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Vue53 Work Set to Start After Appellate Court Rules Against Neighbors

By Sam Cholke | March 16, 2015 3:08pm | Updated on March 16, 2015 8:10pm
 Mesa Development is now clear to start construction on a 13-story building for 53rd Street after an appellate court decision Friday.
Mesa Development is now clear to start construction on a 13-story building for 53rd Street after an appellate court decision Friday.
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Mesa Development

HYDE PARK — An appellate court cleared the path last week for construction to start on the Vue53 high-rise.

Neighbors unhappy with the University of Chicago’s plan to build a 13-story high-rise at 1330 E. 53rd St. in the middle of a stretch of low-rise buildings had sued to stop construction.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court on Friday reaffirmed the Cook County Circuit Court’s ruling and found that the city, university and Mesa Development had complied with all legal requirements and the project could move forward.

"At this point, the project moves forward and I'm not planning on pouring sugar into any gas tanks," said Michael Scott, the lead plaintiff in suit.

He said there are no clear avenues to appeal and at this point he and the others who opposed the project will spend their time making sure the promises of affordable housing and jobs for locals are kept.

Scott and others opposed the project for being out of scale for the block and a community process that they felt did not meaningfully respond to residents' concerns.

"The lawsuit has done a great deal to make sure the university doesn't do this again," Scott said.

The University of Chicago-backed plan to have Mesa Development build 267 apartments and retail on the first floor is now a year behind schedule. Construction was originally slated to begin in 2014 with the 135-foot tower completed by the summer of 2015.

Curbed Chicago reported that notices recently went up at the site saying excavation will begin on March 26.

A representative from Mesa Development was not immediately available to answer questions about when the project would now be complete.

"The zoning change for Vue 53 came after years of discussion about development along 53rd Street, including public meetings where many local residents provided input into the project and voiced their support for it," said Calmetta Coleman, a spokeswoman for the university. "We look forward to the project bringing many benefits to Hyde Park and surrounding communities, including jobs and new options for rental housing and shopping."

The plans rankled many neighbors, who felt the building was too large and out of proportion with the rest of the block of one- to four-story buildings and sued the city to overturn a zoning change they felt was “arbitrary and capricious.”

In January 2014, Cook County Court Judge Kathleen Pantle tossed out the neighbors’ suit, saying at the time that the group had failed to properly notify all property owners within 250 feet of the project of the suit.

On Friday, a panel of three appellate court judges reaffirmed the lower court’s decision and declined to hear arguments about whether the zoning change was appropriate.

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