Wrigley Field Renovations: 100 Residents and Business Owners Protest Plan
WRIGLEYVILLE — More than 100 residents gathered near Wrigley Field Wednesday night with one message: "We want to be heard."
The group, made up largely of Lakeview home and business owners and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), said they felt disregarded by the Ricketts family and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who, in their words, have rushed through plans for drastic neighborhood changes without community consent.
Neighborhood groups, led by the Lake View Citizens Council, have been demanding to have more input in the Cubs' $500 million plan to upgrade the stadium and develop the neighborhood outside the ballpark.
The team has been presenting preliminary plans to neighborhood groups for months — just as other developers must do — but residents said details such as the amount of signage and the hotel's density were masked until the last minute.
"You can't negotiate when you have a moving target," said Kevin McIntyre, president of the Hawthorne Neighbors Association. He said a plan of this magnitude would usually take more than a year and involve a public forum.
"This is not what I consider upfront and full disclosure," said McIntyre.
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks' approval last week of a 5,700-square-foot sign despite Tunney's objections suggest that even the alderman is being pushed out, neighbors said — a major blow for a group that relied on Tunney to represent its interests in the closed-door negotiations.
Now it looks like Tunney's objection to a pedestrian bridge over Clark Street is being ignored, neighbors said.
Julian Green, a Cubs spokesman, said, "We have attended nearly 50 community meetings since we unveiled our plans in January," including five community development meetings hosted by Tunney.
"We have been open, transparent, accessible about our plans, and even invited neighbors on Patterson and Eddy [streets] to discuss aspects of our proposal that impact their area," Green said. "To suggest we've ignored the neighborhood would be a stretch, and to claim nearly 100 people speak for the entire 44th Ward is a bit misleading."
The "Wrally to Save Wrigleyville" was not just about the Cubs' development, those on hand said. Once the team receives certain zoning relief, neighbors said, future developers will be able to follow the same rules, bringing the risk of more "aggressive developments" later on.
Which isn't a problem for Danny Pancratz, one of about 20 counter-protesters who had signed on to volunteer in opposition to the main rally via the Cubs' website.
"I have no concerns at all" about the plan, Pancratz said. "I don't know that you could get a better deal from the Cubs."
After the rally, Tunney contrasted the current row with a conflict in 1985 over stadium lights that went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court — the lesson learned from that disagreement is that the community and the ballpark are interdependent, he said.
But this conflict "is a much bigger change to our lives," said Pat Bauer, whose home of nearly 30 years sits about 200 feet from Wrigley field.
If renovation plans go through, her neighbor Delores Wilson's home will be about 15 feet from the Cubs' loading dock, Wilson said.
As for ongoing opposition to the bridge over Clark Street and the placement of a hotel entrance and patio, the Cubs' Green pointed to what the organization's investment will mean for the city as well the baseball team.
"The Ricketts family is seeking to make a $500 million investment that will not only generate significant millions in economic returns for the city, but additional resources to put back into the team," he said. "Every single asset we're seeking has value to the Cubs and potential partners. And we understand better than anyone every part of this project has to be done responsibly with the care and safety of our neighbors, fans and visitors in mind."
The Cubs and Wrigley Field are 95 percent owned by a trust established for the benefit of the family of Joe Ricketts, owner and CEO of DNAinfo.com. Joe Ricketts has no direct involvement in the management of the iconic team.