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Neighbors sue over apartment units

Updated: April 19, 2011 5:10AM

A Northwest Side community group unhappy with plans for an influx of new apartments in its neighborhood has taken its frustration to court. Armitage Neighbors Together sued Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp. and the city over a zoning agreement that lets Bickerdike build the apartments on and near Armitage west of Kimball.

Bickerdike is a nonprofit corporation that builds housing for low- and moderate-income groups. It plans 61 units in what it calls the Zapata Apartments, proposed for four lots that have been empty for years. The construction is proposed for 3230 W. Armitage, 1955 N. St. Louis, 1900 N. Ridgeway and 3503 W. Armitage Ave.

The community foes said the buildings would be “drastically larger and more dense” than the surrounding area and that the apartments will lower property values. The lawyer handling the case, Thomas Ramsdell, has become a burr in the city’s side by challenging various zoning changes as “arbitrary and capricious.” He’s lost many but won some.

Ramsdell said his clients are especially hot about Bickerdike wanting a tax-increment financing subsidy for the apartments. “The residents don’t want to have their tax dollars wasted on apartments that are unneeded,” Ramsdell said. Bickerdike was not reachable Tuesday.

FRESHENING UP: The Westfield Old Orchard shopping center in Skokie claims it will forever alter the dreary image of food courts. That isn’t a job Westfield can do by itself, but at Old Orchard it has done away with the food court and plans to replace it with a “green” dining concept that emphasizes fresh produce and open kitchens. It is expected to open by summer.

The operation is led by Richtree Market Restaurants Inc., a Canadian firm dedicated to dressing up shopping mall dining. Fresh meat, seafood, fruit juice and desserts will be offered in the 22,000-square-foot facility. “The new concept will be a great place for the whole family,” Westfield asserted. We’ll see — the kids will probably wonder whatever happened to the fast food chains.

LINCOLN PARK HOSPITAL: The most intense zoning fight in Chicago currently involves the old Lincoln Park site and Lincoln and Webster. The plan by Sandz Development Co. to bring a grocery and condos onto the three-acre site has upset residents in one of the city’s wealthiest enclaves. The controversy reeks of money, with dueling public relations firms and websites involved.

But it comes down to this: To secure support from Lincoln Park Ald. Vi Daley (43rd), Sandz must at least modify plans for the 20,000-square-foot Fresh Market and assure that its delivery trucks won’t clog Webster, a residential street. Otherwise, Sandz faces the prospect of dealing with a new alderman after the next election. Daley isn’t running again and her replacement might be elected on promises to draw a harder line with developers.

Sandz partner Richard Zisook wouldn’t say if he’ll negotiate the retail component, but he asserts he has a fallback position. Without a zoning deal, he said he can just convert the property to medical offices and maybe a small hospital. “It’s not our business, but I could get people who would fill those buildings,” he said. Zisook may have made a mistake in mentioning that; medical offices might be something the neighbors would endorse.

‘GODFATHER’ GOULETAS: You can tell just how badly condo sales have dried up by looking at the 200 N. Dearborn building. After more than three years of effort, American Invsco Corp. has been able to move only about half the building’s 309 units. But Invsco Chairman Nicholas Gouletas is no slouch when it comes to condo hype.

Gouletas has launched a “Make me an offer I can’t refuse” promotion. He said he needs to sell 36 units by year-end to meet Fannie Mae pre-sale requirements, and so will consider all bids that are close to his undisclosed benchmark. He said a new sales campaign he started Monday has netted seven sales, all cash deals, and will continue through Dec. 14. “If we have accepted 12 deals and need 24 more on Dec. 14, we will pick the next best offer we receive and start negotiating,” he said. See

RENTALS ON THE WAY: A development team has started work on 137 new rental units on scattered sites around Roosevelt and California. McShane Construction Co. was hired for the work, and expects that the 18 three-story buildings will be finished in a year. The development, to be called Park Douglas, blends market-rate and subsidized housing under a Chicago Housing Authority program and was made possible a year ago by a land trade involving the CHA, the city and Sinai Health System.

Park Douglas will offer one- to four-bedroom units and have been registered with the Chicago Green Homes program, which recognizes environmental construction and design practices. Brinshore Development LLC, Michaels Development Co. and Sinai are partners in the project.

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