Plans for a proposed apartment building near the Fox River in downtown St. Charles are being scaled back after neighboring residents continued to voice concerns about the building’s height and density.
Newly revised plans for the River East Lofts project call for reducing the building’s height from five stories to four stories. The project is proposed to be built at the southeast corner of Illinois and Riverside avenues on the site of the former St. Charles Chamber of Commerce building.
In addition, the number of units has been reduced from 43 to 42 and the unit mix has changed from 27 one-bedroom/16 two-bedroom units to 12 one-bedroom/30 two-bedroom units. Revised architectural plans have been submitted.
Other changes include reorientation of the building to follow Riverside Avenue, removal of the BMO ATM and increasing the number of parking spaces from 53 to 60. The St. Charles Plan Commission will hold a public hearing on the new plans at 7 p.m. July 19.
Developer Curt Hurst and his son Conrad own Frontier Development, which has been involved in several projects in downtown St. Charles. Over the objections of neighboring residents, the St. Charles Plan Commission in April voted 5-3 to recommend approval of the previous plans for a five-story building that would house one and two-bedroom apartments along with retail space.
Voting against the project were Plan Commission Chairman Peter Vargulich along with commissioners Karen Hibel and Jeffrey Funke. Vargulich voiced several concerns about the plan.
“You still have sidewalks adjacent to curbs and you have your higher traffic volumes on Illinois and on Riverside,” he said. “From a pedestrian standpoint, that’s not improved.”
During the meeting, several residents and nearby business owners spoke out against the project, including Janet Foster, owner of Wilson Travel and Cruise, located near the project.
“My office window faces the project in question,” Foster told commissioners. “The biggest concern I have is the density. To dump that many people in that tiny spot, I think, does not work, period. It’s just way too many people for the street. Those are small neighborhood streets. They are not big runways. And so I think that’s a problem. And allowing a variance to make a building go higher so that you can jam more people in there, I think makes no sense and is not in the best interest of anyone.”
She also was concerned the project would adversely affect businesses in the area.
“I think all the businesses in the area are going to be adversely affected by any huge increase in traffic and lack of parking,” Foster said. “I think we’re all going to hurt so that this project can have a fifth floor and as many people in there as possible.”
Martha Gass, who lives on South Third Avenue near the proposed development, told commissioners that the developer has not proved he needs the variances he is requesting.
“The developer has to prove that a special use for PUD meets the criteria laid out in the application,” she said. “We the neighbors would like to see the property thoughtfully and harmoniously developed. He’s done some beautiful other projects that we sincerely appreciate, but this PUD is not that. It’s a total overreach.”
In talking about the project, Curt Hurst had told plan commissioners the proposed development will “better add to the diversity of available housing options within the city while having less impact on the city’s resources than a conforming use, including parking, infrastructure, schools and traffic.”