With minimal public testimony and few questions from commissioners, the Chicago Plan Commission breezed through its 13 item agenda at its monthly meeting Thursday, approving all proposed map amendment and new planned development applications, including two projects planned in an up and coming neighborhood on the city’s far South Side.
The Plan Commission approved two applications in the city’s Pullman neighborhood located in Ald. Anthony Beale’s 9th Ward; one will be an affordable artist live-work space, the other will be a cluster of restaurants to serve the increased number of tourists visiting the recently designated Pullman national monument.
A team of art and neighborhood organizations are behind a plan to transform a 18,500 square foot parcel of vacant land and the two adjacent historic, three-story apartment buildings on South Langley Avenue into affordable housing for artists. Twenty-six affordable units are planned for the site, six will be located in each of the existing buildings and 26 units will be located in the newly constructed building, which will be designed to fit between and mirror the design the surrounding historic landmarked buildings. The apartments, which include studios, one, and two-bedroom units, range from 750-square-feet to 11,000-square feet. Rents will range from $295 to $863 per month.
Sarah White, director of property development with Art Space, said her organization worked with Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI), a local non-profit, and Pullman Arts, a local art organization. “[The project] was driven by Pullman Arts’ strong desire to shore up Pullman’s reputation as an arts community. It has been many years in the making. Artists have really flocked to Pullman and their vision is an arts space to really cap off the really strong artists community that’s there and help it flourish and continue to grow,” White testified.
“Alderman Beale, this is pretty far out there, how will people get here?” Ald. Walter Burnett, Jr. (27) joked, adding, “Uber or a taxicab?”
Beale, who is behind a controversial plan to regulate the ride-share industry in Chicago, retorted, “Actually, we’re going to take Divvy.”
Two public witnesses, a husband and wife who live on the same street as the proposed development, testified against the project, saying they first moved to Pullman 47 years ago, when they were “young, foolish newlyweds.” They called the density “ludicrous” for the neighborhood, but they still said they “loved” Ald. Beale–a rare moment of affection from a resident opposing a zoning project at a Plan Commission meeting. Insults and screaming are common.
The proposed multi-tenant restaurant building for Pullman will be located at 720 East 111th Street, right off the expressway to the neighborhood. DPD Commissioner David Reifman helped get this project off the ground when he was a zoning attorney at DLA Piper, so he abstained from voting.
According to testimony from David Doig, President of Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and veteran of the city’s Housing Department, DPD and Park District under the Daley administration, the development team is moving forward with lease agreements for a Potbelly and Chipotle. They’ll be the first fast casual restaurants to set up shop on the far South Side for the first time in over two decades. Doig said they’re saving an adjacent parcel for a “Chicago restaurant” they plan to open at a later date.
“We know we’ve had a lack of restaurants on the far south side, and this is going to be the first of many addressing that concern,” Ald. Beale testified.
Beale said once they get the third restaurant underway, work will begin on building the first hotel chain for the neighborhood. He noted that with the monument and the Walmart, which he said sparked other retail development in the area, overall crime in that neighborhood is down 24% and violent crime is down 44%. “Because we have been able to bring opportunity to an area that has really been neglected over the past few decades,” he said.
Michael Shymanski, president of the Historic Pullman Foundation, said the restaurants will fill a huge void. “Since Pullman has been designated part of the national park system, we are significantly increasing the number of visitors. And having two restaurants that are committed to the area already. This project is very vital to have convenient walking distance for visitors.”
The Plan Commission also approved three hotels: two planned for downtown and one in Hyde Park.
The 90-foot, 100-room boutique Smart Hotel planned for Hyde Park will be the second of its kind along 53rd Street. The recently opened Hyatt Hotel, located two blocks away, will share its parking garage with the new Smart Hotel. Due to its proximity to public transit, the new Smart Hotel will have only 15 on site parking stalls.
The commission also approved a residential tower to replace the parking garage next to the Essex Inn on South Michigan Avenue, in addition to rehab of the existing hotel, which will to hold 290 rooms. The 46-story residential tower will sit on top of a newly constructed 8-story parking garage base and will include 467 residential units at an average size of 800-square-feet.
The other downtown hotel by Akara Partners will be located at 100 W. Huron. It will be 17-stories with 200 rooms.