Sunday, October 5, 2008

MAC Request for 55th St. Zoning Change

posted by Richard Gill

Roughly 20 people attended Alderman Hairston's informal community meeting on Thursday, October 2, at 1621 E. 55th Street. The purpose of the meeting was to explain a request to re-zone the building on the south side of 55th Street between Cornell and the railroad embankment, and to let local residents express their opinions.

MAC Realty, the building's owner, is the requesting party and is acting on behalf of restaurant owners in the building, who initiated the request. The present zoning, B.1-5 would be changed to B.3-5. The change would allow the restaurants to apply for liquor licenses; if the licenses are granted, the restaurants could serve alcoholic beverages along with meals. In theory, the change would also allow the building to house a tavern, but that would require a further special approval process.

Under the revised zoning, veterinarians would be allowed to operate on the property. I found this interesting (although not necessarily indicative of future activity), in light of recent news coverage of Dr. Wake's need to relocate his veterinary clinic out of Harper Court.

Peter Cassell, of MAC, and the Alderman presented the zoning request as a step toward enhancing the retail options in Hyde Park, by helping to improve the business climate. The attendees at the meeting seemed generally in favor of the change, and Cassell said a number of the building's apartment residents were in favor.

One resident, however, worried aloud that there would be noisy drunks staggering out of the restaurants at all hours. Oh, c'mon. In response, it was noted that the restaurants presently allow diners free BYOB privileges, so drinking already takes place on the premises and no problems have been reported. Further, a restaurant can limit the amount of alcohol sold to and subsequently consumed by individuals; limiting consumption under BYOB is much harder.

Someone else said the change would exacerbate the "parking problem," and the meeting then lapsed into the classic Hyde Park "parking problem discussion." C'mon again. Those restaurants are largely patronized by people who arrive on foot, and anyway there is no reason to expect that more people will drive just because they can have a cold beer with their meal.

After a while, the Alderman simply laid it out (yet one more time): She said we live in a crowded city, and there are more cars than will fit at the curb. She said that all the studies and committees are not going to change that fact. She said further that there is no place in the neighborhood to build large-capacity off-street parking, and experience has shown that people don't want to pay to use it. My (uncharacteristically caustic?) comment to the group was, "Free parking is not a God-given right."

Hairston then returned to the zoning question and said, in effect, "Look, folks, everyone complains about having to leave the neighborhood in order to spend their money. This proposal is a way to change some of that."

I'm glad Hairston came on strong on the parking and zoning issues.

The process will probably take a few months;there has to be a formal application, notice to people living within 250 feet of the property, consideration by the city zoning committee, approval by the full city council. Then the proprietors have to obtain liquor licenses (which can be revoked in the event of abuse or inappropriate customer behavior).

This, by the way, is strictly a zoning request; it has nothing to do with wet/dry precincts under "local option."

That's the essential content of the meeting, which lasted an hour and 20 minutes. One more interesting tidbit did come out: Under both present and proposed zoning, the building could be up to 100 feet high; it isn't even half that tall.


chicago pop said...

Under the revised zoning, veterinarians would be allowed to operate on the property.

How come no one said anything about the possibility of drunken veterinarians not being able to park?

Richard Gill said...

I'm more worried about dogs coming out of the vet clinic, having too many drinks at a restaurant next door, and then howling all the way down the block.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Let's not even mention how much peeing on doorsteps these sloshed pooches will commit.

Richard Gill said...

They (the pooches) already do that, even when sober.
If they peed on the Orisha Wall, would it help it to decompose?

Anonymous said...

Small steps are nice. The more people see that change does not equal "ueveil urban renewal", the more they'll be willing to ignore the demagogues.

edj said...

Maybe the drunks could be directed to relieve themselves on the scupture at 55th and Lake Park until it's taken down?

Awahnee said...

pop -- check out this book if you haven't already:

Also, I refute the Ald.'s claim that parking isn't available as an option. My wife and I have actually driven to Oak Park to go to the movies (don't get me started) and they have this really cool thing called a PARKING GARAGE with like FOUR LEVELS of spaces. Obviously the 'village' subsidizes it because we paid 25 cents. So, clearly it's an option, right? Not that the parkng argument carried any weight, I'm just saying.


Jake said...

This idea that East Hyde Park has some sort of parking crisis is just bizarre. I don't own a car, but the handfull of times I've had to find parking it's been a breeze compared to many North Side neighborhoods. And why do these people need cars anyway? We live in a city, it has good public transit and bike lanes, and for anything beyond that I-Go should be adequate.

Anonymous said...

During the 4 years I lived in the Mayfair I never once had a problem finding parking. I found a spot on 55th about 50% of the time and the rest of the time I'd park over by the Shoreland or Flamingo. Walking a couple blocks is not a huge deal.

David Farley said...

I propose the construction of the Great East Hyde Park Parking Garage on the SW corner of S. Shore and 55th to solve this parking crisis that ravages our land. Subsidized parking for all E. Hyde Park residents, of course. The longer you've lived in E. Hyde Park the bigger the subsidy. (Free parking for me, for coming up with the idea.)

I've always been amused that Hyde Park has a parking garage with a bar in it.

chicago pop said...

I've always been amused that Hyde Park has a parking garage with a bar in it.

Ha! That's true -- too funny.

Richard Gill said...

"I propose the construction of the Great East Hyde Park Parking Garage on the SW corner of S. Shore and 55th..."

Better yet, let's put it on the east side of LSD, at the Point. Of course, a major flyover ramp will be needed for access. It won't take up any more room than the missile radar station did, and it can be built out limestone-clad reinforced concrete. Also, it will make room for floodlit all-night handball courts at the present Park District lot across from the Flamingo.

David Farley said...

A parking garage -under- The Point would be an interesting idea, with an entrance/exit underneath LSD off of S. Shore. And all that stuff that's falling down around the outside could be fixed at the same time. And they could put in observation windows, so people could watch swimmers and fish from their cars.

Dunno about the handball courts. Maybe have "free parking" sirens that go off every 15-20 minutes?

Raymond said...

I'm glad Jake and Greg mentioned this because I've always felt that way, too. I drive to E. Hyde Park all the time and there's always a spot to park in that little segment of Shore Drive by the Shoreland. Only on the 4th of July have I ever had any issues getting parking there.

So, I always laugh when I read about the parking problems over there. People just can't find parking in front of their condos, I guess. Because you can always find a spot within a few blocks.

Even by Regents Park you can find parking if you are willing to walk under the Metra tracks.