SOUTH LOOP — Hundreds attended a packed South Loop community meeting Thursday night to hear the latest on plans for the city's Motor Row District, including a possible DePaul basketball arena and an access road to Lake Shore Drive.
Tempers flared at the meeting, hosted by the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance.
One concern was the location the DePaul University basketball team reportedly is eyeing for its new arena. DePaul announced last year it intended to move its men's basketball team from suburban Allstate Arena back to the city.
The university reportedly is looking at the Prairie Blocks site, between Cermak Road and 21st Street, and Calumet and Indiana avenues. Some residents were not thrilled with the idea.
Tina Feldstein, president of the neighborhood alliance, said a survey of South Loop residents showed that about 70 percent of them do not approve of the site and think it will have a negative impact on the neighborhood.
"We are very pro-development," Feldstein said. "But we want sensible and respectful development."
Feldstein said residents have suggested alternative sites for the arena, such as the former site of Michael Reese Hospital.
In regards to a possible DePaul arena, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), who picked up the Motor Row District in the aldermanic remap, said she was receptive to the community's ideas.
"This is the first time I've heard of some alternative sites," Dowell said. "Some of them make sense."
The topic that sparked the most controversy was a proposed access road from Lake Shore Drive to the Prairie District, dubbed the Gateway Avenue Road.
The Central Station Development Corporation is considering building a road from Lake Shore Drive at East 18th Street to either South Prairie Avenue and East 15th Street or South Prairie Avenue and East 16th Street.
But residents overwhelmingly objected to the idea of a Gateway Avenue, saying the road would ruin the neighborhood.
James Hendricks, who lives near Mark Twain Park, said he decided to move to the Central Station development because it was quiet. He and others said if a Gateway Avenue were built, it would cause major congestion, especially during events like Chicago Bears games or the Lollapalooza music festival.
"It's a quiet neighborhood, and this will destroy it. It's just insane," Hendricks said.
Residents heard a number of other development proposals aimed at making Motor Row, in the words of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a "pedestrian-oriented entertainment district."
Those plans included a new Green Line station at East Cermak Road and South Michigan Avenue, which Chicago Department of Transportation officials said is expected to be completed by 2014. CDOT officials also shared plans for how $6 million in TIF funds would be spent to improve the Motor Row streetscape.
South Loop residents also heard about plans for "Cheap Trick," a 350-seat performance space in the 2200 block of South Michigan Avenue, as well as a "Cadillac Hotel" in the 2300 block of South Indiana Avenue. Developers said the six-story hotel would have a '30s and '40s gangster theme.
The development plans are not set in stone, but developers at the meeting said investments by the city, such as the new Green Line station, and the history of Motor Row as a music district make it an increasingly attractive sight for investment.
And residents like Feldstein said they are eager to see the plans become reality.
"We're ready for Motor Row to take off," she said.