West Loop Residents Rage Against High-Rise Plan

By Chloe Riley on February 27, 2013 6:57am 

 Residents listen to a proposal for a 20-story residential building in the West Loop. After negative response from attendees at Tuesday's meeting, Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said he would not bring the proposal before city hall.
Residents listen to a proposal for a 20-story residential building in the West Loop. After negative response from attendees at Tuesday's meeting, Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said he would not bring the proposal before city hall.
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DNAinfo/Chloe Riley

WEST LOOP — Residents are outraged by a proposal that would convert what was originally supposed to be a hotel into a 20-story residential building.

Despite Tuesday's all-day snowstorm, over 100 people showed up at the Merit School of Music to argue that the proposed change for the property at Madison and Green streets would be out of character for the neighborhood and increase parking problems.

In 2011, public meetings were held to rezone the property, with developers at the time saying that the plan was to build a hotel. But on Tuesday, Joseph Antunovich, the building’s architect, said his firm could not find a backer for the project as a hotel.

Instead, the new proposal, a 20-story high-rise called “Gateway to the West Loop,” would join the first phase of the project, which includes Mariano’s Fresh Market at 40 S. Halsted, that opened in October and employs 450 people.

Currently, the site eyed for the high rise is a parking lot.

At Tuesday's meeting, many said they were unaware of the hotel project much less the change to residential. Critics said the building would be the tallest in the West Loop and an eyesore and that parking for current neighborhood residents is already at a premium.

Julie Zerega, a 50-year-old resident at Monroe Manor, a condo association at 845 W. Monroe St., said she attended the re-zoning hearing for the project back in 2011. At the time, objections, she said, were ignored.

“So here we are today with an apartment complex that this community does not want,” she said at Tuesday's meeting to immediate applause.
 
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), who supported the project as a hotel in 2011, was put on the defensive at the meeting when the crowd demanded that he answer whether Antunovich Associates, the project's designer, had donated money to his campaign fund.

After avoiding the question for several minutes, Burnett admitted that the architectural firm had  contributed money to his campaign.

Before leaving the community meeting to attend a school closures meeting, Burnett said he had heard the community loud and clear and would not be taking the residential proposal to City Hall for consideration.

“It seems like you all are against this project,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, the meeting’s over.”

But Burnett reminded attendees that even if the residential property is shot down, Antunovich Associates still has the right to build another high-rise at the same height.

“If this is not approved, the same structure can be built,” he said. “Do y’all understand what I’m saying?”

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