The Chicago Plan Commission approved a massive redesign plan and hotel for Navy Pier at their August meeting yesterday, along with two other hotels for downtown Chicago and a 17-story apartment building in Lakeview.

Barely anyone from the public showed up to testify. Nine large-scale zoning applications were up for review, but less than five witnesses spoke.

Project Description Documents from DPD

Navy Pier Plan – [Renderings from DPD]

The Navy Pier redesign the commission approved is part of a “bold and ambitious plan” to make the tourist destination a “truly world class civic space”, said Marilynn Gardner, President and CEO of Navy Pier, Inc. The amended planned development application the Plan Commission unanimously approved is the second phase the pier’s Centennial Vision, a report Navy Pier, Inc. authored as part of their 100-year anniversary.

“When we authored our 2011 centennial vision, our goal was to reimagine Navy Pier, to unlock its full potential and better connect the pier to our city and the interest of our guests from across the street and around the world,” said Gardner. Added amenities include a seven-story, 240-room hotel with a rooftop patio; an ice skating rink at the entrance; an updated Welcome Pavilion; and a lake overlook with an elevated U-shaped walkway and reflecting pool at the eastern tip of the pier.

The first phase of the development is near complete and includes the new Polk Brothers park fountain at the entrance, an expansive south dock, several new Chicago-centric restaurants, and the Centennial Wheel. The ferris wheel has had 400,000 riders since Memorial Day, according to Gardner. When winter rolls around, the Polk water fountain will be transformed into an ice skating rink, to allow for year round uses.

But there’s “no specific date” for completion of the next phase, according to Steven Haemmerle, the Executive Vice President of Navy Pier. The non-profit organization is “working with a developer to bring the hotel into fruition”, and it will likely be the first project on the list to break ground. The agency is still looking for “philanthropic help” to bankroll the other newly proposed amenities.

Asked if he knows which hotel franchise will occupy the space, Haemmerle said, “Nothing has been set or finalized. We at Navy Pier are the landlords and we have a hotel tenant and it’s their responsibility to put together a franchise agreement and to establish what the flag would be.”

17-story Apartment Building For Belmont Ave in Lakeview

Ald. Tom Tunney (44), who had a large apartment building planned for his Lakeview ward, spent most of his testimony relaying community concerns he’s heard over the past year, because no one from his neighborhood was present. The meeting was ahead of schedule, and since Ald. Tunney’s was the second to last item on the agenda, he said he told his constituents to come in the afternoon.

Chioros Properties, Inc. is behind the plan to build a 17-story, 80-dwelling unit building at 450 West Belmont Avenue. Two single family homes currently on the site will be demolished to make way for the project.

“Most of the [adjacent] buildings that have been built are 60-years old or more, so this was quite a surprise to some of the immediate neighbors about the zoning and the ability to build this size of a building,” said Ald. Tunney. “So there was a lot of hand holding and work with the Department [of Planning and Development] to try and address the scale of the building and the sensitivity of the neighbors.”

Looking around the Chambers for potential witnesses, but seeing no one, Tunney continued detailing neighborhood concerns, like having indoor parking next door to single family homes and adding more traffic to an already congested Belmont Avenue.

“Does this make [traffic] worse?” Ald. Tunney asked rhetorically, relaying those concerns. “Certainly it’s not going to make it better.”

Traffic was one of the reasons why Ald. Tunney chose not to add one-for-one parking. He said he expects most of the renters will be “millennials” who don’t own cars, so there’ll be enough stalls for 48 vehicles. The garage would be above ground, located on the first four floors. Floors 5-15 would each have six apartment units, while the remaining 16th and 17th floors would each have four units. The one- to three-bedroom apartments would range in size, ranging from about 750-square-feet to 1,500-square-feet. The project received unanimous approval.

Two Downtown Hotels, Gold Coast Luxury High-Rise Gets Taller

The Plan Commission unanimously approved zoning applications to replace two downtown surface parking lots with hotels.

The Porritt Group, a 20-year old real estate development firm based in Detroit, Michigan, received approval to build an 18-story hotel with 196 rooms at 430 N. LaSalle Street. The site, located at the corner of North LaSalle and West Hubbard, is currently a parking lot.

Commissioners raised some concerns over hotel saturation in the city’s downtown area.

“We got three hotels in that one block, and the desired pickup and drop-off points [are] never enough, especially at 8a.m. and 5p.m.,” said Comm. Linda Searl, who noted that Hubbard, where the main entrance of the hotel is to be located, is “not a huge street.” She predicted traffic will be “a mess.”

According to the developer’s attorney, Jack George, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) was very adamant on having the entrance located on Hubbard. Ald. Reilly wasn’t present at yesterday’s meeting and instead submitted a letter of support.

This project was originally scheduled to be heard at the July meeting of the Plan Commission, but was pushed back because of traffic concerns, which were eventually resolved, Zoning Administrator Patti Scudiero said.  

“We see a lot of hotels, so I am nervous about the hotel environment, since we all know that’s a cyclical environment,” said Ald. Tunney, who is also a member of the Plan Commission. He also raised parking concerns.

No parking is proposed for the building, since it’s not required for hotels located in the city’s downtown-zoned district. George said the hotel will have valet service for patrons and the developer has made arrangements to reserve 30 parking spaces at an 800-stall garage at the corner of Wells and Hubbard.  

The other 500-room hotel, proposed by Friedman Properties, would be part of a 31-story addition to the existing landmarked Reid Murdoch Building. The new addition would replace a furniture store and surface parking lot that is located adjacent to the landmark building.

Also Approved

  • 9 W. Walton Street James Letchinger of JDL Development received approval to add two floors to his already-approved luxury high-rise condominium project located next door to the Scottish Rite Cathedral. The change will raise the building height from 430-feet to 462-feet and add an additional six units. Letchinger is taking advantage of the new Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus, which allows developers to pay a fee in order to increase building density. The original zoning for the project was approved in 2006.
  • 57-65 East Oak Street (42nd Ward) – This will be a four-story commercial retail and restaurant space along a busy retail corridor. The building, which will be constructed by Jenel Management Corporation, will house four retail tenants and two restaurants.
  • 2015-2031 North Mendell Street (2nd Ward) – Located within 30 feet of the Chicago River, this building will be renovated into office space. The Baker Organization received approval to rehab the existing building (the former Stawski Distribution warehouse) and add two additional floors. Plans also call for the construction of a riverwalk and landscaped buffer for private use by company employees. Asked why he wasn’t demolishing the building, Warren Baker, the developer, said the decision was based on economics: the building was already in good shape. Baker hasn’t secured a tenant for the building. He prefers to have one company occupy the entire space, but is prepared to section off the building for multiple tenants.

All items approved by the Plan Commission will now advance to the City Council’s Zoning Committee for review.

Highlights of Negotiated Sales –

All of these items passed in the omnibus at yesterday’s Plan Commission meeting. The sales still need approval from the City Council before they’re official.

  • 2130 S. Grove Street (25th Ward) – Sea Dog Ventures, Inc., bid on this property, located across the street from the Chicago River’s South Branch, to be used as access point for duck boat tours. The company, a subsidiary of Entertainment Cruises, which operates two boat cruises at Navy Pier (The Spirit of Chicago and The Odyssey), will purchase the land for $191,000. The Duck Boat tours would start at Navy Pier and then travel through River North before entering the Chicago River at the Marina Towers. Boat tours would then head south down the river toward the subject property, travel through the Museum Campus and return to Navy Pier.
  • 1501 W. School Street (44th Ward)- James Ronan with Kenmore Estates, LLC, was the only developer to offer a bid on the old Wrigleyville Firehouse after two rounds of bidding, according to DPD. Ronan plans to demolish the 4,071-square-foot firehouse to build a multi-unit residential building. It’s currently zoned RT 3.5, which allows for single family homes and townhouses. The city appraised the site at $1 million. Ronan bid $850,000.
  • 2817-27 North Natoma Avenue (36th Ward) – Samuel Zitella of Zitella Development Corp. was the only bidder for this city owned building, which, according to Google Maps, is home to a city-run drop-off center and the Chicago Sanitation Bureau. The 24,976-square-foot vacant yard, garage and office space building was appraised at $650,000. Zitella bid $150,000. The property is zoned C1-1, but will be rezoned to RT4, which will allow for housing. Zitella plans to demolish the existing building and develop the space with townhouses or a multi-unit residential building.
  • 1319 S. Western Ave. (28th Ward) – This 1,781-square-foot vacant lot will be sold to Mark Degnen, the ‎Manager & CFO Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, for $18,000, the appraised value. Degnen plans to use the parcel as a parking lot for the film studio, which is located half a mile away at 2621 W. 15th Place.
  • 3620-32 South Loomis Street (11th Ward) – This 30,000-square-foot building currently zoned Planned Manufacturing District 8 is located across the street from the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) headquarters. Violetta Gutowska, with B.E.T.O.N. Construction, will buy the property at market value: $165,000. He plans to use it for “outdoor equipment and material storage.”
  • 1217 N. Bosworth Ave. (2nd Ward) – The Near North Montessori School bid on this 26,358-square-foot parking lot at its appraised value: $3.9 million. The private school plans to redevelop the site with parking and open space to serve the school, which is located next door. Near North Montessori bid on the property before the city advertised the sale. According to DNAinfo, the school had been eying the property for some time.
  • 4300 W. Roosevelt Road. (24th Ward) – Once an illegal dumping site with 600,000 cubic yards of concrete debris, the city acquired the 21 acre parcel of land in the 1990s. Yesterday, the Plan Commission approved the disposition of the subject site (no sale amount was listed in the planning documents) to Clarius Partners, LLC for the the development of industrial and retail space.  According to DPD, Clarius will construct six buildings on the site.