The Chicago Plan Commission quickly approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to sell four city-owned parking lots in River North to help close next year’s budget gap.

The $12.4 million sale was negotiated through a public, two-phase bidding process held over the summer and the City got 60% more than the appraised value for the sites, according the Mayor’s office.

Three of the four surface parking lots will go to the Belgravia Group, one will go to the Morningside Group, and all of the lots will be redeveloped for residential use, according to the application documents provided at the Plan Commission meeting (by address: 366 W. Superior St. / 356 W. Huron St. / 356 W. Erie St. / 366 W. Erie St.)

The applications were approved with the rest of the negotiated sales on the agenda in the first ten minutes of the meeting, but the plans will still need approval from the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate before heading to the full City Council for a vote. (It’s unlikely Housing will have another meeting before the full City Council meets next Thursday, as they have already met twice in the last two weeks).

Ald. Tom Tunney (44) was the only commissioner to express concern over the sale, calling the lots “huge zoning…developable sites.” He asked Commissioner Patti Scudiero, the City’s Zoning Administrator, to provide additional details about the current zoning designation, the price per square footage and why the letter of support from the local alderman, Brendan Reilly (42), wasn’t included in the zoning packet.

Scudiero said Ald. Reilly sent the letter earlier that day, and it had yet to be incorporated into the packet. She added that one of the properties is within the boundaries of an existing planned development, and the other three are zoned as Downtown districts.

“Well, if they are parking lots, I think we will see them very quickly with a request for a big development,” Tunney replied, laughing, as a lot of the downtown development plans that go before the Plan Commission are on former or current surface parking lots.

After going through the negotiated sales, the Commission moved on to the big ticket items (Section D). There was little public testimony, except from City Council fixture George Blakemore and Bob Israel, president of Save Our Community Coalition. Israel usually asks developers about their plans to hire minority contractors.

The proposed residential building across the new, elevated 606 Bloomingdale Trailgot the most discussion time. Here are the highlights:

Approved: Proposed 6-story Mixed-Use Building Next to New 606 Trail – 32nd Ward
1749 N. Milwaukee Ave. | O2015-5371 | Introduced: 7/29/2015

There was great deal of questions regarding this application, mainly from Ald. Walter Burnett (27), a member of the Commission, who wanted to know more about the Department of Planning and Development’s plans to address what he called a mass “land grab” of developable property around the new elevated 606 Bloomingdale Trail. Ald. Burnett recalled a trip he made to New York City with former DPD Commissioner Andrew Mooney to see how New York was handling development around the High Line Park, which the 606 is modeled after.

“Currently, we do not have any policies scheduled for the 606 trail,” DPD’s Noah Szafraniec responded, “but we did put the applicant in touch with the Trust for Public Land, and they have had several meetings with them about how to help the trail be successful in the future.”

Burnett said in New York City developers building around the Highline will pay for public amenities like bathrooms and entrances to the elevated trail, and in return, the city lets them build taller. “I just wanted to mention that, because maybe we might want to think about that in the future,” Burnett explained. “So, maybe we can make some deals and get a little more out of it for the public.”

Centrum Partners is proposing to build a six-story, residential and commercial building overlooking the newly opened elevated trail. The subject property is centrally located on Milwaukee Avenue between the Damen and Western CTA Blue Line stops, and the Leavitt street frontage is across the street from one of the entrances to the trail.  The joint venture between Centrum Partners and McLinden Holdings, LLC includes commercial retail, a refurbished Aldi’s Supermarket at the base, and 95 residential units split among the top four floors. The approximately 59,000 sq ft site will include a 60 car surface parking lot for shoppers and a 62 car basement garage for residents.

The architect, Howard Hirsch, said the project went through numerous revisions as a result of local community concerns, eventually coming to an agreement with neighbors to downscale to 95 units and reduce the size of the top floor. Hirsch said they “significantly increased the landscaping” as well. John McLinden, with Centrum Partners, said they are coordinating the landscaping with DPD and the Public Land Trust, but will foot the bill for any new public amenities added on or around the elevated trail.

But Centrum won’t add any affordable housing units on site. The Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) requires 10 affordable units or a cash payment of $1 million to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund ($100,000 per affordable housing unit not included). Developers chose the payment, which Ald. Burnett found disappointing.

“From what we have been reading in the media, the property values in the area are exploding, which is a good thing, but we need not forget about folks who can’t afford to live in these communities as they explode and we need to keep that under consideration,” Burnett said, suggesting that DPD consider additional bonuses for developers who commit to adding affordable units around the 606.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), whose ward encompasses the site, said he was mostly glad that the Aldi’s was staying, adding that the developers decision to keep the supermarket is why residents were in support of the project. He also noted that there won’t be much more development on that side of the 606, because there isn’t a lot of available land left.

Approved: Proposed Apartment-Office Space Complex in Ravenswood – 47th Ward
4801 N. Ravenswood Ave. | O2015-5333 | Introduced: 7/29/2015

The Plan Commission approved an application to downzone 1.735 acres in the Ravenswood Industrial Corridor to facilitate the rehab of an old, four-story manufacturing and office building. According to the applicant’s attorney, Warren Silver, with the Silver Law Office, the subject building, built in the 1920s, has always been used for office space. Hayes Properties wants to transform the nearly century-old property into a mixed-use apartment and office building with 36 apartment units, a little over 90,000 sq. ft. of office space, and enough parking for 69 cars. Silver called it a great site for transit oriented development (although the application isn’t classified as a TOD). The property is on the Northeast corner of Lawrence & Ravenswood Ave., adjacent to the METRA Union Pacific Railroad tracks. There aren’t any plans for retail, but the developers are considering adding a daycare facility on site.

Hayes acquired the building in 2014 after the property’s former tenants, Newark Corporation, an electronic company, relocated to the West Loop. The $6 million rehab is expected to create 20 construction and 260 permanent jobs.

Approved: Bucktown’s WhirlyBall Seeks Rooftop Patio – 32nd Ward
1823 W. Webster Ave. | O2015-4633 | Introduced: 6/17/2015

The Plan Commission approved a downzone so the WhirlyBall in Bucktown can serve liquor on their second floor rooftop patio. Samuel Elias, the owner of three WhirlyBall amusement centers, applied for a downzone from a Manufacturing district to a Neighborhood Commercial District to permit outside use of the existing patio at the chain’s new 50,000 sq. ft. headquarters, located directly off the Kennedy Expressway. WhirlyBall is a sport that combines lacrosse, basketball and bumper cars. The indoor recreational facilities are popular for group events and alcohol is already served inside the building. “[The patio] has a beautiful view of downtown Chicago, customers of the company certainly want to be able to eat and drink out on that patio. It’s a very nice amenity,” said Elias’ attorney, Jim Griffin, with the law offices of Schain, Banks, Kenny & Schwartz, Ltd. Griffin said his client will apply for a special use permit to serve the alcohol once the downzone is approved by the City Council. Plans also include the construction of an off-site parking lot for 120 cars. No one signed up to testify on the application.

Structured Development Wants to Add more Retail near the Clybourn Corridor – 27th Ward
1450 N. Dayton St. | O2015-1357 | Introduced: 3/18/2015

Structured Development, the real estate firm behind the massive New City retail development project in the Clybourn Corridor, got the green light from the Plan Commission to demolish the three existing buildings along Dayton Street in the Halsted Triangle to construct one large, four-story building that will be half office space (110,000 sq ft) and commercial retail (103,000 sq ft).

Plans drafted by Chris Tokarz, with RTKL Architects, include a multi-level, open air parking structure for 550 cars located behind the building.  According to the applicant’s attorney, Nick Ftikas, with the law offices of Sam Banks, the retail space will take up the first two floors, and the offices will be on the top two floors. Structured Development is still looking for an anchor tenant to occupy the space.  

Commissioner Tunney was concerned that the the parking garage was a bit large for such a congested area. Structured Development’s Jeff Burda said that large retail sites need a lot of parking and added that their New City development has mediated the car congestion by adding a new street, Schiller Street, connecting Old Ogden Avenue and Clybourn Avenue to Halsted Street.

Structured and Big Deahl Productions Inc. filed a joint application under the name Big Deahl, LLC to establish a business planned development for the triangle shaped lot. The area is currently zoned as a Commercial district (C3-5), so the office space is allowed, but the retail component is not, which is why the application needed approval from the Plan Commission. Four people testified on the topic, two against, two in favor.

Approved: Proposed Fulton Market Office Building – 27th Ward
213-223 N. Peoria St. | O2014-8814 | Introduced: 11/5/2014

While this was the oldest application on the agenda, it is the first Fulton Market development plan to go before the Plan Commission since the City Council officially designated the neighborhood as a Landmark District on July 29. The applicant, SRI-ASW Green Owner, LLC and 219 Partners, LLC, an entity controlled by Shapack Partners’ founding principal Jeff Shapack, got approval from the Plan Commission to rezone and designate three properties as Business Planned Development.

The draft plan is divided into three subareas A, B, and C. Subarea B is the only property located within the Fulton Randolph Market District and the only property with an existing structure, a three and six story building that was formerly occupied by the Amity Packing Company, according to the applicant’s attorney, Richard Klawiter, with DLA Piper. Klawiter said the property has been “historically renovated to accommodate a ‘we work’ shared office space concept” and is designated as a contributing building to the historic landmark district. Subareas A and C are currently surface parking lots located in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor TIF District. Developers plan to build a one story (5,100 sq ft) commercial building in Subarea A, restore the existing buildings in Subarea B, and add a new 11 story office building with a rooftop penthouse and deck in Subarea C. The new office building will have ground floor retail, parking for 59 cars on the 2-5 floors, and loft-style offices on the remaining top floors.

Shapack Partners acquired the 13,000 sq ft parking lot on 213-223 N. Peoria St. in 2013, and the vacant double wide parking lot on 217-219 N. Green Street in 2014.

Adjacent Neighbors Sales

  • 2713 W. Jackson Boulevard (27th Ward) – The Commission approved the sale of the 2,090 sq ft lot to Megan Hammaser for $2,000. The property is valued at $11,500.

  • 4832 S. Princeton Ave. (3rd Ward) – The Commission approved the sale of the 3,240 sq ft lot located in the Fuller Park Community Area to Karina Paredes for $1,000. The lot is valued at $4,500.

  • 12617 S. Saginaw Ave (10th Ward) – The Commission approved the sale of the 3,123 sq ft lot located in the Hegewisch Community Area to Karla Ruzich for $1,000. The lot is valued at $6,250.

  • 40 N. Francisco Ave. (27th Ward) – The Commission approved the sale of the 875 sq ft lot in the East Garfield Park Community Area to Julia M. Brown for $1,000. The lot is valued at $6,250.

Other Negotiated Sales

  • 11932 S. Wallace St. (34th Ward) – The Commission approved the sale of the 3,083 sq ft lot in the West Pullman Neighborhood to George W. Pearce, Sr. for $1,000, which is the appraised value.

  • 6401, 6405, 6415-6427 South Stewart Ave (20th Ward) – The Commission approved the sale of six parcels of city-owned land (approximately 34,000 sq ft) in the Englewood neighborhood to St. Bernard Hospital so the hospital can expand their existing parking lot. The parcels will be sold at their appraised value ($6,800).
  • 1343 W. 51st Street (20th Ward) – The Commission approved the sale of an approximately 3,100 sq ft vacant lot in the New City Community area to Arturo Hernandez and Avelina Guzman for the appraised value ($7,000).