After making it through last week’s Plan Commission meeting relatively unscathed, a ground lease agreement for the proposed Lucas Museum cleared another hurdle at yesterday’s Zoning Committee. With the exception of Ald. Ameya Pawar (47), the application got full support from aldermen.

Attendance (9/17 members):  Chairman Danny Solis (25), Michelle Harris (8), Anthony Beale (9), George Cardenas (12), David Moore (17), Matt O’Shea (19), Walter Burnett (27), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), James Cappleman (46), Ameya Pawar (47), Marge Laurino (39)

The committee voted on changing the zoning classifications within Institutional Planned Development No. 778, owned by the Chicago Parks DistrictThe Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority holds part of the ground lease on the property. Most aldermanic questioning focused on parking, which will actually increase from the current site under the new plan.  

Museum officials told zoning members about plans to create more green space that can (on Bears game days only) be used for tailgating. Developers will replace a current cement parking lot with a green prairie area planted with fiber reinforced soil that can withstand tailgating traffic. The soil supports heavier usage from cars, reduces runoff, and will not be used for museum visitors. Additional parking will be in a consolidated area west of Lake Shore Drive. There are more than 1,800 spaces planned. Officials say that increase in parking spaces from existing numbers helps on the rare days when there are museum and Bears’ events happening simultaneously. All museum parking will be hidden beneath the building.

Rob Rejman with the Park District told Ald. David Moore (17) the city is not party to the 99-year, $10 ground lease between the District and the Lucas Museum. Construction cost, to be covered entirely by Lucas, is estimated at $400 million.

Museum officials, playing down the word “private” say the museum’s restaurant and observation deck will be accessible to public without a ticket, as will a library and education center and the green space surrounding the museum. Like others on the campus, Lucas plans to offer 52 free days throughout the year, Museum President Don Bacigalupi said.

Ald. Pawar, the lone no vote, questioned whether the Lucas site, nestled south of Soldier Field along the lakefront, goes against the Lakefront Protection Ordinance. William McGuire, of the City’s Law Department, says the Plan Commission concluded the site is allowable under the ordinance, and governed by it.

The non-profit group Friends of the Parks support the museum, but suing over the museum’s location along the lakefront. Melanie Moore, the director of policy with Friends of the Parks, told the committee, “We believe that it should not be used for private collection,” she said, arguing a privately-funded venture goes against the Protection Ordinance. “In no instance will further private development should be permitted east of Lake Shore Drive,” she said, quoting the ordinance. “[It] contradicts our city’s visionary goal of continuous public open space and access along the lakefront.” Moore said FOTP would be in favor of non-park locations west of Lake Shore Drive, including the Thompson Center or the site of the now-shuttered Michael Reese Hospital.

At last week’s Plan Commission meeting, city planner Heather Gleason said the ordinance language clearly allows for museums, and was meant to stop residential and industrial developments. The zoning changes passed committee and will be brought up for a vote at today’s full Council meeting.