Children's Memorial Redevelopment Plans Receive Initial Go-Ahead

By Paul Biasco | February 3, 2014 7:13pm | Updated on February 4, 2014 7:14am
Childrens Memorial Development
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LINCOLN PARK — Final plans for the Children's Memorial Hospital redevelopment have been green-lighted and will be submitted to the city's Department of Planning and Development on Feb. 20.

The agreement, which 43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith called a compromise between developer Dan McCaffery and the neighborhood, calls for scaling back one of the buildings in the plan from 11 stories to five.

The rest of the proposal remains mostly unchanged from what was presented at a January public meeting.

"This may be the most complicated development issue that this ward has seen, ever," Smith said Monday night. "Through the process of hearing all the community input, we have been trying continuously to reach a compromise that serves the best interest as a whole."

 The latest proposal for the redevelopment of Children's Memorial Hospital by McCaffery Interests.
Children's Memorial Development
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The breakthrough in the process came during a Jan. 14 community meeting where McCaffery Interests and architects Brian Lee of Skidmore Owings and Merrill and Joe Antunovich unveiled a scaled-back proposal for the former hospital site.

The majority of the 500-some attendees at that meeting appeared to support the plan, but those who opposed it still had concerns over building height, density and increased traffic in the neighborhood.

Smith called the mostly positive response from residents at that meeting a "mandate" to move the project forward.

The new plan calls for two main buildings, both 19-story apartment towers.

A third, 11-story apartment building had been proposed with about 100 units, but was rejected. In its place will be a five-story fitness club, Smith said.

The site will include 760 residential units, down from 996.

An earlier proposal in 2012 included a 27-story tower, a 24-story building and a 14-story building.

Smith said the compromise plan was worked out last weekend after 2½ years of meetings and community discussion.

"Our goal all along was to create a new neighborhood crossroads that preserved the best of what we have had in the past and moves us forward," Smith said.

Other minor changes to the plan include excavating an existing tunnel under Fullerton Avenue to connect the Nellie Black building's loading area on the north side of Fullerton with the main loading docks under the apartment buildings south of Fullerton.

Trucks were originally set to access the building on Orchard Street and through alleys.

McCaffery also has agreed to secure at least 20 percent of the 105,000 square feet of retail for local retailers.

To ease parking concerns raised by neighborhood residents, 35 of the site's 850 parking spaces in the main building will be reserved for teachers and faculty of nearby Lincoln Elementary school during the week and for St. Paul's Church on weekends.

There are 1,044 parking spaces planned for the development.

The alderman proposed expanded permit parking on Orchard and Halsted streets.

Tenants and owners of the new development will not be eligible for residential parking permits or guest parking passes.

"A development of this significance affects a large range of people in Lincoln Park," Smith said. "We are doing our best to mitigate the impact of those who live right next to it."

The developer also has agreed to pay for transportation improvements at the Lincoln Avenue, Halsted Street and Fullerton Avenue intersection, including new turning lanes, separate bike lanes and a traffic signal at Orchard Street and Fullerton Avenue.

The news of the agreement came a day before the Mid-North Association, another neighborhood group, scheduled a meeting to discuss the development.

"I feel like we are getting Michele's [Smith] decision and the developer's decision jammed down the neighborhood's throat," said Melissa Macek, treasurer of Mid-North and a 25-year resident of the neighborhood.

The neighborhood association had come out strongly against the height and density of the development during the January meeting.

Mid-North, the neighborhood group representing the area nearest the development site, was one of the few neighborhood groups opposing the plan.

Macek said allowing 19-story buildings "has the potential to set a precedent that will change the character of Lincoln Park forever."

The former hospital closed in June 2012, and the 6-acre site has remained vacant behind chain-link fences ever since. Several businesses in the surrounding area have closed and others are struggling to get by.

While in business, Children's Memorial Hospital had about 4,100 people on its campus every day, according to a consultant's analysis.

Many of those were hospital visitors who frequented the restaurants and shops along streets such as Clark Street and Lincoln Avenue.

The redevelopment process had been held up for more than a year by Smith, who insisted the overcrowding situation at Lincoln Elementary school be solved before the Children's Memorial site plans moved forward.