RIVER WEST — A lot has changed about the development proposal for 150 N. Riverside Place since renderings were first circulated earlier this month.
Plans to use TIF funding were scrapped, the number of parking spaces was reduced to 81, and developer John O'Donnell has vowed to dedicate 75 percent of the site's footprint to public greenspace.
But Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) told an audience of more than 100 community members at Hotel Allegro Wednesday that the proposed single 53-story tower is far from final, saying that, as with the recently approved Wolf Point development, he anticipates "lots of neighborhood drama."
O'Donnell and architect Jim Goettsch tried to pre-empt community concerns at their first public presentation of the plan Wednesday, highlighting the site's public park space, distance from the adjacent 165 N. Canal St. tower, and a high-concept facade modeled after "undulating fins" to reduce the mostly-glass tower's reflectivity to 15 to 25 percent.
O'Donnell told the crowd he pursued the two-acre site for more than a decade. The area, bounded by Randolph Street, Randolph Place, Lake Street and the Chicago River, is the only undeveloped property on the riverfront in the central business district.
"Something big will be built here eventually," Reilly told residents.
"By no means am I endorsing this project," the alderman said, adding, "I think this has come a long way."
Reilly's predecessor, former Ald. Burt Natarus, approved an initial Planned Unit Development that called for a more expansive design: "two towers positioned incredibly close with a substantial parking base," O'Donnell's attorney Jack George said at Wednesday's meeting.
O'Donnell's team must advance a new planned development through the City Council before this plan can take root, a requirement for riverfront developments, George said. Still, residents were already raising objections to the preliminary draft presented at the meeting.
A video on a study that looked at the shadow the building would create was played at the request of 165 N. Canal St. residents, who worried that their access to sunlight would be limited. The study suggested the building would only shade the adjacent tower from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
"I think that this building would merit significant consideration as far as earthquake planning," 165 N. Canal St. resident John Middleton said, pointing to the rendering's diminutive footprint.
Community members decried the public park space at the neighboring Boeing International Headquarters, which nearby residents like Jodi Joyce say they often find closed to the public.
O'Donnell said the park at the proposed building would be accessible from sunrise to sunset, and the riverwalk would always be accessible.
"This is to function like park district property," Reilly said. "From sunup to sundown, seven days a week."
Concerns were also raised by several in attendance, including Annette Prince, director of Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, about the migratory pathways of birds and whether the tower's exterior texture would be safer or more dangerous for them.
O'Donnell said they "honestly hadn't considered" that issue, but would look into it.
Highlights emphasized by the development team include the one-acre public park and half-acre promenade and riverwalk with 24/7 private security, and 1.2 million square feet of rentable office space.
Noting the current exposed Metra tracks, O'Donnell said, "We believe strongly that the park is a much better view than the train was." The development team will soon launch 150RiverNorthPlaza.com to host updates for the community, he said.
"I don't want anyone to walk away from the meeting thinking ... 'here it is, we're done,'" Reilly said. "Believe me, I'm not discounting the fact that that is city property in the middle."