LINCOLN PARK — Barring the unlikely event of a roadblock in the City Council, the redevelopment of the old Children's Memorial Hospital in Lincoln Park could begin as early as this fall with demolition that could take months.
Noise and traffic are inevitable in a project that will tear down many of the buildings on the old hospital complex and refill the six-acre site with residential towers and retail.
But the developer and alderman say they are taking steps to minimize the negative impact the project will have on the neighborhood over the approximately three years of anticipated demolition and construction.
“We are going to be keeping a very, very tight reign on this project,” said Ald. Michele Smith (43rd.)
The tearing down and removal of the bricks, steel and concrete of Children's, which closed in 2012, and preparation of the land to begin construction would take between six and nine months, according to Dan McCaffery, president of McCaffery Interests.
If all goes according to plan, the entire project would be complete and ready for residents to move in three-and-a-half to four years, McCaffery said.
Smith and McCaffery have been working on a community agreement, which has not yet been fully revealed, that sets strict guidelines on demolition and construction practices. The agreement will also create a community liaison committee comprised of representatives from various neighborhood groups.
Some of the requirements that the developer has agreed to include limiting construction hours to between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., vibration monitoring, keeping a clean and debris-free site and adhering to rat prevention measures that Smith laid out, McCaffery said.
Smith brought the rat prevention measure before the City Council on Jan. 15. While Smith's proposed amendment to the city-wide construction ordinance hasn’t been voted on, McCaffery has agreed to the measures.
The rat-control effort includes placing bait boxes around the perimeter of the site for the duration of the project and separating food waste from other debris. Current code only requires builders to bait the interior of a building for rats before demolition, but most of the animals are under the site and run out after the buildings are torn down, Smith said.
“Rats are an issue whenever there is excavation at any site, whether it’s a single family home or this site,” she said.
Construction of the $350 million redevelopment, which will add two high rises and more than 100,000 square feet of retail, would take about 30 months following demolition, the developers estimate. Some 2,500 construction jobs are expected to be created by the project, officials say.
The next step for Smith and McCaffery is to bring the proposal before the City Council Zoning Committee on March 24 and, if approved as expected, the full City Council in the spring.
The project finally won approval Feb. 13 from the city's Plan Commission, which unanimously supported the plan after some four hours of testimony from neighbors.
Smith brought the proposal before the city's Plan Commission earlier this month with the hope the development will reinvigorate the neighborhood.
The project has been a hot topic in the neighborhood over the past 2 1/2 years as the site near the intersection of Halsted and Fullerton avenues has sat vacant.
An attorney representing McCaffery presented the Plan Commission with 3,200 signatures in support of the proposal and 177 individual letters. Of those signatures, 46 percent of the people live within four blocks of the site and 90 percent live within eight blocks of the site, he said.
"We were asked to restore the economic vitality at this site and we believe we will," said architect Joe Antunovich.
Smith and McCaffery's proposal includes two 21-story high-rise apartment buildings for a total of 540 apartments. The rest of the project includes a condominium with between 40 and 60 units and a 156-room senior living center.The project will include more than 57,000 square feet of open space for the public spread over a central plaza and two garden areas. The total retail space will be 105,000 square feet.
Those in favor argued that the project would fill the void left by the hospital, its employees and its thousands of daily visitors.
Many of those who opposed the plan live within the immediate vicinity of the site and argued that the project would worsen traffic issues, set a precedent for high-rises in the neighborhood and change the character of the historic residential area.
Of the neighborhood groups in Lincoln Park, the two nearest to the project, Mid-North Association and the Park West Community Association, released statements in strong opposition to the plan.
Multiple members of the Mid-North Association and resident of area closest to the hospital have threatened to file a lawsuit if the plan moves forward.