Old Town residents fight back against Fern Hill’s planned tower 

Opposition group says 500-unit multifamily project would be too large and disruptive

Fern Hill’s Planned Old Town Resi Tower Stirs Controversy
Fern Hill’s Nick Anderson with development site at 1601 N Wells Street in Chicago (Loopnet, LinkedIn)

Old Town residents are pushing back against Fern Hill’s proposed 44-story apartment tower on the eastern edge of the neighborhood.

Opponents of the 500-unit project, dubbed Old Town Canvas, have formed a coalition, citing concerns about its size and potential impact on traffic, Crain’s reported

Fern Hill updated plans for the project in response last month. The developer added eight floors — 85 feet — to the proposed tower in exchange for a greater setback meant to free up neighbors’ views, reducing its width by 15 percent to 164 feet.

Still, the opposition group, called Old Town Friends for Responsible Development, argue that the proposed building, with its 500 units, is excessive for the neighborhood. It is advocating for a reduced height of no more than 10 stories. In addition, they are seeking assurances regarding mitigated traffic and disruption to local businesses during construction.

“There are too many unknowns with this development,” Old Town resident and attorney Jordan Matyas told the outlet. 

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Fern Hill contends that its engagement process has been inclusive and transparent, incorporating feedback from thousands of residents. The firm argues that the proposed tower aligns with existing developments in the area and would improve traffic flow by eliminating nearby gas stations.

The controversy has prompted Alderman Brian Hopkins, whose ward encompasses the area, to schedule a community meeting on May 7 to gather feedback. The fate of the development is ultimately in the hands of Chicago City Council, which must approve the project for it to proceed.

Old Town Friends for Responsible Development has garnered significant support, with over 1,500 residents from Old Town, the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park signed up to their email list.

—Quinn Donoghue

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