Wolf Point Developers Unveil Amended Proposal

By Lizzie Schiffman on January 24, 2013 10:41am 

 Previews of the prospective development at Wolf Point, presented at an Oct. 29 community meeting. There have been several adjustments to the development plan since then as area residents and Ald. Brendan Reilly push for more area impact reviews and scaled-back occupancy expectations.
Previews of the prospective development at Wolf Point, presented at an Oct. 29 community meeting. There have been several adjustments to the development plan since then as area residents and Ald. Brendan Reilly push for more area impact reviews and scaled-back occupancy expectations.
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Wolf Point Owners, L.L.C.

FULTON RIVER DISTRICT — The proposed development at the city's historic Wolf Point area returns to the Chicago Plan Commission Thursday with a few tweaks — though some neighborhood opposition remains.

Addressing some neighborhood suspicions, developers of the three-tower complex promise never to build a casino on the property.

Developers never had any plans to build a casino on the property but added explicit language to their plans in response to concerns raised by Ellen Barry, president of Friends of Wolf Point, at the most recent community meeting about the development.

"As long as I'm alderman I can assure you there will be no casino on Wolf Point," Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) had promised on Dec. 20.

But Barry and dozens of other community members kept making the same demand of Wolf Point L.L.C. and developers from Hines Interests L.P.: Put it in writing. Make a guarantee.

The latest amended proposal, which Reilly emailed to residents Monday, will be heard by the Commission on Thursday, the latest in a series of hearings, community meetings and postponements that has drawn out the approval process for months.

Barry says she and other community activists still object to some terms in the new proposal, particularly "a 20 foot build out into the river on the south point, which we think is totally ludicrous ... [and] an attempt to reclaim land they've lost to erosion."

At the last community meeting, several area residents questioned the panel of developers about traffic flow management.

In the latest documents, the owner of the property, Wolf Point, L.L.C., commits to installing high-visibility crosswalks at Wacker Drive and Orleans Street, Orleans Street and Merchandise Mart Drive, Wells Street and Merchandise Mart Drive, and actuation of the lights that direct traffic off ramps near the Merchandise Mart and Apparel Mart.

But Barry says that those additions, and earlier revisions that barred the property from including convention space, still won't do enough to contain the impact on the surrounding community.

"It still remains that the design is way too big for the area," Barry said. "We've maintained this all the way along: the streets and the roadways, the sidewalks, the infrastructure just can't handle a development of this magnitude."

Other amendments include a plan to commemorate Wolf Point's "singular importance in the founding and development of the City of Chicago" with historical markers. The property, perched right at the Y-shaped intersection of the Chicago River, includes more than 100,000 square feet of largely undeveloped space that was once the centerpiece of the city's trade routes.

Reilly has been mediating for months between Wolf Point, L.L.C. and neighbors seeking to rein in the project they say will increase traffic and limit skyline views for adjacent residences.

The city's Department of Housing and Economic Development's Bureau of Planning and Zoning has endorsed the changes offered by the developer and encourages the Planning Commission to approve it Thursday.

Reilly did not respond to requests for comment.

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