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Montessori School Eyes Noble Square Lot, Alderman Pushes Zoning Change

By Alisa Hauser | October 16, 2015 12:02pm | Updated on October 19, 2015 8:21am
 A 26,292 square-foot site that Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) would like to turn into a parks and open space district, according to an ordinance introduced on Sept. 24.
A 26,292 square-foot site that Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) would like to turn into a parks and open space district, according to an ordinance introduced on Sept. 24.
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CBRE/1217 N. Bosworth Brochure

NOBLE SQUARE — Near North Montessori School is reportedly eyeing a large city-owned lot on Bosworth Avenue for parking and a garden, while a local alderman has requested a zoning change that would support the private school's plans and block commercial or residential development of the site.

Amid complaints from some neighbors that they are growing weary of large-scale, transit-oriented developments that offer high density and little to no parking, Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) has introduced an ordinance that would change the zoning from a B-1 neighborhood shopping designation to a Parks and Open Space District classification.

The land, at 1217 N. Bosworth Ave., is behind architect Jeanne Gang's new headquarters and across from Near North Montessori. The 26,292 square-foot parcel is currently a parking lot.

Hopkins said on Friday that the zoning change request was prompted by a desire to preserve open land in the 2nd Ward.

"I can safely say that the community would prefer more open space than another residential development; that's the preliminary input from the neighborhood,” Hopkins said, describing the zoning change as a way to put "a placeholder" on the land until further input and a community meeting can occur.

Meanwhile, a brochure from the real estate firm CBRE Group Inc. pitches the land, at over an acre, as perfect for residential development and near transit-friendly hubs such as three CTA bus lines and the CTA Division Blue Line station.

"Redevelopment in the neighborhood has generally taken the form of small infill projects. The existence of a larger site such as 1217 North Bosworth, at over a half an acre, constitutes a rare opportunity for a project of significant scale," the brochure touts.

Real estate agents from CBRE, who put the property on the market about two months ago, did not return requests for comment on Thursday.

Neighborhood sources indicated that Near North Montessori School is planning to buy the land and to offer a garden there as well as additional parking for their school.

Audrey Parrott, Near North Montessori principal, confirmed on Friday that the school plans to buy the city-owned lot. 

"Near North Montessori has been an active participant in our community for more than 50 years. Like so many of our neighbors, we do not want overdevelopment, especially so close to our doors. We would like the opportunity to purchase the lot to preserve open space," Parrott said.

Hopkins said that from the description he has received on Near North Montessori's plans, he would support the project, but would "need more details.”

While a spokeswoman for Ald. Danny Solis (25th), who heads up the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards said the zoning change is scheduled to be discussed on Nov. 17, Hopkins said on Friday that he is "quite certain we will not be ready on the 17th." 

"I entered [the request] in but did not want to place it on the agenda yet. It's still in early stages, still very preliminary and we have not had a community meeting yet. We need more time," Hopkins said.

Susan Dinko, a local real estate broker who had been researching the land for a client who was interested in building a residential development there, said she stumbled across the ordinance while researching the site. Dinko questioned Hopkins' decision to turn the land into park space.

"Why would the city not sell some of the properties that they own, considering the city is greatly in debt?" asked Dinko.

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