Doctor receives zoning approval to build apartments near medical district | News

Zoning for a $4 million project to construct an apartment complex on Springfield's north side was unanimously approved June 18 by the Springfield City Council, despite continued opposition from neighbors who believe it will increase traffic hazards and otherwise detract from the feel of the residential neighborhood.

Ward 5 Ald. Lakeisha Purchase, who represents the area where the property is located, said she recommended the City Council approve the zoning request for the North Walnut Street apartment complex because she was “able to work out concerns from my constituents” with the developer, Springfield physician Dr. .Muhammad Ali Naveed.


Neighbors opposing the planned market-rate apartment complex on the west side of the 900 block of North Walnut Street in Springfield include (from left) Kelly Thornton, Charles Spencer, Sherry Young, John Austin and Julie and Jim Johnson. They are standing at the proposed site, with two-lane Walnut Street on the left.

At the May 21 City Council meeting when the project was first discussed, several neighbors spoke in opposition and Purchase requested that the City Council table a final vote on the zoning proposal.

The Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended that the Springfield City Council approve the proposed zoning change and variance, noting that “negative impacts are not anticipated.”

Regional land-use officials said the proposed change in the current office and commercial zoning to a form of residential zoning would be an “acceptable variation” for the vacant land that would be developed in the 900 block of North Walnut Street.

The complex would cover the addresses of 913, 917, 919, 921 and 923 N. Walnut, which is currently vacant, grassy lot with several large trees immediately south of a one-story Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services office building.

Purchase facilitated an informal meeting on the project June 7 with Naveed and the neighbors at Cook's Spice Rack & Chili. Neighbors told Naveed that they worried he would build the complex and then decide later to rent to low-income tenants whose rent would be paid through the federal Section 8 program. He said he had no interest in using the Section 8 program.

Following the meeting with neighbors to hear their concerns, Purchase said Naveed made verbal commitments to reduce the size of the complex from 18 to 16 units and focus on renting to workers in Springfield's medical industry and students training to be doctors and nurses.

Medical district officials have said convenient, decent housing is a major need as employment by Springfield Memorial Hospital, HSHS St. John's Hospital, Springfield Clinic, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and other medical providers keeps growing.

However, John Austin, one of the neighbors, said those commitments don't satisfy neighbors' concerns because they don't want a three-story building in their neighborhood, and they remain worried about the increased traffic and related public-safety concerns that the complex will bring.

“It's going to stick out like a sore thumb,” Austin said.

click to enlarge


The original schematic drawing for a proposed 18-unit market-rate apartment complex on the west side of the 900 block of North Walnut Street in Springfield. The developer agreed to reduce the number of units to 16 to address neighbors' concerns.

Purchase said other neighbors told her they appreciated the alterations and appreciated meeting with her and Naveed to discuss their concerns.

Purchase said she didn't know whether the reduction of two apartment units for the final plan would alter the complex's number of levels to two or one story. She said Springfield lawyer Tom Pavlik, who is representing Naveed, could answer that question. Pavlik didn't return phone calls from Illinois Times.

Naveed received zoning approval from the City Council on April 16 for a different apartment complex project, this one to include a total of 36 units and consisting of three three-story buildings near Bruns Lane and Hill Meadows Drive.

The project, estimated to cost $5 million to $6 million, will be constructed after the North Walnut apartments are completed, Naveed said.

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