The Chicago Plan Commission unanimously approved all items on the July agenda, but warned one developer that their plan for a proposed residential tower on a vacant plot south of the Cabrini-Green rowhouses may need to be resubmitted if major changes are made to the building design. Applications now advance to the City Council’s Zoning Committee for review.

Davis Lakefront, LLC wants to build a 23-story mixed-use building with 200 residential units anchored by commercial retail at the base In River North at 460-476 W. Chicago Ave., but the local alderman says they still need final community approval.

“We’re still in the middle of this,” Ald. Walter Burnett (27) told the Plan Commission that due to the influx of proposed development projects in his ward, which encompasses parts of River North, the West Loop and Fulton Market, the local community and developers have had a hard time finding a time to schedule a final public hearing.

Developers have already downscaled the height of the building from the originally proposed 30-stories, added additional parking, and expanded the retail base and green space around the building, Burnett added. He says residents were also interested in adding mixed-income units to the building. But despite his reservations, Ald. Burnett asked Commissioners to approve the project, so that it could advance to the City Council’s Zoning Committee where it would be held until the public hearing.

Department of Planning Commissioner Andrew Mooney warned the developers that while he was voting in support of the project, the application would have to be resubmitted to the Plan Commission for re-approval if any major design changes are made following the community meeting.

Commissioners Green Light A Scaled Down Nobu Hotel in West Loop – 27th Ward
Commissioners approved a scaled down redesign for a proposed Nobu Hotel and restaurant on a vacant lot in the West Loop. The original plan called for 155 hotel rooms, 65 parking spaces and a 10,000 square foot restaurant. The project, as approved by the Plan Commission, is seven stories and includes 83 hotel rooms and 35 off-site parking spots. Plans also include an amenity level, rooftop penthouse, and outdoor seating for the restaurant. Since the project qualifies as Transit Oriented Development–the new Morgan St. CTA station is within 600 ft. of the site–developers don’t have to build on-site parking, but have purchased a building on Mason and Randolph St. as a backup lot, according to the developer’s legal counsel, Rolando Acosta, with law firm Ginsberg Jacobs.

“We think this is a momentous event for Chicago,” Acosta told the Commissioners that when the hotel is constructed, it will be the first Nobu Hotel and Restaurant built from the ground up. The Nobu Hospitality Group, started by famed Japanese ChefNobu Matsuhisa, operates hotels and restaurants across the country, but they are all located in refurbished buildings. Acosta added that the boutique hotel and restaurant is expected to employ 200 people.

“I didn’t think this day would ever be here, that we would see this [project] before the Plan Commission,” Commissioner and Zoning Administrator Patty Scudiero said before the roll call vote. When the project first reached her desk in 2012, Scudiero recalled, developers had requested that the site be rezoned as a Downtown district, which would have removed height restrictions. She said it was a big ask, especially as the Department was developing the Fulton Market Innovation District Plan. She thanked the applicant for being, “more than patient with the City.”

Ald. Burnett also noted that when the developers brought the proposal before the community, residents were not opposed to the originally planned height for the building; the concern came mostly from him and the City because rezoning the property would go against the character of the neighborhood.

Six people signed up to testify, only one of them was against the project and raised concerns that the hotel seemed too large for the neighborhood and would increase congestion.


Lincoln Center Development Approved – 43rd Ward
After an 18-month review process with nearly 50 community meetings, including three widely attended public hearings, the Baker Development Corporation finally secured Plan Commission approval to move forward with a proposal to tear down the old Lincoln Center Condos on the 2500 N. Lincoln Ave. block and build a mixed-use residential and commercial building next to the Apollo Theater in Lincoln Park.

Baker Development seeks to build a ten-story mixed-use building with 200 residential units, approximately 16,300 square feet of retail space, and at least 138 off-street parking spaces. The neighboring Apollo Theater would remain. The applicant’s legal counsel Rolando Acosta, who also represents the developers for Nobu Hotel, noted that the entire building was reoriented as a result those meetings and meetings with the local alderman, Michele Smith (43). 

Ald. Smith attended the Plan Commission meeting to testify in support for the project. She noted that after a “rigorous community process” the redesign will effectively remove a long standing eyesore in the community, revitalize the Lincoln Center commercial corridor, and provide additional open space to the neighborhood. She also noted that while this project is considered Transit Oriented Development, the developers have agreed to exceed the amount of parking required. Residents of the new building will also be ineligible for permit parking, says Smith.

Nearly two dozen people signed up to testify on behalf of this project during the public comments section of the meeting.  Those who supported it noted that these residential towers would reinvigorate the community. Those who opposed the project were mostly concerned about congestion and lighting, complaining the tall building would block sunlight.


Lincoln Park Parking Lot – 46th Ward [Approved]
Commissioners approved the Chicago Park District’s request to reconstruct the existing 4.5-acre parking lot in Lincoln Park to install an underground stormwater storage and infiltration system that will eventually be disconnected from the City’s sewer system. Timothy King, legal counsel for the Chicago Park District, told the Commission the current parking lot is filled with potholes and “at the end of its useful life.”

The $2.4 million project is a joint effort by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Chicago Department of Water Management and the Park District. A $1.4 million green infrastructure grant will help pay for the project. Additional greenery that will be added to the new parking lot will cut the number of available parking spots from 580 to 507. Commissioners Doris B. Holleb and Ald. Tom Tunney (44) were concerned the blueprint didn’t look like it could accommodate the number of cars listed in the proposal.

Read Dunning Memorial Park – 38th Ward
Commissioners approved the transfer of 7.5 acres of property to the Chicago Park District, at 4030 N. Oak Park Ave, for the construction of a new athletic field with accompanying bleachers, concessions, scoreboards, athletic field lighting, bathrooms and parking. According to the application (15-070-21), the proposed park site is “currently vacant, unimproved, and irregularly shaped.” The application also says the new park would fill a void in in the community. The closest, comparably sized athletic field is at Hanson Park, nearly 3 miles southeast. The state has already committed $3 million towards construction and the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners approved acquisition of the property at the January 12th, 2011 board meeting.

Other Agenda Items
Prior to discussing the five large-scale development items on the agenda, Commissioners unanimously approved items 1 through 16 filed under section C, items with the inter-agency planning referral act. This includes the sale of four city-owned plots for private use and development under the Adjacent Neighbors program, and the sale of six city-owned properties (a mix of vacant land and dilapidated or unhabitable buildings) for private use and development.