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Children's Memorial Redevelopment Approved by Zoning Committee

By Paul Biasco | March 24, 2014 11:37am | Updated on March 24, 2014 2:00pm
 The city's zoning committee voted unanimously Monday morning to approve a plan to rezone the land at the Children's Memorial Hospital site.
Children's Memorial Final Plans
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CITY HALL — The city's zoning committee voted unanimously Monday to approve a plan to rezone the land at the Children's Memorial Hospital site in Lincoln Park.

The developer is seeking to transform the former six-acre hospital site into a mixed-use project with more than 700 housing units, and will next bring the plan before the full city council.

"This development will be a model, multi-generational and mixed-income community," said Ald. Michele Smith (43rd).

The $350 million project will be the first affordable housing built in the neighborhood in 35 years, Smith said.

"Children's had been the anchor in our community," she said. "We needed a new one."

The redevelopment of the hospital site has split much of the neighborhood over the past 2 1/2 years during a number of community-wide meetings.

There have been multiple versions of the plan ranging from a 2012 proposal that included a 27-story tower, a 19-story tower and a 14-story tower.

The current version, which was OK'd by the city's Plan Commission in February, includes two 21-story high-rise apartment buildings as well as a total of 105,000 square feet of retail space.

There will be a total of 540 apartments, between 40 and 60 condominiums and a 156-room senior living center at the development.

"The majority of the ward wants to accept this plan," Smith said during Monday's hearing.

Board members of the Sheffield Neighbors, Lincoln Central and the Wrightwood Neighbors gave testimony at Monday's hearing in support of the plan.

Unlike February's Plan Commission meeting, which lasted more than four hours while dozens of residents and business owners gave testimony for and against the plan, there were no speakers opposed to the proposal Monday.

"Our neighborhood desperately needs this project to revitalize Lincoln Avenue and the surrounding areas," said Kenneth Dotson, who lives two blocks from the former hospital site.

Smith called the development a "once-in-a-generation" opportunity that will create a new crossroad in the neighborhood, and other business owners agreed.

"I think this project is going to stem what I see now is an inner blight happening on the corridor of Lincoln Avenue," said Colin Cordwell, owner of the Red Lion pub. "This is an important part of the development of the new Lincoln Park."

Representatives of the neighborhood groups that opposed the plan, were visibly absent at Monday's meeting.

The Mid-North Association and Park West Community Association are two of the neighborhood groups nearest the site and had shown up to previous meetings and hearings with dozens of residents opposing the plan.

"People have jobs. People have kids to take care of. It's difficult to go to something when you know no matter what you say it's going to have no impact," said Josh Glazer, president of the Mid-North Association.

Glazer said the residents of the historic neighborhood he represents felt discouraged after the Plan Commission voted unanimously to approve the project without any discussion after the nearly four hours of public comment.

If the proposal passes the city council's full vote, as expected, the demolition of the hospital site would take between six to nine months, according to Dan McCaffery, president of developer McCaffery Interests.

The entire project would be complete in 3 1/2 to four years, he said.

Smith called the plan "the largest, most prominent and most complicated project that my ward has faced in decades," and said she is ready to move forward.