Tuesday, October 19, 2021

After Earlier Proposal Rejected, New Proposal For Dover & Wilson Revealed

SW elevation of proposed building (Axios Architects)

Current view of the SE corner of Dover & Wilson

One of the very few streets in Uptown with no affordable housing will still have zero affordable housing if plans for developing the corner lot at Dover and Wilson come to fruition.

After the local block club, Dover Street Neighbors, rejected the last developer's proposal for a zoning change on the "Happy Wash" building and parking lot nearly two years ago (a proposal that had an affordable housing component)a new developer has stepped in. 

This developer has presented plans for two adjacent residential rental buildings that will maintain the lots' current zoning status. Under the city's Affordable Rents Ordinance, the developer is therefore not required to include any affordable units, as it would be if a zoning change were involved.

If this is all familiar, remember we saw this same scenario play out a few blocks away on the 4600 block of Malden. A developer there requested a one-story upzone which would have triggered the city's affordable requirement (then 10% of the units, now 20%), but the local block club, Magnolia-Malden Neighbors, rejected the proposal outright. The developer went back to the drawing board and is now building what it is allowed to "by right" with no affordable housing required nor included.

We've said it on these pages many times before: When you have something to bargain with (in this case, zoning change approval), you have leverage with the developer on many issues, including building height, appearance, etc. When you walk away from the bargaining table, the developer loses its incentive to listen to community input, and is free to build within the parameters of the current zoning.

Ald. Cappleman's office has uploaded the plans for the two parcels (the current Happy Wash building at 1351 W Wilson, as well as a separate parcel at 4551 N Dover, currently a parking lot on the south side of the lot). The five-story main building (one level taller than the previous proposal) is pictured above, and the two buildings are shown side-by-side below.

The developer is proposing 30 residential rental units with 30 parking spaces for the Wilson Avenue building and an additional four units in the separate 4551 N Dover building with four parking spaces.

Looking NE from Dover, showing both buildings (Axios)

While this building is being built to right, there is a matter for the block club to decide:

The proposed development includes a developer request for a zoning variance to allow for one-to-one on-site parking. If the variance request is rejected by the local block club, the developer can build to right, and renters in the building will likely resort to street parking rather than being able to park in the building. 

Since parking is at a premium throughout Sheridan Park, we urge the local block club to consider granting the variance to avoid further exacerbating parking issues for local residents.


  1. The developer has not required the approval of any block club, now or ever. Block clubs have no legal authority. Neighbors within 250 feet must be notified, but they aren't granted any veto powers.

    Zoning changes or lack of same are the purview of elected officials and City departments.

  2. I’m not surprised to hear that some Uptown neighbors believe there’s no affordable housing on Dover Street. But…it’s not true. Many Dover homeowners also own rental property here and rent at rates far below what developers charge for newly built units. There’s emergency housing on Dover Street, and the “California Buildings”—comprising 96 units on Dover within a stone’s throw of the proposed development—also offer affordable workforce housing. Not every affordable apartment is government mandated, government supervised, or government subsidized. Sometimes mom and pop housing providers—for reasons ranging from wanting to offer a break to a working family to keeping a great long-time tenant content—simply create affordable housing ALL ON THEIR OWN. Those landlords don’t expect to be thanked but we would prefer not to be falsely accused of NIMBY-ism and elitism. Just as a property where bad things regularly happen can bring down the livability of an entire neighborhood, Dover Street, where a whole lot of effort goes into supporting the neighborhood, and making it a welcoming part of Chicago, makes Uptown a better place to live, work, and study—even if you don’t live on Dover Street. --Scott Adams, Dover Street Neighbors Association-President