Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Report From 53rd & Cornell Community Meeting

posted by Richard Gill

The developer, L3, is seeking a zoning change, which requires approval of a Planned Development (PD). The April 23 public meeting was among the requirements for the PD process, which is expected to take about 12 months.

John Roberson represented L3; he is a former Chicago Buildings Commissioner. Joe Antunovich represented Antunovich Associates, the project architect. The new Catholic Theological Union building, on Cornell at 54th, is one of their recent projects.

The 53rd & Cornell project proposal has changed somewhat since the original proposal. It is now a rental building, instead of condominium--a change driven by the current market. The "affordable-housing" units (15% of the total 206 apartments) are in the building, instead of off-site. The building is 20 stories tall (to incorporate the affordable units), instead of 17. Off-street parking will be provided for the ground-level retail establishments. (There was some light-hearted banter about bringing back the Tiki Lounge.) The parking entrance is on Cornell, and there are 1.19 parking spaces per apartment. A small section of property is to be transferred to the adjacent town homes. The PD now includes the Akiba Schecter parking lot across Cornell (which will remain a parking lot) instead of the commercial building across 53rd Street.

The proposed L3 building is adjacent to the Metra 53rd Street station, and is considered a Transit Oriented Development.

L3 says it anticipates debt-equity financing for the whole project--no government money.

Some other details: Pets allowed, laundry machines in units, roof garden above garage. Affordable-Housing units to be scattered throughout the building; same size as market-rate units, but maybe with different finishes.

About 80 to 100 people attended this meeting, which was civilized on an absolute basis (not just civilized by comparison with Hyde Park meetings).

The next step will be a meeting of the 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council, Monday May 12, 7PM at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club. That meeting, too, will be open to the public.


chicago pop said...

About 80 to 100 people attended this meeting, which was civilized on an absolute basis (not just civilized by comparison with Hyde Park meetings).

Civilized on an absolute basis? Well that's progress! Maybe we've reached a turning point in this neighborhood.

Pets allowed, 15% affordable in a rental tower, all sounds good to me, if L3 can make it happen. Parking ratio could be lower in a building located a block from Metra, but it is a good place to start (could be brought down), and most cars will remain likely parked in the deck during peak periods anyway.

Can't say I'm a huge fan of what Antunovich Associates did with the CTU on Cornell (once was indifferent, but Peter Rossi convinced me it's not great), but we'll see what they put on the table here. They must know that Solstice is just down the street, and that the bar has been raised just 2 blocks away.

One upside of the current real estate bust just might be this kind of addition to the inventory of rental property.

Richard Gill said...

Yes, it was like a "normal" meeting might be expected to be. I think Alderman Preckwinkle has done a good job laying the public groundwork for this project, and in responding to local concerns, eg affordable units. Howard Males does an outstanding job keeping the TIF process credible and open. Also, I gather that L3 has reached out to the neighboring townhome owners. Having seen both Fernando Leal and John Roberson make presentations in Hyde Park, I think Roberson does a better job of connecting with people in a public forum. Leal has let his temper show a bit too much, in my opinion.

Thus (sigh, alas) there was nothing much about the meeting to lampoon. But in retrospect, there were a couple of things.

1. Someone, with trepidation in their voice, asked if the retailers on the street level might include something like a Seven-Eleven. Egad, the sky is falling! The attack of the convenience stores and chains! Roberson's response was sort of, well yeah maybe something like a Seven-Eleven; that's the kind of place that can appeal to apartment dwellers who may need a close-by store at all hours.

2. The other classic expression of fear came from someone who imagined 200 cars disgorging from the garage, all at the same time. Congestion, gridlock! The developer said (and as C-pop notes) that a transit-focused development like this one is not expected to produce troublesome levels of traffic.

My editorial about number (1): Bring on the chains. They can pay the rent and they know how to do business. Case in point - at the newly remodelled Millennium (nee Randolph) Metra station, the chains (Starbucks, Subway etc) are thriving. A small ice cream shop has already closed; they hadn't a clue. Product line out of touch (in this day and age, no low-fat or fat-free items), and s-l-o-w service. It's a commuter station, stupid, people are in a hurry.

My editorial about number (2): The developer is probably right...people in the building will largely use the train or bus, and all those parking spaces may not be needed. Look at the similar apartment situations on the north side. The influx of apartment dwellers has resurrected the CTA Brown Line. That's why the massive Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project is proceeding at such a fast pace.

Some questions will never go away. The good news for the April 23 meeting is that they were asked, answered, and dropped. No outbursts. No screaming.

Elizabeth Fama said... children with picket signs...