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University of Chicago OK to Build 13-Story Vue53 Project, Judge Says

By Sam Cholke | February 4, 2014 8:29am
 A Cook County judge on Jan. 27 dismissed a lawsuit by residents objecting to the University of Chicago's plans for a 13-story tower on 53rd Street.
A Cook County judge on Jan. 27 dismissed a lawsuit by residents objecting to the University of Chicago's plans for a 13-story tower on 53rd Street.
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Mesa Development

HYDE PARK — A Cook County judge has tossed out a lawsuit filed by Hyde Parkers trying to stop construction of a 13-story retail and apartment complex on 53rd Street.

“It was a technicality,” said Michael Scott, one of the plaintiffs in the suit trying to stop the Vue53 project.

Judge Kathleen Pantle decided on Jan. 27 to reject the suit before arguments began because neighbors were not properly notified that the suit was filed.

“The point of the notice requirement is to give notice to property owners who are potentially interested in the lawsuit of its existence,” Pantle said in her 12-page decision.

Scott and others in the Save 53rd Street group contend the 135-foot-high development at 1330 E. 53rd Street was too big for a stretch of Hyde Park that was mostly two- and three-story buildings.

The group sued the city in September, arguing the city acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” way when it approved the zoning for project.

Pantle says in her decision that the company Save 53rd Street hired to give notice to all property owners within 250 feet of the proposed development skipped over two buildings and the case cannot proceed, regardless of its merits.

Pantle's decision sided with arguments made by lawyers hired by the University of Chicago to defend against the suit.

“The University of Chicago owns the property that Vue53 is set to be built on, and the zoning change came after years of discussion about development along 53rd Street as well as public meetings last year where many local residents provided input into the project and voiced their support for it,” said Calmetta Coleman, a spokeswoman for the university.

“We look forward to seeing construction begin on the project and seeing it bring new options for rental housing and new retailers to Hyde Park.”

The tanks from the former gas station at the site were removed earlier this year, but demolition and construction was halted after the suit was filed.

Chicago-based Mesa Development is developing Vue53 for the university. A company representative was unavailable Monday to comment on the ruling.

Scott said Save 53rd Street planned to appeal the ruling.

“I think the right thing for the university to do is to build the right building, and that would mean listening to people,” Scott said.

Scott said he thought the university had used a general desire among Hyde Parkers for more density in the neighborhood to justify a project where high density would not be appropriate.

He said the initial defeat could prove advantageous to the group, allowing more time to raise money and could possibly extend the debate into the next aldermanic race.