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Pritzker Parking Garage: Neighbors Attempt to Derail Plan at City Hall

By Benjamin Woodard | September 21, 2013 8:44am
 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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CITY HALL — Neighbors pleaded with the Zoning Board of Appeals Friday in what will be one of their last chances to derail Jennifer Pritzker's plan to knock down a single-family home and build a 250-car parking garage.

"The traffic is dangerous anyway right now," said resident Eve Brownstone to the four-member board. "The setback is not safe. This project does not bring safety or respect to [the neighborhood]."

Representatives of Tawani Enterprises, which manages Pritzker's real estate holdings, asked the board to grant two zoning variances at 7331 N. Sheridan Road that would reduce the rear and front setbacks to 1 foot.

The garage would provide parking for Tawani's other developments in the area, like the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Emil Bach House and Farcroft apartments. Some spaces would be reserved for community use.

Tawani already gained Ald. Joe Moore's support. Mike Land, a staff assistant to the 49th Ward alderman attended the hearing.

If the board grants the zoning changes, Tawani's last stop would be to gain approval from the city's Plan Commission, which has jurisdiction because of the project's proximity to the lakefront.

But a fired-up group of neighbors who say the garage would be a danger to seniors and a burden on Sheridan Road are trying to throw a wrench in Pritzker's parking plan.

Sunday last week the same group marched up and down Sheridan Road in protest.

"This structure is too big for this lot," testified Susan Olin, a resident who lives nearby the proposed structure.

Larry Fox owns a two-car garage directly behind the proposed structure. He testified that his garage would be walled in if the proposed structure was only set back 1 foot from his property.

"It gives me no breathing room," said the 30-year resident of Sherwin Avenue. "I have no way to get in and maintain my garage."

Board chairman Jonathan Swain, after hearing testimony, grilled the Tawani team about whether the smaller setback was even necessary to build a financially stable parking garage in Rogers Park.

Tawani attorney Andrew Scott said they could lose 50 of the 250 spots if the setback wasn't granted and they had to redesign the garage.

The financial loss, he said, would be "significant."

Moore said the board would likely issue a decision in writing within a month of the hearing.

"I'm always cautiously optimistic," said Sean McGowan, Tawani's chief operating officer, when asked about how confident he felt the board would grant the request.