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Pritzker Parking Garage: Developers Await Alderman's Decision

 Col. James Pritzker wants to build a four-story parking garage where a Buddhist meditation center now sits.
Parking facility to replace Buddhist meditation center
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ROGERS PARK — Awaiting the alderman's decision on whether to support a zoning change, Col. James Pritzker's development team has tweaked its proposal to build a four-story parking garage on Sheridan Road.

The changes were made in hopes of easing community concerns that the structure would alter the neighborhood's character and endanger the well-being of seniors living directly behind the site.

"Since the [public] meeting back in January, we have worked closely with the alderman to alleviate some of the concerns," said Mark Lavender, hired as the project's manager by Pritzker's Tawani Enterprises. "We try to be as accommodating to the neighborhood as possible."

Since the meeting, hosted by Ald. Joe Moore (49th), Lavender said his team had met with residents and representatives of the Levy House, a senior home at 1221 W. Sherwin Ave., and agreed to add a buzzer, a flashing light and a motion-activated barricade to the entrance and exit of the 250-car garage on Sherwin Avenue.

Lavender said his team had also agreed to add masonry to the east side of the building, which faces the senior home. The setback facing Sheridan Road has also been increased a couple of feet on the first level, while the upper levels remain the same.

Lavender said he had explored options to reduce the depth, height and width of the parking garage, but they all proved to render the project unfeasible.

"I would say many of my concerns were addressed," said Linda Kaplan, the director of housing for the Council of Jewish Elderly, which manages the Levy House. "Many of them were resolved — not every one."

Kaplan wouldn't elaborate on which concerns remained, but said the council "had some very serious concerns" about the proposed development that Tawani said would take nine months to build.

In March, the alderman's advisory board on zoning and land use issues voted unanimously to recommend that he and other City Council members OK the zoning change.

At the same time, community members dubbed the proposed structure the "Lakefront Car Tower" and started an online petition to persuade Moore to oppose it. So far, it's garnered more than 300 signatures.

Moore said he wasn't ready to make a decision and was still in talks with the development team.

"They have been very amenable to changes suggested by nearby residents, the city and me," he added.

Lavender said he and his team were in a "holding pattern," and awaited the alderman's decision.

If the project is rejected, he said, Tawani would move to sell the property that was bought from the Shambhala Meditation Center for $1.7 million.

He said there were no other plans to build another parking structure in the neighborhood.

Under the current proposal, 60 of the parking spaces would be reserved for residents of Farcroft by the Lake, a 12-story building being rehabbed by Tawani two blocks north, and for visitors of the Emil Bach House, another Pritzker-owned building nearby that is being restored.

The remaining spaces — and any reserved spaces that are not being used — would be available to the public for hourly and monthly parking. Neighborhood residents would pay $150 a month for one space, while Farcroft residents would pay $135.

Hourly parking would be available to the public for $2 an hour and $8 a day.

Gita Mirchandani, a Tawani spokeswoman, said Pritzker had invested heavily in restoration projects throughout Rogers Park, like the Mayne Stage, Emil Bach House and Farcroft by the Lake.

"We feel that the design is an elegant solution and fits the diverse and eclectic character of the  neighborhood," Mirchandani said.