Sunday, November 4, 2007

Solace on the Park

posted by Peter Rossi

A new development is slated for the corner of 56th and Cornell Avenue. Dubbed “Solstice in the Park” by developer Antheus Captial (NIMBY warning), the building will be 26 stories tall with 145 units. The architectural renderings below show this to be a striking building – one that will certainly draw attention from the passerby. More importantly, it will breathe life into a desolate stretch of 56th Street. Residents of this building will patronize local businesses and increase foot traffic and neighborhood safety. Who knows – if this starts a trend, we might see some new businesses in Hyde Park (it will take a lot more than this one building to do that). If all goes well, ground will be broken in the summer of 08 with completion at the end of 09 or early 10.

Architectural Rendering of Solstice in the Park

What will this building replace? After all, there is not much vacant land in East Hyde Park. It will replace the Windemere parking lot. This ugly lot is underutilitized. The new building will feature underground parking for ALL of the Windemere users (about 200) and ADD 250-300 MORE parking spaces for resident of the building. This information and the drawings were provided by Mr. Eli Ungar of Antheus Capital.

What does this mean for “congestion” in our neighborhood? This is a ratio of parking spaces to units of more the 1.5. My guess is that this will mean that parking spaces in this building will be rented to others in the East Hyde Park community who are now parking on the street. So it is entirely possible that this building will reduce parking congestion while increasing foot traffic.

Streetview of Solstice in the Park

Current Streetview

When rumors regarding this development were first heard, NIMBYs wrote into the Establishment organ, the Hyde Park Herald, complaining. What were their complaints? – unspecified “congestion” and that their views might be blocked. Actually, it is very hard to figure out how this new building will block any desirable views. The view from Windemere west toward the ugly parking lot and Metra tracks?

There will be a community meeting on this development on November 14th (place to be announced – we will feature it in this blog). Let’s not let a few self-interested people block a great addition to our neighborhood. I should also note that there are some NIMBYs who don’t like the developer Antheus Capital because it is headquartered in New Jersey and it is “big.” Let me point out that only those with deep pockets can afford to develop something like this. I really don’t care where the developers are headquartered; Taipei would be fine by me if they are willing to invest in our neighborhood!

The NIMBYs who oppose all positive change in our neighborhood have a new tact: We are under fire for opposing all change; let's say that we are "ok with" or "like" some developments and focus our opposition on others. In this way, we can give the illusion of being reasonable without having to support any actual change. So it looks like this development will go through smoothly but don't count on any help from these folks!

Provision of parking spaces is held up by some as evidence of good faith on the part of the developer. This development goes overboard on parking. For a development right next to the Express Bus Stop and Metra, we don’t need anything more than 1:1. My guess is that Antheus would like to make a bit of money by renting or selling parking. Sounds like the free market at work to me!

Empty Windemere Parking Lot (Sat 11/3/07)


chicago pop said...

This is a spectacular building. While anything would be better use of urban land than the parking lot that is there now, this is more than anyone could have hoped for. I know that Ungar/Antheus have bent over backwards to minimize any adverse impacts on neighboring Brett Hart elementary. The renderings suggest a very friendly orientation towards the school -- better to have human beings as neighbors, instead of blacktop and exhaust pipes.

Richard Gill said...

If the NIMBYs have their way, we'll have a neighborhood where only the NIMBYs want to live. No sensible businesses will want to locate in the neighborhood. Come to think of it, maybe that's what the Hyde Park Establishment wants.

Attend the meetings and speak in favor of good developments such as 56th & Cornell, and communicate directly with the Aldermen. Don't let a few loud NIMBYs stifle this neighborhood.

Famac said...

This was a long post, so sorry if I missed this point: I've been asked about renting parking spots in my building by Windemere renters and local realtors.

(There are spots below the surface parking at the Windemere for nice cars.)

Parking rates at the Museum are $300/month!!!

Combine that with the development at 53rd Street, and we are in for a jam up parking-wise for the near future.

I'm glad I have a spot!

As a condo owner (which kid of negates any intelligent comment) I have to say that building is a joke. You can't find a plumber in Hyde Park -- who is going to fix those windows after owners find they were poorly installed?

And that its a MAC development is even more problematic. THey have to be stretched credit-wise right now. Ho can they develop these projects?

On the cheap - beware!!!

Peter Rossi said...


you will have to translate your last comment. I can't figure it out.

This development will dramatically increase the number of parking spots. The current Windemere lot is more than 1/2 empty.

How can an increase in the number of parking spots (even after the demand from the new units is added) make things worse?

What is the rental rate at the museum supposed to prove? that you want cheap parking?

why do you think the windows on this building will be broken or improperly installed?

I must be dense, so help me out on this one.

Famac said...

I read an article about how plummeting housing values are impacting condo developers. New condos are often sold to speculators during the development stage, hoping to flip them for a profit. Many are walking away from their deposits. The next big collapse in the housing market will likely be condo properties.

So developers are probably looking at ways they can trim costs while still completing projects. Cost cutting usually effects construction quality.

MAC Properties has already made what appears to be a series of disasterous investments in Hyde Park. If that's the case, not only are they stretched by widening credit spreads, but they are also highly leveraged.

Its hard to imagine them pulling off a project like this.

Famac said...

Regarding parking - I was only making a comment that in the short-term, East Hyde Park is going to be having a parking crisis.

Not only will the lot be vacated next to the Windemere, but all of the surrounding street parking will be gone during construction.

Its seems to me that this project along with the 53rd & Cornell project will make a horrible parking situation even worse for a few years.

I'm all for the projects - it was just an observation about East Hyde Park, and the poor S.O.B.s that have to street park.

chicago pop said...

Interesting comment from famac, which may indeed bode ill for new construction in Hyde Park, at least in the near term.

One question to famac: how have MAC's investments in HP been disastrous?

Famac said...

Famac said "MAC Properties has already made what APPEARS to be a series of disasterous investments in Hyde Park."

CP said: "how have MAC's investments in HP been disastrous?"

I used "appears" because I'm only going by the "for rent" signs on all of their properties. Buying rental properties with no customers will place a strain on cash flow to pay debt.

I'm half way convinced the MAC Group has another motive for buying in Hyde Park: holding the U of C hostage when it needs to expand. It seems like the only reasonable explanation for buying dilapidated propertries in Hyde Park. The MAC Group isn't the only renter suffering. The Windemere is now advertising units for rent on a billboard outr front.

chicago pop said...

famac: Now I see what you mean.

Without further concrete knowledge of MAC's financials and plan regarding the Stern Gang building, we can only engage in speculation.

Do we know what occupancy rates in fact are for MAC properties, or for HP rentals in general? Does the presence of "for rent signs" on buildings many of which cater to a transient population of undergrads and grads signify a shortage of renters? Or is MAC simply branding its product?

Famac said...

Well, I don't know about you -- but if I was renting in a building with that horrible white sign in front of it -- I wouldn't be too happy. You have to figure they are out there for a reason.

chicago pop said...

famac predicts a jam-up parking-wise in the near future resulting from the two buildings slated for 56th and 53rd @ Cornell.

In terms of street parking, this is probably a reasonable forecast.

Whether it is a problem is another story.

Parking is typically plentiful in two areas: suburbs and less desirable city neighborhoods. Like the land they sit on, parking spots have a value that goes up in denser areas. Street parking (and off-street parking) becomes (or should become, if policy is thoughtfully applied) more expensive as it becomes more scarce. Especially in popular neighborhoods, where people want to live and visit, parking is usually very tight, and that is a sign of a healthy local economy.

In such circumstances, there are typically a significant number of people who make a rational decision to own fewer cars, or none at all. This represents a trade-off people make for the opportunity to live in a neighborhood which should ultimately be able to support enough residents and attract enough visitors so that having to drive out of the neighborhood for basic needs -- and therefore find parking or store more than one car on the street -- becomes less necessary.

chicago pop said...

I strongly suspect most of the buildings with the signs in front of them are student housing, and therefore low on the "aesthetic appeal." I've lived in student neighborhoods for many many years, and such year-round advertising is not unusual anywhere you have students coming and going on research trips, sabbaticals, study overseas, etc.

Without knowledge of occupancy rates, we can't assume that MAC is having a cash-flow crisis and therefore will be unable to finance major construction.

Hyde said...

Unger made an interesting comment regarding the huge rental signs...MAC put the huge signs out to let the existing tenants know there was a new landlord and that checks had to be made out to a different owner.

Tenants would not think anything of mailing a check made out to the same person s/he had paid each of the last 2 years despite the fact that someone else had purchased the building and the right to receive the rent. MAC needed to get the word out - no better way than a 4'x8' sign on the front of the building.

Speculative condo development aside, Unger has made a terrific investment - rental apartments are disappearing across the south side and there is no new rental devleopment in sight.

Famac said...

Hyde; most rental companies mail out an invoice with "make checks payable to."

The idea that a huge sign outide the building was necessary to avoid check-writing confusion is laughable. Anyone that wanted their property to look nice would put a nice big white sign IN THE LOBBY of the building, not out on the street.

As far as I can tell, all Unger has done for Hyde Park is pollute the neighborhood with ugly signs that scream "no one wants to live here, why do you?"

I'm pretty sure I couldn't put a billboard up anywhere I wanted in Hyde Park -- its time for our Alder-people to start cracking down on MAC's advertising practices.

UChicagoDomer said...

that building is absolutely hideous.

Arjun said...

I used to live in the Windermere and always thought that the lot was under-utilized. That said, I think that the building plan is hideous. It looks like one of those monstrosities from the 1970s. There is a right way to build something that looks modern. This isn't it.

Kathleen said...

Mac Properties and Antheus Capital are straight up corporate crooks. First they say one thing, then they do another. Screw the people and their right to affordable housing. As one of their tenants, who leased from them in November, I believed them when they told me my rent would increase 3% at each renewal. Now I find, that not only did they write the wrong date in my lease, shorting me two months of a 9 month lease, but they are raising my rent 20%. This goes against all of Ungar's statements over the last few months in terms of rent increases (not to mention that I wasn't one of the tenants who had been paying below market value for years, but rented at market value in November of 2007). Their response to my shock and dismay - "we'll find someone to rent that apartment at that price if you don't renew. Students are always looking for apartments that size." I've seen what students do to apartments, what they had done to the one I rent, to beautiful architecture, to historic buildings. If Mac and Antheus really want to improve the neighborhood, restore and care for the beautiful architecture here, don't you think they would prefer tenants that had the same values, appreciation, and took pride in rentership of these beautiful buildings? (South Hyde Park Boulevard 55th - 56th). And, because I value old architecture, inside and out, I even spent ... and stripped woodwork ... and stripped brass doorknobs that they just spray painted over. There have been no improvements in my building, inside or out, yet up goes the rent. So, I am unconvinced that Mac Properties and Antheus Cap are in it for aesthetics, or preservation. I wouldn't be surprised if Hyde Park didn't eventually see a cb2 or a Bed Bath and Bored with my current bath towel 'cause I have no life sometime soon. May be NIMBYs (whatever that means - but I get the gist) don't want everyone in a 10 mile radius coming to their neighborhood to shop - go to North and Clybourn and leave me some quiet and a place to park.