Tensions High at Third Wolf Point Community Meeting
CHICAGO — Plans for a scaled-down $1 billion development on untouched land along Chicago's riverfront continued to rankle neighbors, as Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) played mediator between residents and the developer Thursday night at the third community meeting on the Wolf Point development.
The meeting was called amid panic from River North and Fulton River District residents after developers unveiled a proposal with a maximum of 1,800 allowed hotel rooms hours before the case was set to be heard by the Chicago Planning Commission.
But new plans say the project will not top 950 feet, and will not contain more than 1,410 residential units and 450 hotel rooms.
Reilly deferred the issue from the Nov. 27 hearing and called for more dialogue to set a lower figure, amid fears it would flood the surrounding neighborhood with congestion. Hines reps later described the 1,800 rooms as place-holders "to allow for future changes in market conditions," rather than the actual intended capacity.
Before the floor was opened for questions, River North Residents Association President Mike Riordan scolded the panel for the miscommunication.
Riordan said the RNRA was "very concerned" about the Nov. 27 proposal, which "detailed programming by hotels and resident volumes that surprised us, and that had never been discussed or sanctioned and properly vetted.
"Your actions unequivocally undermined our confidence and trust in your communication and intent," Riordan said to Representatives from Hines Interests LP, consulting firm KLOA, bKL Architecture and Wolff Landscape Architecture. "Shame on us, we thought we knew what you were building. Shame on you, you've failed in being a frank, forthcoming partner with us."
Changes outlined at the meeting include new occupancy standards for each of three towers: "West Tower," "South Tower" and "East Tower," which will be built in three phases.
The all-residential West Tower, which will be built first, can not exceed 525 feet or contain more than 510 units and 200 parking stalls. The 950-foot South Tower is a mixed use space allotted 885 parking stalls.
The East Tower, also a mixed use space at 750 feet, can house any combination of office space, retail space, residential units and hotel space and has 200 parking stalls. It's the last to pop up.
Each construction phase will be preceded by new traffic and impact assessments.
Following a walk-through of amendments to the plan that also included altering the landscaping design, adding left turn lanes on Kinzie Street and Wells Street and eliminating the possibility of ballroom or convention space, residents raised issues ranging from encroachment on the river to the possibility of a casino being added to the property.
While the floor was open for questions, a statement was read on behalf of John Carpenter, senior vice president of public policy at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. He voiced strong support for the development in its current iteration, praising the $1 billion "investment in Chicago," the opportunity to create up 2,000 jobs and asserting that construction "can't be delayed."
The meeting drew a crowd of more than 80 to the the conference center on th second floor of UBS Tower despite warnings of severe weather. Pelli Clark Pelli Architects, also part of the development team, was not represented on the panel.