Cubs Remote Parking Off To Good Start, But Neighbors' Concerns Remain
NORTH CENTER — North Center residents upset about a new remote parking lot serving Cubs fans didn't see the problems they feared would arise with hundreds of cars parking in their neighborhood Saturday, but they remain skeptical about the situation.
And they say they're still dreading the rest of the season.
"Today wasn't bad, but this is the first day," said Kim Rogers, whose home sits just outside the parking lot. "Sixty-three days these people are going to be here."
The Cubs have leased the lot, located at 3900 North Rockwell Avenue, which is owned by Basic Wire and Cable. The lot is adjacent to Revere Park, the Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club and a number of residential homes.
As part of a neighborhood protection ordinance, the Cubs can host more night games during the 2014 season, but in exchange, the team is required to operate a free lot that can hold up to 1,000 cars to ease congestion around Wrigley Field.
On Saturday, the lot was about half full as the Cubs lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Rogers was one of several neighbors who stopped by Revere Park to see how things went. They noted off-duty police officers in the lot and the cars parked facing west, so no car lights would face the residential houses. Cars leaving the lot could only head west on Irving Park Road.
They also did not see any Cubs fans tailgating, a major concern for some residents. Rogers, like many of her neighbors, said she was most concerned about rowdy Cubs fans wreaking havoc on the neighborhood.
She said vandalism is a problem during an annual carnival hosted by the Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club at the lot. Rogers said she expects some of the same behavior out of Cubs fans.
"I'm going to be worried about vandalism," she said Saturday as she watched buses drop off fans after the game. "These people aren't bad but what about the people who head to the Cubby Bear after the game?"
Fans who park in the lot have two hours to return to their cars after games end. Shirley Reger, of suburban Inverness, was one of the Cubs fans who took advantage of the free lot on Saturday.
"It was great," Reger said of the experience. "The ride to the stadium was smooth."
But Reger opted to walk back to the lot from the stadium after the game, saying the line for the shuttle buses looked too long.
"It looked like it could be a two-hour line, so we decided to walk," she said. "I'm regretting it now."
Despite the smooth day Saturday, neighbors said they still expect problems in the coming months and said they will not put up with "Wrigleyville nuisances" in their neighborhood.
Ultimately the debate over the lot may be moot, as the city's Law Department is currently reviewing whether the Cubs need a special use permit to operate the lot, according to Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th).
The property's zoning, the alderman explained, allows parking as an "accessory" to Basic Wire and Cable's associated business — essentially the lot is intended for use by the company's employees. Leasing the lot to a separate entity, like the Cubs, for public use would qualify as "non-accessory parking."
"We believe they need a special use permit," said Pawar, adding he intends to fight if the organization moves to get one.
If the Law Department does determine a permit is necessary, the Cubs would then need to plead their case in front of the Zoning Board of Appeals. While waiting their turn before the board, the team could continue to operate the lot, Pawar said.
"It all comes down to process."
Independent of the permit issue, the Cubs have responded to a number of requests made by residents at a community meeting held Wednesday, per a letter sent to neighbors signed by Kam Buckner, the Cubs manager of government and neighborhood relations.
A screened fence has been erected around the lot, according to the alderman, and the Cubs have hired off-duty police officers during the first homestand to monitor behavior. Pawar has worked with the 19th District Police to provide additional police presence around the lot.
Additional security cameras have been positioned around the lot and the Cubs are working with the city to limit access to side streets off Western Avenue and Irving Park Road to residents only.
"The Cubs and the mayor should have picked up the phone a year and a half ago," Pawar said. "All this could have been addressed if they had extended our office and our community some courtesy."
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.