ROGERS PARK — It's not every day that you see a 100-foot-plus tall construction crane looming at the edge of the neighborhood's lakefront, where most buildings were built more than a century ago, said resident Ken Takaki.
The 64-year-old sat on a bus-stop bench as a crane operator, more than 100 feet up, swung the crane's arm and hook over the intersection of Sheridan Road and Sherwin Avenue Monday.
"All the rest of the buildings went up years and years ago," Takaki said, smoking a cigar as he took in the scene.
Construction began last month on Col. Jennifer Pritzker's controversial 250-car garage. Since then, residents say they've received quite the pounding as workers drove dozens of pilings deep into the earth to support the building.
"All day long you hear this construction," said David Watkins, 69, who has lived in a retirement home adjacent to the construction site for the past 10 years. "I'll tell you how bad it's been. The battery in my clock would pop out. That's how bad they would shake the building. It ain't been nothing but problems."
Watkins and other residents said they were concerned for their safety when the garage opens and brings more cars to the beach-end block. But Pritzker's representatives, and Ald. Joe Moore (49th), who OK'd the zoning changes needed for the building, say safety precautions — an entrance/exit buzzer, lighting and security cameras — would mitigate harm to residents.
But Watkins disagreed: "It's going to be chaotic," he said.
Brenda Byrth, 61, who works in the retirement home, also said the construction hasn't gone unnoticed.
"The whole building shook, the toilets, the people on their couches," she said. "I thought the building was going to fall down."
And now, with a lumbering crane overhead and workers setting the garage's foundation, the construction site is getting even more attention from passersby.
"Everybody stops and looks," she said.
A construction worker at the site said he didn't know the exact height of the crane, only that it reached about two stories above a neighboring eight-story building.
"That's tiny," said another worker, on a smoke break. "Go Downtown if you want to see some big ones."
Sean McGowan, chief operating officer of Tawani Enterprises, Pritzker's real estate holding company, said earlier this month at the Rogers Park Business Alliance's annual meeting that the garage should open next summer.
In a statement Monday, McGowan said, "Tawani strives to be respectful of our neighbors while being compliant to city construction and safety guidelines."
Resident Jon Sulik, who had just moved to the neighborhood and was walking east on Sherwin toward the lake, said the garage's construction didn't surprise him at all.
"It's a sign of the times," he said.
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