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Pritzker Parking Garage Proposal OK'd by Alderman's Advisory Board

By Benjamin Woodard | March 18, 2013 5:32pm | Updated on March 18, 2013 6:55pm

ROGERS PARK — A controversial proposal to replace a Buddhist meditation center with a parking garage inched closer to getting the OK by the alderman last week.

But some community members still aren't keen on a four-story, 250-car garage popping up on Sheridan Road.

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said his advisory board on land use and zoning issues voted nearly unanimously to recommend him and other City Council members allow Tawani Enterprises, which manages Col. James Pritzker's real estate holdings, to build the structure.

The plan would require a zoning change and consideration under the Lakefront Protection Ordinance.

"Before I make a final decision, however, I'm continuing to receive community input," Moore said, and he plans to meet with tenants at the Levy House at 1221 W. Sherwin Ave., which is managed by the Council of Jewish Elderly.

"I hope to make a final decision in the next week or so," Moore said.

He said the original proposal was scaled back to allow a few more feet between Sheridan Road and the edge of the building.

Since the proposal for the garage was first revealed by DNAinfo.com Chicago in early January, neighbors have begun to organize, dubbing the structure the "Lakefront Car Tower."

An online petition in opposition of the garage has garnered 171 signatures.

The senior home would abut the parking garage, and tenants walking to and from their apartments would have to walk past the entry and exit to the garage.

"Somebody is going to get killed," said a one-year tenant of the home who wished to keep his identity secret for fear that he'd be evicted. "It’s the worst location possible."

The man, who said he was being treated for cancer and had lived in the home for about a year, said he was concerned his neighbors who use canes and walkers would be struck by the additional traffic on Sherwin Avenue if the garage were built.

He added: "It just sucks."

Linda Kaplan, the director of housing for the council, said she had met with Tawani to discuss residents' concerns, including traffic and construction noise.

She said the council was "not at that stage" to formally support or oppose the project.

Under the proposal, the garage would take nine months to erect.

Mark Lavender, the project manager hired by Tawani, said he had explored options to reduce the depth, height and width of the parking garage, but all proved to render the project unfeasible, except for the reduction in the setback facing Sheridan Road.

Many others expressed stiff criticism at a public meeting held shortly after news broke about the proposal.

That included Susan Olin, a 20-year resident of Chase Avenue and Sheridan Road. The active member of the Rogers Park historical society said Sheridan Road was intended to be a "grand lakefront boulevard" 

"There is no other walkable, low-rise, historic lakefront like Rogers Park in any other city in the world that I am aware of," she said in an emailed statement, and the parking structure "could be the tipping point" to allow even more development.

"We should preserve and cherish our lakefront space and this unique lakefront promenade, not throw it away," she said.

Jakob Schneider, who lives nearby and has organized much of the online opposition to the proposal, said he often walks and bikes with his daughter past the site.

"We’re improving all these transit facilities and then we’re going to encourage more car use?" he said of the proposal. "It just seems foolish and contradictory."