LAKEVIEW — Mark Thomas, a local businessman and candidate for 44th ward alderman, launched a survey last week soliciting resident opinions on a planned 11-story building at Belmont and Clark — hoping to hear more feedback on a project he personally considers a "monster" and "travesty."
The project has been presented to several neighborhood groups in the area already, but Thomas said a survey is needed because a wider swath of residents has yet to be heard.
Though Thomas thinks neighborhood groups do a "phenomenal job," the same 20-30 people tend to show up and make decisions for the whole community, he said.
"It doesn’t mean the other people who live in this community don’t care," he said.
It's the first survey he's starting in hopes of prompting residents to consider what they want the neighborhood to look like, a project he's dubbed "Lakeview Future Vision."
The survey asks questions such as "Were you aware of the meetings about the proposed 11-story building, when and where they were presented?" and "How congested is the traffic on Belmont Avenue, Clark Street, and Halsted Street?"
It also points to the fact that if BlitzLake Capital's project is approved, developers will likely have more leeway to raise heights on future buildings as well, including potential buyers of Ald. Tom Tunney's (44th) buildings on Belmont.
Thomas sent it to an email list of about 28,000 ward residents and plans to present the findings in front of the city before zoning changes are approved.
The local businessman is best known for owning counterculture store The Alley, 3228 N. Clark St. Several of his other businesses, including Taboo Tabou and Blue Havana, are in buildings that will be torn down for the Belmont and Clark development, and he recently consolidated them into The Alley store.
One of his campaign goals is to use social media and the Internet for community engagement beyond neighborhood groups.
The candidate said the difference is proof that neighborhood groups could be engaging more people on topics such as crime or developments but are not.
"I don’t think this is OK anymore," he said. "I think there is a way to reach out to people, but I don’t feel any of these groups are reaching out."
Tunney uses the groups as tools to measure resident feedback, taking their votes into consideration for everything from zoning changes to liquor licenses.
A staffer at Tunney's office said nobody was available to comment on this story or the Belmont-Clark project. Previously, Tunney's director of community outreach Erin Duffy has said that neighborhood reception to the project has largely been positive.
Tunney has also said that taller projects can work "as long as there is some homage to neighborhood buildings," and potential congestion could be mitigated with left turn arrows at Clark.
Thomas said he's most concerned about traffic in the area if the project gets developed. Semi-trucks loading and unloading in a potential grocery store would "clog up the corner," particularly during game days and summer festivals such as the Pride Parade, he said.
"The corner of Belmont-Clark is going to be screwed up," Thomas said.