Education and building height main concerns in CMH redevelopment
Published: Sunday, July 29, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
A Lincoln Park town hall meeting took place July 26 to discuss the redevelopment plan for the area where Children’s Memorial Hospital stood. In accordance with the wishes of Ald. Michele Smith (43rd Ward), the meeting gave Lincoln Park residents a platform to voice their concerns about the plan.
The area in question is bounded by Fullerton and Lincoln Avenues and Orchard Street, and includes the parking garage on Lincoln and the White Elephant resale store at Lincoln and Halsted. For a relatively small area, it has become a big talking point among Lincoln Park residents.
“We’re all anxious right now about this new development and what we think of it and whether it will be a good thing for our community or not,” Smith said at the beginning of the meeting. This was the third town hall meeting to discuss the redevelopment plan and the 42nd meeting among the development team and neighborhood community groups.
The area developer Dan McCaffery, of McCaffery Interests, answered residents’ questions and heard their concerns at the meeting. McCaffery’s plan, which was revised after the last town hall meeting in December to incorporate residents’ feedback, calls for construction of two 22-story residential towers, a plaza and several retail stores or restaurants.
The main concerns raised at the town hall meeting were the towers’ impact on education and the personality of Lincoln Park. The principals from neighborhood schools Abraham Lincoln Elementary and Louisa May Alcott School spoke about overcrowding.
Mark Armendariz, the principal of Lincoln Elementary, said the capacity for his school was 680 students, and there are already 800 students there now. To Armendariz, more residential space only means more students to try to accommodate. Elias Estrada, the principal at Alcott, expressed a similar concern that the city would try to put Lincoln’s extra students in his already overcrowded school.
The other main concern involved the aesthetics of the residential towers. The height of the buildings would far exceed the height of surrounding 3-4 story buildings. One of the developer’s goals was to make the area fit in with the rest of Lincoln Park, but most residents at the meeting did not believe he would achieve this goal with this plan.
“Honestly, there is no thing up there that fits in the context of the existing neighborhood,” said Jay Case of the 2400 block of Burling, citing one of the developer’s goals.
Coming to the defense of the plan were two Lincoln Park residents who give architectural tours on the Chicago River. Butler Adams, who has given tours for over a decade, thought the architecture of the towers could be more creative, but he supported the height of the towers.
Another architecture tour guide praised the plan for being environmentally and economically sustainable. He said the area would need the towers to accommodate the number of residents needed to generate as much money for the community as Children’s Memorial did.
Although McCaffery is envisioning retail and restaurants in addition to the towers, definite plans have not been made as to what stores or restaurants would occupy the area. McCaffery is looking for a “lovely grocer” next to the plaza in the center, surrounded by “good, strong restaurants” with outdoor patio seating.
McCaffery also mentioned a possible memorial garden in a small space off Fullerton Avenue. Many of the peripheral buildings at the hospital site will remain standing, some with renovations. The parking garage on Lincoln will also remain to accommodate future shoppers to the area.
As to whether or not DePaul University will use any of the new space, McCaffery says it’s not likely. One resident asked if the towers would become a quasi-dorm for DePaul. “No, not a chance,” McCaffery said. “We would lose so many top-end people.” The developer did say he would support a small store selling DePaul merchandise, however.
With the meeting lasting well over two hours, McCaffery gave every resident who wanted to say something a chance to speak, promising to do what he can to address their concerns before construction begins. Acting as somewhat of a mediator between concerned residents and the developer, Smith expressed her commitment to stand behind her constituents as well as take advantage of the opportunities the redevelopment could provide for Lincoln Park.
“My goal at the end of the day,” Smith said, “is that this redevelopment of Children’s Memorial will result in an award-winning urban plan that will create a new neighborhood cross roads for Lincoln park, that will embrace everything that we love about our neighborhood and bring to it something new and exciting that will enhance our neighborhood.”