Preview of Today’s Zoning Committee Meeting
by Claudia Morell –

Several zoning applications that received a notable amount of pushback from local residents at last month’s Plan Commission meeting are up for consideration by the City Council’s Zoning Committee today. This includes proposals to build a 24-story luxury condo and office tower in River North, replace the former Inn at Lincoln Park with a modern-style Hampton Inn, and demolish the Discount Mega Mall in Logan Square for two luxury high-rise condos.

At their December meeting, the Plan Commission approved Smithfield Properties’proposed 24-story luxury high rise in River North and L.V.M. Corporation’s nine-story Hampton Inn plan, after dozens of local residents lined up in opposition.

28 people signed up to testify against or have their name on the record as opposed to the River North project, consisting of 55-residential units, approximately 4,087-square-feet ground floor office space, and 105 off-site parking spaces. The residential units will be divided among floors 6-22, with three units per floor. Ten percent of those units–all studios–will be affordable, as required under city code.

Most of those who opposed the project raised density concerns and called the building “out of character” with the neighborhood, while some went so far as to accuse the developers of rigging the vote and holding the final community meeting on the project during the Thanksgiving holiday.

A handful of Lincoln Park residents aired their grievances against the Hampton Inn project, calling the building design of fiber cement panels, aluminum and glass “ugly” and the bottom floor retail space unnecessary, given the neighborhood’s high retail vacancy rate. Plans call for a nine-story hotel with 150 rooms, a penthouse, 83 parking spaces, and approximately 7,700-square-feet of retail space and restaurant. After hearing concerns from local residents, most of whom reside in the neighboring Lehman Court building, local Ald. Michelle Smith (43) spoke in support of the project and detailed a lengthy list of concessions the developer made to address traffic concerns.

Marc Realty’s proposal to build a mixed-use, 220-unit residential complex at the old Discount Mega Mall on Milwaukee Avenue was not without community opposition either. The developer plans to demolish the old grocery store and replace it with two mixed-use commercial and residential buildings connected on the fourth floor by a suspended, glass pedestrian bridge.

Plans include 220 dwelling units, 114,000-square-feet of commercial and retail space, 313 parking spaces, dedicated space for a restaurant, a multi-level fitness center, a grocery store and on-site parking, which will provide a “buffer” between the retail space and the living space. Ten percent of those units will be affordable, a concession the developers made after 14 months of working with local Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), the applicant’s attorney, Carol Stubblefield (Neal & Leroy), said. But the Logan Square Neighborhood Association’s John McDermott raised concern the new residential tower would being a “certain type of demographic” which he described as “single, white, young professionals” who would price out local businesses.

Guardian Properties’ plan to build 49 townhomes on a 1.5 acre site near the new 606 Trail was approved by the Plan Commission without community opposition. The mix of three- and four-story homes will replace a vacant warehouse and lot, with the smaller, approximately 18,000-21,000-square-feet, three-story homes facing Homer Avenue on the edge of the housing development. The larger, four-story homes will span along Cortland Avenue. The homes will sell at an average of $705,000, and the developer has agreed to build five affordable units off-site.

Sterling Bay’s application to finish a partially constructed office building and adjacent parking garage in Fulton Market, a new chinese grocery store in Chinatown, and an amended redevelopment plan for the landmark Village Theater also advanced from the Plan Commission and now await committee approval before they can move to the full City Council next week.

Aldermanic, Non-Land Use Applications

West Rogers Park Medical Marijuana Rezone Part II

Ald. Debra Silverstein (50) will have another opportunity to request a downzone of a street next to Warren Park where a medical marijuana dispensary was interested in locating. Ald. Silverstein made her first attempt last month to downzone the property at 6501-11 N. Western Ave. to a residential, single-unit district, but zoning lawyerThomas S. Moore called her request “illegal”, promoting Zoning Vice Chairman James Cappleman to call a short recess and eventually defer the application. Moore claimed his client, 420 Capital Management, had an application pending with the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals for a special use permit to open a Green Gate Compassion Center inside the existing vacant building. The following week, ZBA denied the company’s permit.

Bridgeport Landmark Rezone

Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11) filed an application to rezone the site of the historic Spiegel Administration Building in Bridgeport. Originally built in the 1930s, the six-story, brick and concrete warehouse served as the headquarters for Spiegel Inc., a Chicago-based mail-order house founded at the turn of the 20th Century. Citing the building’s Art-Modern style and the company’s longstanding history, the city designated the structure as a Chicago landmark in 2010. Back in 2006, a plan to convert the building into condos got a lot of attention, but Dubin Residential’s “Lofts at Bridgeport Place” plan fizzled. The building remained vacant until 2014, when a federal bankruptcy court judge approved its sale to two local artists. The warehouse is currently located in a planned development (No. 961), but Ald. Thompson is seeking approval to rezone the lot to a manufacturing district.

Former South Side Sears Building Rezone

Another historically significant building on the South Side is the subject of an aldermanic rezone. Ald. Michelle Harris (8) wants to rezone a portion of East 79th street where Sears opened one of its first brick-and-mortar stores in Chicago. Built in the 1920s and considered the original-original Sears Tower (as opposed to the “original” one in South Lawndale), the store closed in 2013 and has remained vacant since. Ald. Harris wants to downzone the property for single-unit residential use.

Non Land-Use: Proposed Security Changes for Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

The committee will also take up an ordinance that loosens security restrictions for medical marijuana dispensaries operating in Chicago. Under existing city law, dispensaries are required to hire a private security agency and maintain a security guard at the facility 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. The ordinance Aldermen Ed Burke (14) and Willie Cochran (20) introduced broadens the definition of private security to include private security contractors, in addition to requiring dispensaries to only have a security officer during business hours.