-to-ear. The commission had just approved a developer’s plan for a 15-story building on the site of Grossinger’s auto dealership at 1233-41 N. Wells St.
“I really want the sale of the property to happen,” he said.
The site became a thorn in the side of Old Town community members about four years ago after Grossinger tried to build a five-story, over-sized dealership that neighbors dubbed the “autoplex.” After a heated public meeting, Ald. Vi Daley (43rd) put the brakes on Grossinger’s plan.
However, she supported Wells and Scott Development’s current proposal for a large residential building with 36,050 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, a garage with 250 parking spaces and 12 floors of residential units.
“It’s a good project,” said Daley. “I’m very pleased it got the approval of the commission today.”
Not everyone agrees. “I assure you there are several hundred people in the Old Town community who oppose this development, but Alderman Daley has made it clear she doesn’t care what we think,” said Mike Richmond, who heads the condominium association at 1250 N. LaSalle St.
Mariah DiGrino, the attorney representing developer Jim Letchinger, said although the plan was approved for 180-feet, Letchinger decreased the height to 160-feet after consulting with neighbors. As part of its review, the city required a traffic impact study, which was done and accepted by the transportation department, DiGrino said.
Masonry, metal and glass will be used on the first floor, and the historically-significant, terra-cotta façade will be restored. The building’s remainder will be concrete, with glass, concrete and metal finishes and upper-level setbacks minimizing impacts on neighbors’ views.
The project also includes an eco-friendly green roof and silver LEED certification, the second highest rating for a green building. Additionally, 13 new trees will be planted. Six townhomes may also be built by Letchinger across Wells on Scott Street, DiGrino said.
Joe Lane, condo board president at the Neapolitan Condominiums, 1212 N. Wells St., applauded the project.
“I think it fits in with the ambiance of the pedestrian street,” Lane said.
Yet Leslie Weiss, president of the South Old Town Neighbors Alliance, said the project could cause, “potentially serious parking problems.” She added that Wells Street zoning was put in place five years ago to avoid future high rises.
“This completely flies in the face of what was done in the last five years,” said Weiss.
Meanwhile, on Aug. 31, Grossinger opens his 400,000 square-foot new dealership at 1530 N. Dayton St., in a green-roofed building with free Wi-Fi, a manicure station, an on-site café, laptops, shoe shines, chair massages and four children’s play areas. He said he hopes to keep potential buyers from heading to the suburbs.
“I’m going to give them an experience,” said Grossinger. “It’s really going to be a great place.”