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Pritzker's Proposed Parking Garage Would be Built a Foot From Larry Fox's

By Benjamin Woodard | September 25, 2013 11:42am
 Larry Fox said he wouldn't sell his two-car garage to billionaire developer Jennifer Pritzker, and now he fears he could be boxed in.
Larry Fox's Garage
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ROGERS PARK — On Sheridan Road, it's a tale of two garages: One holds two cars and a family's bicycles.

The other would pack in 250 cars and be built just a foot away by billionaire developer Jennifer Pritzker.

Larry Fox's little garage sits on a triangular lot tucked away behind the Shambhala Meditation Center at 7331 N. Sheridan Road.

In 1997, Fox sold the home to Shambhala, but kept the garage, which abuts the property in the rear alley connected to Sherwin Avenue.

He has used it ever since for storage and to park his cars.

But now, he's resisting Pritzker's proposal to build her four-story parking structure a foot away from his garage, boxing in the east and south sides of his property.

 Col. Jennifer 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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"I’m fighting against the rich and powerful here," Fox said.

He and a dozen other neighbors who oppose the project traveled to City Hall Friday to protest Pritzker's request to reduce a rear-yard setback from 2.7 feet to 1 foot.

It didn't work.

The Zoning Board of Appeals voted 3-1 to approve the zoning variance. Chairman Jonathan Swain voted against it.

With just a foot of space between the buildings, Fox said he wouldn't be able to maintain his property.

Something as simple as painting the outside of his garage would be cumbersome, he said.

"I'm very disappointed that they didn’t leave me space — breathing room to operate," he said. "For them to build all the way up to property lines isn’t really acceptable."

Fox, 57, moved to the neighborhood in 1980 and now lives on Sherwin Avenue.

He said Pritzker's development team, Tawani Enterprises, offered to buy his lot, but it wasn't for sale.

Andrew Scott, who represents Tawani on zoning and land-use issues, said Fox turned down above-market offers. He also said Fox's garage actually isn't permitted under city ordinance.

Scott said an accessory-use building, like a two-car garage, needs to be tied to a principal structure.

Before Fox cut up the lot, his garage was tied to the house occupied by Shambhala, and now it stands alone.

"Basically, it’s an illegal structure," Scott said.

He said Tawani also offered to relocate Fox's belongings during construction, and to do some maintenance on the building.

"We would do everything on our nickel," he said. "We’ve really gone out of our way to accommodate him."

Fox said he had been unaware of any zoning problems.

Nonetheless, he said, the garage is a pre-existing structure.

"No problems were brought on by the garage," he said. "The garage has always been there."

Now that the Zoning Board of Appeals had adjusted the setbacks, the proposal only needs to get the nod from the city's Plan Commission, which has jurisdiction because of the project's proximity to the lakefront.

Resident Don Gordon said he and other opponents plan to testify before the commission when it takes up the case, which could be in October.

"It isn’t over 'til it’s over," Gordon said.

The group continues to criticize Ald. Joe Moore (49th) for supporting the project. They said one community meeting on the subject earlier this year wasn't enough.

"I’m shocked by the lack of community voice," said Margaret Meiser, an 18-year neighborhood resident. "This was completely under the radar."