SOUTH CHICAGO — The developer of the old U.S. Steel South Works property threw the land into the mix of possible sites for President Barack Obama's library Tuesday, offering land to the University of Chicago to build the library.
Dan McCaffery, CEO and chairman of McCaffery Interests, told about 100 residents of the 7th and 10th wards gathered for a community meeting that it was time for the Lakeside development to be considered as a site for the library because of the community's connection to the 44th president.
"This is the community that first put President Obama on the political spectrum," McCaffery said to the group gathered at Grace Apostolic Faith Church at 8233 S. Exchange Ave.
"President Obama, if you put your library here people will rally to it," McCaffery said, offering at least 32 acres, the average size of a presidential library, to the University of Chicago to build the library.
He upped his ante later, saying he'd give 50 acres on the northeastern-most part of the property, which would feature the most sweeping view of the skyline. He also said the development should be considered as a location for the George Lucas Museum.
The company has talked to more than "a million square feet of retail tenants" interested in buying space for a shopping center on the property, McCaffery said, mentioning Target as one interested party.
"Housing wise we've brought a number of housing developers down here. They've all been told they have a 20 percent requirement on affordable housing, so that we try to address the needs of the community first," McCaffery said, assuring residents that 35 percent of the first phase of homes filled would be affordable housing.
After the meeting, some residents felt their concerns were still unheard.
Marion Brown moved to the South Shore neighborhood because of the proximity to the lakefront, but work preparing the U.S. Steel site for development has blocked her path to the shore without building the walking bridge she was promised.
"You live down here because you want to be by the lake and all of a sudden people of Lakeside have a higher priority," Brown said.
She asked Ald. Natashia Holmes (7th) about restoring access to the lake from the path near the home during the meeting, which is now blocked by a large fence.
Holmes apologized to residents for what she called a breakdown in communication since she filled the seat of former Ald. Sandi Jackson last year and explained that over the course of construction of the southern extension of Lake Shore Drive details of the Lakeside project changed.
"I've tried to bring those neighbors in, I've brought the developers in, I've brought [the Chicago Department of Transportation] in, I've brought IDOT in to try and make some concessions and that's a part of the process there has to be some compromise," Holmes said. "There's still access to the park, they're just at different corners."
After the meeting, Brown was far from satisfied, saying Holmes danced around residents' questions and refused to allow an open dialog between developers and residents about the Lakeside project.
"I think they didn't really answer much of anything. We don't get any definitive information until construction starts then it's too late," Brown said. "I know they're getting public money and there's no public input until it's too late."
Anitta Bright, 65 of South Shore agreed with Brown, saying most of the information was "glossed over" and questions were only skimmed over in the meeting.
"I feel totally left out as usual. They left us out of everything. The alderman said she had three meetings with us and that's all she is going to do for us," Bright said. "This is what they've been doing all along. Then when they build it it's too late."
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