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CHICAGO-Unless 32nd Ward Ald. Theodore Matlak can quickly find an extra $4.1 million in the city treasury, a Western Chain Co.’s 32,000-sf former factory at Belmont Avenue and Honore Street will likely make way for 14 townhouses and seven single-family homes. A zoning change was recommended for approval Thursday by a city council committee despite neighborhood opposition.

The $4.1 million is what the owners of the Western Chain plant have indicated they want for the property. While neighbors would prefer to see the city use the condemnation process to buy the factory and build a one-acre park just west of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad tracks, it is being sold to New Haven Homes for its $8-million project.

“The city’s not going to buy the land and make it a park,” says 36th Ward Ald. William J.P. Banks, chairman of the city council’s committee on zoning. “It’s privately owned, and this is America.”

Besides a park, opponents of New Haven Homes’ plan offered light manufacturing as an alternative. Other industrial properties in the West Lakeview-North Center neighborhood have become multifamily redevelopments of up to 100 units, but at the expense of “living-wage” jobs, opponents claim.

“It’s the most controversial piece we’ve had in a while,” Matlak says. “As of today, I don’t have the money (to buy the property)…I don’t want to see it remain vacant, or wait while the owners entertain commercial offers.”

Those options are more onerous than the additional traffic on narrow Honore Street or the addition of more $400,000 homes in what was once a modest single-family and two-flat neighborhood.

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