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Pritzker Parking Garage: Aldermanic Approval Gets Mixed Reactions

By Benjamin Woodard | June 26, 2013 6:45am | Updated on June 26, 2013 9:00am
 Some residents say the alderman's decision to support the Pritzker parking garage proposal was influenced by developer's campaign contributions.
7331 N. Sheridan Road
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ROGERS PARK — Although Ald. Joe Moore (49th) has thrown his support behind a controversial proposal to erect a four-story parking garage on Sheridan Road, some neighbors say there's still hope to block the development.

"I feel like in no way is this a done deal. There is a lot more review to still happen," said Anita Loomis, who said she plans to distribute 500 flyers calling for the protection of the home at 7331 N. Sheridan Road, which would need to be demolished to make way for the 250-car garage.

The proposal still needs to be approved by the Chicago Plan Commission and the full City Council.

Loomis and others, however, hope the city would begin the process that would designate the old Sheridan Road mansion as a Chicago Landmark.

Before Moore published his 6,500-word statement about his decision Friday morning, the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business organization not related to the more-established Rogers Park Business Alliance, traveled Downtown to make its case before the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.

Even if that effort fails to work out for the neighbors, Loomis said she still doesn't "fully believe the majority of people in Rogers Park want this or support it."

Moore said, however, the reaction to his decision has been mixed.

"This is clearly an issue on which there were people lined up on both sides," he said, adding that it was one of the most contentious decisions he's made in his 23 years as an alderman. "I opted to make a decision to be in the best interest of the community."

But residents like Scott Phillips, who has been living in Rogers Park for about as long as Moore has been alderman, said the decision was a "travesty," though he wasn't surprised by it.

"Every indication was that this was a done deal from the time it started," he said, suggesting a deal had been cut early on between Moore and the developer, Tawani Enterprises, which manages the real estate holdings of billionaire Col. James Pritzker.

Phillips, 55, said he also suspected Pritzker's contributions to Moore's campaign fund influenced the decision.

Between 2011 and 2012, Pritzker's political organization donated $8,000 to Moore, according to state records.

"Unfortunately for me, I‘m not Michael Bloomberg; I cannot self-finance my own campaigns. Raising money is a necessary part of running for office," Moore responded. "There’s never any quid pro quo."

In addition, the alderman noted, Pritzker's political organization had donated at least $17,500 to Don Gordon, Moore's political opponent during the 2007 hotly contested aldermanic race.

"I guess I could say, 'No hard feelings,'" Moore quipped.

Dan Miller, a longtime resident of Rogers Park, said the garage would bring much-needed parking to the neighborhood, but would also bolster business to Pritzker's other developments, such as the nearby Emil Bach House, Cat's Cradle Bed and Breakfast and his 13-story vintage apartment building, Farcroft by the Lake.

"The people who live and patronize those facilities have to have better options," he said. "They need safe, secure, decent parking."

He said there were many others who shared his views.

"The wise and intelligent voters of Rogers Park will factor [Moore's decision] into their vote in the next election," he added.

Tawani's chief of staff, Mary Parthe, issued a statement that the alderman had adequately listened to the "thoughts and opinions" of the community since news of the proposal surfaced in January.

She also said a landmark designation of the building on the property wouldn't meet the needs of the neighborhood.

"We do feel the house represents an interesting earlier aspect of Sheridan Road history," she said, "but feel the need for parking in this area is of greater value to the community."