Vue 53: Mesa proposed Planned Development on 53rd Street at the Mobil station/former McDonald's Site ("McMobil"), and the 53rd Cornell project
Vue 53, 1330 E. 53rd St.

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Meetings and hearings-

Complaints about contractor/construction parking: Michael Foggie, 773 491-1980.

The Vue 53 has leasing underway (afforable units list is full). Retail will include a 21,000 sf Target.

There was intense discussion and opposition at the May 12, 2014 Civic Engagement Neighborhood Conversation- Hyde Park. There was a meeting in August 2013 by Civic Engagement on University relations with HP-K, in which strong comments were made against this project. The project was held up by year long lawsuit, which was dismissed on appeal on a technicality.

The lawsuit appeal of dismissal on technicality (addresses to bed notified) was denied in March 2015 by the Appellate Court. The development will go forward.

A lawsuit was filed against Vue53 (Lake Park Associates) by neighbors. In January 2013 Judge Kathleen Pantle dismissed the suit on basis of claim the notice of challenge to the specific Planned Development zoning ordinance was not sent to some addresses. The plaintifs assert they followed the law; decision was appealed in the First Jud. Distr. Appelate Court July 17, 2014. The filers' website is

Meanwhile, the graffiti "permission wall" north of the former Mobil station was taken down during demolition.

(Context: In autumn 2013 the Hyatt Place opened, restaurants in Harper Court started to open, A10 opened opened at 53rd and Harper, new businesses were to open in the building east of Old Hyde Park, and the University of Chicago announced an important entrepreneurship and research incubator for the Herald and Schuster buildings west of Harper on 53rd. The lawsuit against new zoning for wrong addresses, for the Merges Restaurant Yoshu was dismissed and that project is expected to proceed.)

May 6 2013. HPKCC held a zoning and 53rd St. forum With panel of experts and Q and A- Planning and Zoning 53rd St. United Church of Hyde Park, 1448 E. 53rd St. Info coming. Speakers include John Norquist of Congress for the New Urbanism Tim Barton, Hyde Parker and former city zoning staff), and Adam Kingsley of O'Donnell law firm specializing in the issues and 53rd St. Release with description.
A REPORT by Gary Ossewaarde IS POSTED.

May 7. The Planning and Development Committee of the 3rd St. TIF met in open hearing. See below

MAY 16,2013 THE CHICAGO PLAN COMMISSION approved the Vue 53 rezoning and planned development The presentation was thorough and the commissioners asked good questions. Alderman Burns spoke in support of the Development. About 15 Hyde Park organizational and individual supporters and 8 opponents; each used their 3 minutes intelligently. (The organizational speakers were almost entirely supporters.) Burns stressed broad support, reflection of communty values including the affordable housing.
One question that received more explanation from the developer representatives (Graham Grady and Edward Kus): Height is dictated by the economics in that high retail requires lots of residents and hence height. according to architect Joe Valerio, The density of the residential required thereby would require an "H" shape if the height were kept lower- and that would have bedrooms facing each other at only 16 feet apart -- so it's "as low as it can go." The need for number of units is partially increased by all the things people asked for at the "visioning exercises" including affordable units, sufficient parking, lost of retail and the residents to shop to make the street "vibrant." A major objective was to maximize both retail and residents through this project. (Ignored is that most other projects have or are putting parking underground, such as City Hyde Park.) (Also at play is lender limits on profitability that can come from the commercial space, and the need for parking floors.)-- He said also that costs that would be required for complete site remediation and for digging down for underground parking. (Not addressed by presenters, supporters or opponents is that this and the other proposed developments will not have larger than 2-bedroom units, limiting its attractiveness to the larger families needed to counteract declining school population, or that the proposed rents are mostly higher than the median paid by current residents in the neighborhood.
15+ spoke in behalf, 8 spoke against.
Action was moved by Ald. Burke, who made a "pop-in" appearance. The only dissent from commissioners came from George Migalia, who asked "why so high?" (See answers above.)

June 5, 2013 City Council passed the ordinance (last step other than permits) 49-0 with reclusion by Ald. Burke. The site will be B3-5. Mixed use (up to 6 retail. and the 13 stories allowed, 154 feet tall, 267 units, 230 parking spaces, address 1330 E. 53rd St.

The developer's website:
South East Chicago Commission's descriptions and updates:, (including for contacting).

Link to an article on the Jan. 30 meeting and a May feature by Sam Cholke of DNA News.

Sam Cholke's review of the May 6 informational 53rd Zoning and Urban desire for 53rd forum by HPKCC:

Meanwhile, several residents have proposed alternatives for the site-- referencing for example a condo building proposed for Miami with no car parking, only bike parking. Another wrinkle is that the so-called Permission Wall, which has enabled many young artists to do their public art in short-term projects, would be demolished with any redevelopment of the site.


The lawsuit was dismissed ten denied in appeal Marach 2015. In early March 2014 the last remaining structures were removed. March 2014- the "Permission Wall" (near 53rd and Kenwood) and its temporasry murals by local youth and better known artists, at the former Mobil Station was torn down for the new Vue53 development.

As of mid September 2013: A lawsuit was filed against the project-- the claimants position can be found in (They also published a letter in the October 2 2013 Hyde Park Herald.) Possibly separately, a file of claims regarding demolition of the "permission wall" for artists was noted. A court hearing has been set in December. (See Result of Motion at . So any construction is on hold, although the developer said at the September 30 TIF meeting that they will proceed with demolition of the station/car wash in late October. Meanwhile several gas tanks were removed from the site and extensive soil testing done. The sidewalk and a traffic (parking ) lane are fenced off.


The following appears to have been put out by South East Chicago Commission but may be from MESA Development. Here it is a paraphrase of as from 1537 News.

1. Mobil station closes Aug. 12

2. tank et al removal starts Aug. 13/14 (fence will be put up and work start at 8 am daily. An engineering firm will supervise and the devloper will follow all nec. environmental guidelines.

3. parking lot to east remains in public use as is

4. expect traffic tie ups all along 53rd, esp. until Harper Court is further along

5. Pedestrians use south sidewalk on 53rd near the project

6. 250+ rental units (upscale) and 220 parking spaces

7. The project uses no TIF money or public subsidy and may bring $7.7 million in

8. Retail space- is limited, those interested should contact the developer now

9. construction of the new building will start early 2014

10. questions-, (including for contacting).


Official material on the new McMobil proposal in the UC news website:
PDF presentation

South East Chicago Commission webpage on the project: Posted here also in the SECC site is the traffic study by KLOA.

A loss from the project will be demolition of the "permission wall" of changing community art and graffiti on the north wall of the Mobil Station popular with street artists for over 20 years.

Hyde Park Herald poll through March 9- 61.95 opposed the project. Vs. a phone survey by U of C/SECC that supported.
Letters of support and of opposition continue to pour into the Herald- among supports are Ald. Burns, the owners of Harper Theater and Kilwin's. Stephanie Franklin is one of several who have sent letters opposing, Franklin about 3.

May 7 2013 the Planning and Development Committee of the 53rd St. TIF held an open hearing at Kenwood Academy Auditorium, presided by Chuck Thurow with c. 150 attending. No actions were required and the meeting was held at the request of Ald. Burns and because changes had been made to the plans. At the end Ald. Burns endorsed the project, citing community process and transparency, changes made since the January meeting (and further airing will be done by the city particularly of traffic and parking); the project will make for a better place, growth, and jobs. The agenda: Reprise and update of the project by the developer (Mr. Hanson of Mesa), and taking of questions and endorsements on mixes of uses and density, massing and design, traffic and parking.
The main changes were completion of the traffic and shadow studies, addition of 12 parking spaces (5%, which will no longer be divided between tenants and shoppers and include two for employees, and more screening), movement of the loading area further away from Kenwood, further rationalization and placement of entries and elevators, reduction to 13 rather than 14 occupied floors although overall it's equivalent to 14.

In the presentation, Jim Hanson of Mesa, and team emphasized that the development would not take funds from the TIF but would generate funds expected to be $1 million a year. David Hanson of Mesa discussed the site, history (Visioning public meetings, small group discussions including with every organization, January 30 TIF public meeting, city department of planning- all city and many community suggestions were incorporated and the project/planned development and rezoning were approved by Dept. of Planning and Development and other departments.
Principles/objectives: increase economic activity, reflect diversity, include affordable housing, no public subsidy, more retail, eliminate a gap in the smile of west 53rd St. Cost c. $75 million.
Items reflecting community feedback- increased affordable housing, reduced height a floor (from 144 to 135 feet), added residences and screening on the parking floor, increased parking spaces from 218 to 230 (5%), and moved the tower to the southwestern corner, to reduce shadows, loading dock (in the back and enclosed) west from Kenwood.
Reflecting city feedback- modified the service access (moved to the west) and moved the parking and retail access and elevators to the east. There are ample amenities, it's smart environmentally including LEED Silver, visual interest, the green terrace pause at the 4th floor, set back on the west on the street side and east side on the back/Kenwood side, upper floors occupying only 40% of the footprint despite a short front to back distance. Retail (30,000 sq. ft.) will be divided into a number of stores of 3,000 to 17,000 sq. ft.) in both the east block and the west block-- far from big box though larger than many current stores on the street. Lots of glass along the street. Shadow studies revealed little additional shadow over the present.
He stressed that there are lots of tall buildings scattered here and there, though most heavily toward the east. He stressed the need for a FAR of 5, as Harper Court has. And said it fits the definition and distances for transit-oriented development according to Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Regional Transportation Authority. (The targeted demographic of 16-34 is expeted to fill 85% and they less often have cars, he said. And parking space s have to be leased separately.) Also, the traffic study by KLOA revealed no net increase in traffic, though the distribution through the day would change (more in the morning). CDOT rates traffic A-F: in order to pass muster the PD has to rate of A or B. Under 50% of Hyde Parkers own cars. The site has 230 parking spaces v. zoning minimum of 200. There will be 2 Zipcar spaces and 225 bicycle spots. 3-4 spaces are being added to the street and the pedestrian experience enhanced by elimination of several curb cuts.

Questions and answered, as a previous meetings, were grouped by category: Mix of uses and density, Massing and density, Traffic and parking.

(Overall, Q and A was certainly divided between supporters and opponents, many of whom made it clear they wanted significant adjustments, not scrapping the project. A major concern with with setting a precedent-- the new development changes the "character" and makes it even harder to say "no" to the next proposal. UC Vice President was asked what and whether the university plans or wants to build more like it-- he replied "no more of this height."
Another concern was that even the 3,000 sq. ft. stores would be larger than and able to out compete? most of the stores on 53rd St. and the trade might not even sustain such large stores. There were concerns about traffic congestion and safety for Murray children-- fears denied by many.)

Mixed uses an density. Who is the market for? 30% 2-bedroom, 55% 12-bedroom, 15% studio. They want to avoid making it a student place, although no one can be turned away or targeted by their category.
Appreciation was expressed for the affordable set aside and for accommodating seniors needs. Some fear was expressed that "affordable" would bring undesirable or student, and who decides who qualifies for affordable.The city has standards, metrics and they will be equitable in the distribution of the affordable units throughout the complex.
Appreciation was expressed for eyes on the street from both retail and residents. That the large store spaces would be subdivided.
Fear that the new (brand-new) units will drive rents or house demand/prices down.
Believe they are bringing a new and different product into the market.

Massing and design. Some blasted the design, others praised. The architect, Valerio, has experience here- Lab School.
Too big/high, standing out v. not that much.
What's next on UC agenda?
Douglas- no more that height for 53rd St. The high one is in the right spot here.
Zoning is meant to protect, give expectation. This is spot zoning. Grady: zoning is not meant to be static or hamstring a community.
Same density can be achieved with lower building.
Not here. Also, this was planned here because it was a gap, not tear down viable mid sized. The norm is Kimbark Plaza.
Asked for a clear picture from straight-on. (a poster board was shown by resident showing this project twice-plus as high as adjacent).
Shadows not shown at the most damaging times of year and day; assertion of drop in nearby residential properties of 10-15% because of the shadows alone.
Chamber-- business welcomes this, including it not being squat.
People here don't want cutting-edge and futuristic.
Want the jobs including for construction.
Will work to exceed requirements , fairs etc.

Traffic and parking. Remediation? As much as required.
Congestion- These people won't use cards because of transit (disagreements, Kimbark Plaza and Murray cited). Getting rid of a gas station and carwash.
Will the developer/manager help pay for a trolley? Via the added taxes.
Put parking underground? Cost and high water table, and to keep within budget both for financing and for LEED certification and credits.
Objection that Mesa and University should have skin in the game on traffic and parking.
Brumfield-- the TIF strongly supports this plan.

Alderman Burns stressed open transparent process, willingness of the developer to listen, need for more people and density, jobs, retail that people said they want, the amenities, the changes made. Wants a better Hyde Park. Will continue to work on parking and transportation.

The Mesa 13-story proposal did prove to be highly controversial. Despite a controversially-worded and conducted scientific telephone poll underwritten by the University showing 71% support and endorsement by several organizations (SECC, Chamber of Commerce, CECD for all or various parts of the proposal), an also a non-scientific Herald poll that showed 61% opposed, opposition was strong and often strident. Letters against to the Herald have also been heavily opposed, in great detail, although the balance began to tip the other way in later weeks. A public meeting March 18 by an ad hoc organization 53rd CARRD (Citizens for Appropriate Retail and Residential Development on 53rd St.) was well attended and elicited strong opposition, though many said they lack to information and a sense or plan for retail development and traffic/parking/mobility with which to judge individual proposals. One concern was that aspects of the project (including the mid box(es) retail might draw a higher proportion of outside shoppers in their cars, and also that it was too many blocks from public transit (despite the half-mile rule from studies) might draw a higher proportion of car owners-- others disputed these assumptions. (Note, the city now only does limited spot zoning but does spot-planned developments that make major changes but not in an overall context.)
Petitions were circulated, and in turn the University and others circulated flyers in storefronts and residents' windows touting the advantages and gains from the project. Alderman Burns signed on Nichols Park Advisory Council passed a nuanced resolution asking for changes to lessen what it considered negative impacts on the park.

Coalition for Equitable Community Development on the other hand wrote a letter that set out in detail why this project must be large and increase density so it can have affordable units that help keep a community with the values we want.
53 CARRD pressed the matter with the downtown hsg. and dev. department.

Several letters either set for details of what they think wrong or not sufficiently explained or ask for community forums leading to broader planning and zoning standards that will also take community interest (however defined) into account, while exploring some financial and other alternatives to this project they think externalizes the risks and costs to the surrounding community with only benefits not risks to the university and developer.
Stay tuned.

A TIF subcommittee hearing wa held May 7 (see above) at which some opponents and supporters at-the-least cheer led did or the opposite at each others' comments.

A sample from letters and media reports:

53rd CARRD sent a letter to James Mooney, head of the Chicago Dept. of Housing and Development asking to meet with him about the project. Such meetings seem to be unprecedented or not granted when the alderman has already signed on with a letter. . Ald. Burns will meet with the group.
BUT the proposal is set to be considered by City Council committee Tuesday April 2, though the alderman has the right ask that it be pulled from the agenda and not approved and sent on the full council.

From (partial)

Citizens for Appropriate Retail and Residential Development on 53rd Street sent a letter Thursday to Andrew Mooney, commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing and Economic Development, requesting a meeting to outline their objections to the plans for 1330 E. 53rd St.

“The proposed development is grossly out of proportion to the neighboring structures on 53rd Street, as well as the residences immediately to the north,” says David White, a leader of the community group, in the letter.

The letter also says the project by Chicago-based Mesa Development would create traffic and parking problems in the area.

A representative from the Department of Housing and Economic Development was not immediately able to comment on whether Mooney received or planned to respond to the letter.

Such an appeal is unorthodox and the department rarely scuttles developments when the alderman approves.

Ald. Will Burns’ (4th) office declined to comment on the project, but he is expected to be meeting with members of the group, who are hoping he will decline the developer’s request for a zoning change.

The zoning change has already been submitted to City Council and was scheduled to be reviewed by the Committee on Zoning Landmarks and Building Standards on Tuesday.

The alderman’s office declined to specify whether the change would remain in committee or go to the full Council for a vote.

The project is seeking a special zoning designation as a planned development to build 267 apartments and 30,000 square feet of retail space across from Nichols Park. Planned developments must be reviewed by the Chicago Plan Commission, but the project has not appeared on the body’s agenda in the last six months. The Department of Housing and Economic Development was not immediately able to say whether the project was reviewed by the body.

The property is owned by the University of Chicago, which announced the contract with Mesa Development in January at a community meeting of the 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing District advisory council.

The design of the building has been praised by residents, but panned for its scale at more than 130 feet tall.

The developers have not asked for TIF funding, but the advisory council plans to review the plan at a committee meeting in April.


CECD letter to the Herald, grateful for the affordable units:

Hyde Park Herald March 27 2013. CECD letter (revised per vote March CECD mtg. by Pat)
Local housing group supports McMobil
To the Editor:
The Coalition for Equitable Community Development is an association of Hyde Park & Kenwood residents, businesses, religious communities and civic organizations who are concerned about the loss of affordable housing in our community. The University has shared its plans for the development of the partly-vacant sit on 53rd Street commonly called “McMobil” site. As shown in our recently completed Affordable Retail Housing Market Study, Hyde Park and South Kenwood are in need of more rental housing to meet the needs of its low and moderate income families and seniors. We are grateful to see that this development will result in 57 affordable apartments. These units will serve individual earning up to $31,000/yr, or a two person household earning up to $35,000/yr. A few of the apartments will be available to individuals earning up to $41,000 or two persons earning up to $47,000.

In order to achieve these numbers, the developer will need to build at a density that is higher than some in our community would prefer. However, we support the proposal because it takes density to provide affordable housing, and it takes affordable housing to maintain the economic diversity Hyde Park values. The new development will allow 57 families to find affordable housing in our community. These are our neighbors who will be priced out of our community if we don’t have the density to finance affordable units.

We applaud the university for choosing a developer who will build these affordable housing units on the site and create a mixed-income development. City ordinances allow the option of paying in lieu of building actual units. But they didn’t go that route. We should all be grateful for that.

A view from CARRD: view in pdf.

The letter from Nichols Park Advisory Council- McMobil project scale bad for Hyde Park

Since the building currently proposed for the "McMobil" site on 53rd Street would be directly across from Nichols Park, the Nichols Park Advisory Council feels it is appropriate for us to express our concerns.

We believe the primary benefit of a mixed-use development on that sited will be to fill in the unfortunate gap on that block, which could add substantially to the retail diversity Hyde Park needs. However, perhaps several smaller stores might add to our shopping options better than the two stores now proposed.

We also think more people living across the street could both benefit the neighborhood and would be good for the park. We anticipate that new residents would increase the use of the park, even by just walking through at various times . The developer also agreed to designate (on site) 15 percent of the apartments as affordable housing. We applaud their recognition of this desperate need.

Our biggest concern is the building's proposed size. A massive structure, 100 feet taller than any of its neighbors, is not the sensitive, seamless blending of the old with the new that we think is most appropriate for this section of 53rd Street. The building would look above teh tallest tres and block the view of northern sky from even the the 55th Street border of the park.

We sincerely hope the plan for this site will be reconsidered.

Letter from residents/leaders pointing towards real planning and study. In the April 3 Herald by Michael Scott, Jack Spicer, Jay Ammerman, and Janet Geovanis.

"A closer look at the McMobil project's density"

Amid all the discussion of the proposed development of the so-called McMobil lot, there are two issues of real substance, and they are the ones that are subject to zoning: the height of the proposed building, and the floor area ratio (FAR). The developer is petitioning for a "planned development," which essentially means that they want permission to build to three times the current height limit and to more to more than double the current FAR limit. Since zoning requirements are intended to maintain the character of an area, it is worthwhile to consider the parties involved and their interests.

There are at least three major stakeholders here. One is the developer whose interest, no matter how thoughtful they are ab out urban design, is to turn a profit. Another is the University of Chicago, which wishes to provide the kinds of amenities that it thinks will attract and please its students and employees. (Aligned in interest with the university are the merchants who support any increase in population that might provide potential customers.) The third is the surrounding community that actually lives and spends time on 53rd Street. This group is interested in the quality of life in the immediate neighborhood; part of that interest in quality of life is an interest in maintaining the character of the area. Throughout the visioning process the entire community, not just those who live near the McMobil site, has consistently and strongly spoken in favor of maintaining both the scale and character of the area.

When we consider these three parties and their interests, we actually see little disagreement on the basic points. The surrounding community is largely in favor of the university's goal of more people living on 53rd Street to support present an future businesses. We assume that both the university and the developer would welcome a project that meets the current zoning restrictions as long as it met their other requirements. Where the groups do not see eye-to-eye is on what trade-offs are acceptable. No one wants a tall building for its own sake, but for the university and the developer it is a price well worth paying to get the things they consider more fundamental. The problem here is that the surrounding community will pay this price, not the developer and university. Let us consider the two issues of size and height separately.

On the issue of size, the developer and university want to install many more residents than current zoning allows. They are confident that these new residents wil in general walk on 53rd street and use public transportation rather than driving, and if the surrounding community shared their confidence there would probably be little if any opposition to allowing these extra residents. however, since the university and developer will derive benefits from the extra residents no matter what, while the surrounding community will bear the costs if it turns out that these residents will drive more and walk less than the university and developer predict, the community is right to be skeptical of the rosy claims about the low-impact lifestyles of these new residents. On the issue of height, the university and the developer are being disingenuous. the community has stated clearly and resoundingly throughout the visioning process that they do not want a tall building on that site, no matter how cleverly workshop organizers tried t present the issue as "density" without any mention of height. If a short building would give the developer a greater return on investment than a tall one (if, for example, there were an appropriate Pigovian tax [ed. note: a tax to offset external costs] on height above the zoned limit), you can be quite sure the proposal would be for a short building. If the university shared the belief of many in the surrounding community that a development in scale with the surrounding area on 53rd Street would be more likely than a high-rise to attract renters who would walk and shop on 53rd Street rather than to drive, we would probably see such a proposal.

The height of the building could be substantially reduced by the investment of money - the parking could be buried at a cost, and the developers could be easily induced to have fewer units, and thus fewer stories to the building, if they were given other financial guarantees. We bring this up not because we think it is realistic for the university to front this money, but to point out that there are alternatives to externalizing all costs to the surrounding community.

Discussions of the McMobil development too often focus on parking as if it were the central issue. It is not central, it is simply the most obvious manifestation of the problems attendant upon a development that is out of scale with its surroundings and is in clear violation of current and accepted zoning regulations. Scale and character are the central issues; let us make sure that they are on the table in each discussion and that any proposed trade-offs involving them are presented explicitly and transparently.

Background and initial reception and response: RESURRECTION OF MCMOBIL- UC /MESA DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL OF JANUARY 2013

This proposal proved very controversial, with strong views and reasons for and against, or for modification. Parking/traffic, bulk and height, location at considerable distance from public transportation, and looming over Nichols Park, and that it is out of character with its surroundings are some of the concerns. A more disturbing factor is that each development is presented by itself, without a plan or standards for the street(s) including traffic-parking-transit-mobility, and does not address larger needs but serves only the needs of that development, for example parking only for its own needs.

Starting with a Vision exercise in April 2012, the University made it plain they intended a substantial development for the site in the 1300 block of 53rd north side (though called for a high-rise or for filling the whole site), which the convening groups and developers called a gap in the smile of 53rd St. It was not expected until the plan was revealed in January 2013 quite how large it would be, and until the start of 2013 was expected to be a residence for UC graduate students and families to fill a shortage with ground floor retail--and that expected to be smaller stores, not one or two mid-boxes.

A meeting of SOUL Chicago with University and Mesa Development presenters on what the former thought would be a different topic was one of the first inklings to outside, or at least non- cognoscenti groups that the University now would have an open-to-market structure with 267 residential units (and the retail) that would be owned and managed by a developer, Mesa (committed to holding for not less than 10 years) with the University just owning the land.

Mesa (visit, 205 N. Michigan, Ste. 2200, 60601, 312 240-1700, principal Jim Hanson) has a vision of developing smart mixed use developments in urban neighborhoods ready to take advantage of density, amenities, walk and rid-ability, public transportation and more. They also have experience with inclusion of affordable, accessible features in residential developments that are viable market-priced, for example the State St. CHA corridor, participation in the Preservation Compact, and funding for the Institute of Housing Studies at DePaul.

The following is based on meetings attended by the writer (GMO) with small organizations (specifically that for Coalition for Equitable Community Development and a larger meeting that started out for Nichols Park Advisory Council) and media reports and then the big rollout held the evening of January 30 2013.
At the latter, because of the many questions and a wide feeling that not enough details were given, there will be an open meeting of the TIF Committee on Planning and Development targeted to design and traffic esp. It is possible the developers and sponsors did not expect such another meeting to be called and that the January 30 (non-required) meeting would be the end of it.

They said they expect to start at the start of 2014 and take 18 month, leaving a mid 2015 opening. Construction trucks will approach and enter only on 53rd St.

The site runs east from the building that houses Sit Down Restaurant to that currently housing the rental offices of MAC Properties in the 1300 block of E. 53rd St., north side, and will fill nearly all the site, though the structure is pronouncedly offset so as to give relief on the east half to the residents in buildings behind the site and on the west half (above the 3rd/4th floor) to the street and park side with a literally green roof at the shift to the west tower being only on the back of the site. The general view from a distance will be of a broken up Z with the "ends" of the wings at the various floor being a visual focus. The height was said to be in keeping with the neighborhood, with buildings here and there poking up out of the average.

Plans at present (apparently first brought up in query by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community board members then at the Nichols Park meeting) call for removal only of the gas tanks of the Mobil service station then capping the site. Remediation of the soil by itself was said to be inordinately expensive even though their "phase I" survey showed few problems, let alone trying to put the parking underground (it will be 2 floors between the retail and residential). They say they will remove the tanks then do phase II survey- if remediation is shown to be needed, they will do it.

Planned are 30,000 sq. ft. of retail divided into a larger "box" going front to back of the west half of the site and another at the east with about half the sf of the west box and to have several small businesses. For comparison, Office Depot has 20-25,000 sf. Intent is to bring in types of businesses that are lacking in the community- the west a national/regional single box. There will be NO effort to accommodate businesses needing affordable or subsidized rent, but they don't want to compete with local businesses and on the east side entice some in or have them comparable and complimentary.
South East Chicago Commission/the University commissioned a telephone survey based on the visioning workshop findings and that largely found support for the project (some at the Nichols Park meeting questioned the fairness of some of the questions- several were insulted). And a business survey with the Chamber and with the board of Kimbark Plaza seemed to support, though these organizations had not voted or given letters of support (may at Jan. 30 meeting).
There was concern that there is no plan for the whole sweep of 53rd St. despite visioning-- hinted at the TIF meeting was that the emerging SSA process will become the focus for planning for 53rd as a whole. The University says it only makes strategic purchases and developments that enhance the whole. There will be more visioning.

The residential: 267 total units. 132 2-bedroom (about 2/3), 95 1-bedroom (about a third), 40 studio (15%) distributed throughout the project, as will be affordable (and handicap?) units.
Rents were estimated at studios over $1,000, 1-bedrooms $1,400, and 2-bedrooms about $2,000.
20% of the units (32) would be affordable, 15% on-site and 5% off- site in a U of C (graduate?) building in Hyde Park. The on-site affordable housing would be split as follows: 10% for families earning up to 60% of Area Median Income and 5% for those earning up to 80% of AMI. The 5% off-site affordable housing would be affordable to people earning up to 60% of the AMI.
CECD (Coalition for Equitable Community Development) is asking for the affordable component to be in perpetuity per CEDC agreements with Antheus in both TIF-supported and completely market developments. The reason is that under city ordinance lots of building had 30 year limits-- and now they've gone market and affordable units are lost big-time. The dev. says banks won't allow going further than the ordinance, the might be open to looking again later if conditions change. They would get back to CECD. (30 years starts at occupancy.) There was some concern at one meeting that 60% of Area Median Income is a family of 4 earning $45,000 a year-- the average Hyde Park income for such may be under that.
Height is partly to accommodate affordability and the amenities and to reduce the footprint.
the U of C will not pick tenants. A leasing firm will be hired.

100 percent of the units will be ADA accessible (so every unit can be "visited" by handicapped) with 20% fitted for full handicap accessibility. Some said they want universal access- there is a high proportion of Hyde Parkers with disability. There is still concern on the part of some as to how accessible the units- and the parking will be.

The building will be Silver LEED. Heating will be pumped water. Overall utilities will b e 25% more efficient than comparable buildings. Bikes (space for 120 of them!), zipcars, the green areas for use on higher floors etc. are components in the rating. Shadow studies were not complete.

McHugh will be the contractor,with intent to bring over those in training at Harper Court under minority and women set-aside to continue their training/experience- same proportions as for Harper (even though, with no subsidy, following MWBE is not required) as Harper Court winds down. The project will include 25,000 hours (300 jobs at different times) of construction work and result in 6-10 permanent employees with the developer. Construction jobs will be 50% city residents targeting the local zip codes.
MBWE will be 25% and 5% including "soft".

There will be no subsidy from the 53rd TIF. Indeed, net increment to the TIF over its remaining life is est. at $78M.
Cost: 65-70 M.
13 stories (1 and fraction retail, 2 parking) and 11 residential.
Facade will be a mix of metal and glass, attempting to blend in color with the buildings to east and west. (Suggested was toning down the facade so the height and massing will imbalance less.)
The shadow study was in progress and should be done for the Jan. 30 meeting.
Start date is January 2014 (though the stations will close in late summer and remediation start in fall 2013)- 18 months of work with completion mid 2015.
They will seek a zoning change from B3(2) and B1(2) to B3(5) in a planned residential and retail development.

Density increase was touted as a positive because population, esp. rel. to what's needed to sustain retail, has gone down. (By percentage of units added, the numbers would not be very large.) Another reason given was to balance Harper Court in the west and prevent sucking Kimbark Plaza and its neighbor businesses dry and to help keep university people including junior faculty in the neighborhood with residential and retail options. They are working under the RFP goals/principles for Harper Court and the Visioning.

Community rooms will be scattered through the floors (CECD asked for consideration of outside rentals; the dev. will check on liability).

Parking- there are always advocates for either no parking or for loads of it. Expected are 218 stalls (200 is code) rented to the usual rental-building proportion of 2 stalls to 3 units and at a price that people will pay vs. the street, and a section for free validation parking for the retail customers. There will be disabilities parking, but how much? Parking was one of the chief concerns, esp. at the Nichols and the TIF meetings. The portion of parking devoted to the retail use will already be separate from the secure part for residents, thought there was concern about keeping the residential part secure with a dual entry drive. Not brought up publicly, but it is conceivable that the retail parking would be better underground in the non gas station part.
The parking floors will be fronted by residences. Peak Mgt. has been hired to manage and police the parking areas. It will be self-park.

Traffic and transportation were of concern. A study showed comparable in and out to the gas station and car wash-- but that will now be concentrated morning and late afternoon/evening. Any traffic adjustments needed are subject to CDOT. The university will consider a trolley for 53rd; any to bring back and forth to campus would be UC people only due to liability. (Mentioned was ADA of trolleys.) There will be multiple bike racks including on the ground floor, ZIP Car and I-Go stations in the building.
A serious concern was that at times of days traffic into the structure will cause traffic backup on 53rd St. People asked for more solid data on parking and traffic (studies were in progress)--THESE WILL BE POSTED ON THE UC FACILITIES WEBSITE (see link above). The developers stressed they were taking every effort to get people to come without cars. But they are not trying to solve larger parking issues on 53rd (which is the answer of every developer, so that the "micros" say no so the "macro" is not addressed, it seems, likewise with"community space"). As of the TIF meeting, the traffic study was not complete but was said to point to no increased problem; the parking study was complete. Ald. Burns suggested SSA funds could be used to mitigate congestion such as with a circulator, and many will continue to walk.

The alley will be two-way (in and out from Kenwood) and policed by staff. Neighbors noted that this alley has been a problem for years.) All deliveries, trash pickup etc. will bed internal, in the back (off the alley). Access to the parking will be at one cut on 53rd St., which will have full lighting and greenery.
As for traffic, the studies show no significant impact or need for signals etc.-- they will work with the alderman's office and residents on the question of a stop sign at Kenwood (north leg).
They expect to do nothing in or to Nichols Park.

What are the distinguishing characters? Smart and environmental, advance technology, amenities, and at the center of things.

Subsequent perspectives:

There have been expressions of regret about the garage service disappearing-- it appears they provided excellent service. Whether it can remain in the neighborhood is unknown.
The Herald (article by Lindsay Welbers Feb. 6) felt that there was more concern about traffic headaches than about size.


At the Nov. 15 2008 block exercise, viable options for redevelopment, several with low height, were found. There will be a discussion with expert panel at the January 12 2009 TIF meeting.

The "Mobil-McDonald's" site at 3rd and Kenwood, north side of the street and across from Nichols Park, is a medium sized parcel considered ripe for development. The gas station with car wash is destined for phase out (and planners think such uses are better on street like Lake Park or Cottage Grove). McDonald's opened a new store on Lake Park Avenue and cleared the 53rd site. The 53rd St. Tax Increment Finance commercial TIF District was created in 2000 in part to encourage and vet such developments, to revitalize and grow retail in the area, and to build funds based on tax increment for needs in the TIF District.

In 2001, before McDonald's was demolished, developer John Kretchmar presented a plan for an 8-story (height of the nearby Versailles building) mixed use development that included a drive-through McDonald's and 137 condominium units. The project provoked organized opposition (broad but not unanimous), including for alleged height, density, and parking/curb cut inappropriateness for this part of Hyde Park--let alone the drive through fast-food. It also seemed to run contrary to a recent retail planning study by Skidmore and ran into problems with the city Department of Planning. Alderman Preckwinkle withdrew support and asked for a downsized redesign with some affordable housing units. Mr. Kretchmar withdrew.

In a land swap facilitated by the University, McDonald's built a new restaurant, drive-through, on Lake Park and 52nd. The old site was cleared and bought by William and Claudie Phillips, owner of the Mobil site at the end of 2004. There has been back and forth over interim use of the gravel-covered restaurant site for parking.

In 2006, Fernando Leal's L3 Development (near North Side) purchased an option on the site and says he is developing a proposal, Rumors are of a development at least 8 stories high--this developer had a plan, now being revised, for a 17-story condo and mixed-use development at 53rd and Cornell (which he owns). That plan also got in trouble with the alderman over adequate affordable housing and with neighbors for many reasons, but was thought by many to be a fine design and project.

More BACKGROUND about the former McDonalds and the Mobil Station site at 53rd and Kenwood

The project has long been dormant, with reported financial troubles by the developer L3 Leal. The McDonald site was cleared and has some car rental on it. It was one subject of the late 2008 block-building Vision exercise.

The University of Chicago at the end of 2009 acquired the Mobil Station and also we understand the former McDonalds location. Spokesman Steve Kloehn said they have no specific plans but "try to support local business and catalyze a robust retail environment." The service station will continue under a lease. July 11 UC announced it will send out a RFQ to test the waters. It seeks a PD with retail on the ground level and residential above. (Whether the res. will still be graduate housing or market is not known to this writer.)

The University concluded from that workshop that there would not be opposition to a dense, large development at that site. This is disputed by at least some.

At the end of a largely-attended 53rd St. Vision Workshop on December 8 2007, a clarification on mid rise vs low or high suddenly became a straw vote on accepting a 8-10 story development on 53rd-- largely taken to mean Mobil-McDonald, and without a discussion of characteristics of the various sectors of the district. 63 percent nevertheless said they approved in the palm pilot vote.

Neighbors had already organized with a petition drive, as of the end of June 2007. They have a 4-point set of demands:

The group is circulating a petition. Here is its text. Contact: Jill White, 5214 S. Kenwood. Coverage.

Petition for the Responsible Development of the Vacant McDonald's Lot/
Mobil Station Lot Property

We the undersigned, residents and neighbors of the 53rtd Street/Kenwood/Woodlawn block,
support the development of the vacant McDonald's lot/Mobil Station lot property, provided
that the following parameters
--which aim to preserve the family-oriented character
of the neighborhood, avoid excess congestion and protect the safety of the children who play
on the block--are implemented.

  • A mixed-use structure on the lotto help maintain the "main street" character of the 53rd
    Street business district.
  • A maximum of 4 stories to keep the increase in population density and automobile traffic
    to a manageable level.
  • The provision of at least 1.5 dedicated parking spots per residential unit to ensure
    that available street parking will not be further taxed.
  • The solicitation of businesses for the property that do not serve fast food to increase the diversity of the 3rd Street business district and mitigate the potential for excess litter.

More complete letter/statement Sept. 19 by 53rd Neighbors for Responsible Development

Sent to Ald. Preckwinkle. From Sept. 19 2007 Hyde Park Herald. Reminder: neither this website nor the Conference endorse or dis-endorse statements in letters sent to us or from other publications unless specifically stated.

We the residents and neighbors of the 53rd Street/Kenwood/Woodlawn block are excited to hear that plans have been proposed for the development of the vacant McDonald's lot/Mobil station lot property on East 53rd street. Our section of Hyde Park is a thriving family-oriented community that welcomes the increase in value, stability and functionality that this project has the potential to bring to the 53rd Street commercial district.

We are, however, also devoted to maintaining the character of the neighborhood, avoiding excess congestion and protecting the safety of the children who play on the block. As such, we insist that the alderman's office work to protect our interests by advocating for the following criteria:


A clarification from Ald. Preckwinkle on Mobil site and 53rd Cornell in August 1 2007 Herald

Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) is supporting the development of 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue, with stipulations that L3 Development LLC makes changes to proposed plans [for a] 17-story mixed-use building. "I have asked [L3 CEO] Fernando Leal to come back to the community in the fall with his revised plans for 53rd and Cornell," Preckwinkle said.

She added that the development might be on a future TIF meeting agenda, but not until a complete plan for the property is made. "It won't be unless everything is gelled and he's got his plans together," Preckwinkle said.

Meanwhile, plans for the Mobil gas station, 1330 E. 53rd St. and the adjoining vacant parcel once occupied by McDonald's are up in the air, Preckwinkle said. "We're trying to work that [site] through," she said. "At the moment, there isn't a plan."

Jack Spicer wants development but not via piecemeal and favoritist upzoning and lack of broader planning: "New high-rise building proposal not good for 53rd Street." And castigates 53rd Cornell project and developer

Hyde Park Herald, October 31, 2007

On the evening of October 18, I was honored to be part of a thoughtful, articulate group of Hyde Park residents who met with Ald. Preckwinkle (4th) to discuss their concerns about the re-development of the Mobil/McDonalds property on 53rd Street near Kenwood Avenue.

The residents support a mixed-use development t hat would bring more residents and retail to the street. They are also committed to the existing zoning that allows for up to a 50 foot (4 or 5 story) building. The present zoning limit would allow for a high-quality commercial/residential development that would provide for a reasonable increase in density without the congestion caused by an 8 to 10 story building.

The alderman is proposing a zoning change, in the form of a "Planned Development," that would permit a taller building on this property. This zoning change would not be a part of a comprehensive planning and development strategy for 53rd street. It would not be offered equitably to the other property owners in the zone. It is not in response to a documented "hardship" suffered by the property owner. This is an isolated, discretionary, piecemeal "up-zoning" that takes public value and transfer it to a private property owner without compensation to the public.

This zoning change and the tall building that would result violate previous municipal and neighborhood planning efforts. The height permitted by the zoning change would exceed the "pedestrian oriented commercial district" standards that apply to 53rd Street under Chicago's new 2004 zoning ordinance. Nor would such a development be allowed under the guidelines of the 2000 "Vision for the Hyde Park Retail District" prepared by the Chicago Department of Planning and Development and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.

With the exception of the United Church steeple, there are only two buildings on the street taller than four stories-the Versailles at Dorchester Avenue and the Hyde Park Bank building at old Lake Park Avenue. They are both more than seventy five years old and zoning law, for good reason , has not allowed tall buildings on 53rd Street since 1957. This "planned development" zoning change would be unilateral and outside of our community's planning history.

At the meeting, the alderman told us her zoning change would benefit the whole neighborhood, not just a few isolated neighbors. She instructed us to learn to accept change. but the only problematic change at issue here is a zoning change that would permit an out-sized building that benefits only two individuals--the current property owner and the prospective buyer/developer. This benefit could be worth million of dollars.

Hyde Park needs new development that would increase activity on 53rd street. We need new tall, transit-oriented buildings near our Metra stations, like t he proposed Leal development at 53rd and Cornell and the Antheus projects at 57th Street nd cornell Avenue and at Lake Park Avenue and Hyde Park Blvd. We badly need creative approaches to urban development, like the University of Chicago's Harper Theater project. And most of all we need an open, professional, independent, community-based planning process to guide and sustain the development of 53rd Street--our "Main Street." The new 2004 Chicago Zoning Ordinance invites communities to do a comprehensive zoning re-map as a tool to fashion the kind of neighborhood they want. It's an invitation we should accept.


Spicer's analysis of the 53rd Cornell project, from email letter to the HPKC Development 53rd Focus Group following the December 8 2007 Workshop

The 53rd & Cornell project and the planned development of the Mobil/ McDonalds site are sad examples of a bad developer being enabled by elected officials. L3 Development has only one completed project in Chicago (Ambassador East) and that was not a success. Everything else they're involved in is stalled, including the 53rd & Cornell project that could well become Hyde Park's very own Block 37, an empty lot for years. L3 over-bid the next buyer by $1.5 million (and paid cash). It's no wonder they "can't make the numbers work." The only advantage to demolishing the buildings at 53rd and Cornell is to L3; they pay less property tax. The next bidder wanted to rehab the existing buildings and their project would have been done by now. And the building designed for L3 is architecturally absolutely boring. We do need a dense development there. It's half a block from the Metra and a block and a half from the Express buses, just perfect for "transit oriented" density. We need a tall, exciting, financially viable project at 53rd and Cornell. With any luck L3 will have to sell, at a loss, to a good developer who can do a good development and make some honest money.

and on Mobil/McDonalds

The Mobil/McDonalds development is an even sadder example of a bad developer on political life support. The current zoning allows only a 50' high building at this site. L3 assumed it could get a zoning change to allow a taller building and has signed a contract to buy the lots at a million dollars more than anybody else would pay (and has a million tied up in fees that it will lose if it doesn't actually exercise its right to buy). The high selling price was based on the zoning change. Now L3 "needs" to build a mid-rise (8-10 story) building here because it agreed to pay the inflated price for the land. The current zoning allows only a 50' high building and there are many good reasons not to change the zoning to allow a mid-rise project -- this site is nowhere near any public transit where a tall building would be appropriate, this is part of a "pedestrian oriented commercial district" where tall buildings are discouraged by Chicago's new 2004 zoning ordinance, the 2000 "Vision for Hyde Park Retail" document says nothing over 4 stories at this location, and the neighbors have signed petitions against a mid-rise building. And yet, L3 is assuming a change of zoning (thru a Planned Development) to allow an 8-10 story building. I hope this was not the point of the final vote at the "density workshop" to allow a mid-rise building "somewhere" on 53rd Street. If there were no opportunity for a zoning change then the selling price would settle back, through the magic of the free market, to a level reasonable for a good developer to build a 50' high development. It's a big site and the project could be one building or a series of buildings. A good 4-5 story development there would increase density on the street, create new living and shopping opportunities, eliminate a vacant lot, eliminate the pedestrian discouraging driveways of the gas station, and be a chance to have some good modern architecture on the street. Again, with any luck a new developer will end up with this site.




From the July 9, 2007 TIF meting. Notes by Trish Morse, HPKCC board member

Fernando Leal is in Nevada so couldn't attend this meeting in July. He will be presenting a proposal for the site of the McDonald's/Mobil station on 53rd Street at the next meeting. He has a contract to purchase the site and says he has a financially viable plan for this site. There was a question about how it was zoned. The alderman didn't know, but pointed out that is didn't matter since it would be a planned development.

Hyde Park Herald's take--before any presentation but following discussion at the July 9 TIF meeting. July 18, 2007. By Eric Kasang

A long contentious argument over a 53rd street site is once again pitting resident against a developer. The Mobil gas station and McDonalds property, located on 53rd Street between Kimbark and Kenwood avenues, found itself front-and-center at a 53rd Street tax Increment Financing (TIF) Advisory Council meeting on July 9. This stalled development led the discussion at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club...

Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) spoke about the status of this project: "I wish we were more along in this project, but unfortunately it hasn't moved," Preckwinkle said. The alderman said Fernando Leal, managing partner or L3 Development, LLC, has to present new plans at a future 53rd Street meeting and the local businesses and community residents will be informed of any new changes.

Hyde Park resident Rey Phillips, who later spoke with the Herald, said the lot's usage is a major issue with the community. while the area is designed to handle a four or five story building, the possibility of a high-rise will ruin the aesthetics of the area. "The further above the four stories it is, the less congruous it is to the rest of the street," Phillips said.

He said the proposed planned development is not in conformity with the neighborhood design. Phillips also noted that a petition is circulating to protest any plan for a high-rise and it will be sent to Preckwinkle's office. He has not personally seen the petition, but he sid that when he has dealt with the alderman, she has been responsive to listening to questions and suggestions.

Laura Pedelty, another Hyde Park resident, also later spoke with the Herald. While she was not able to attend this TIF meeting, she said that she is one of a group of people circulating the petition around the community. Although Pedelty said people are not opposed to development in this parcel of land, the construction should be reasonable including [having] four stories or less, mixed use and adequate parking. "We do want to be sure it's integrated in the community," Pedelty said. "It's a residential area."

In December 2004, the William and Claudie Phillips' 53rd Street Development LLC bought the McDonald's Corporation's parcel of land for $635,000. William Phillips, who owns the Mobil station, bought the former McDonalds land at 1344 E. 53rd St.

L3 Development owns the option to buy the land from Mobil; however, this option expires in October. The land would be used for a mixed-use building.

This is not the first time Hyde Parkers have rejected a high-rise plan. Developer John Kretchmar withdrew his plans for an 8-story, 137-unit condominium in 2001 due to community protest. Along with residents' protests and city planning problems, Preckwinkle withdrew her support for the development.

During the meeting, Hyde Park resident Jack Spicer said it was important to include community residents in projects and not just developers. "If it's a bottom-up process, the community could really benefit from it," Spicer said.

Residents balk at high rise

Hyde Park Herald, August 15, 2007. by Yvette Presberry

Hyde Park residents are meeting and passing our petitions to get L3 Development LLC to create a mixed-use building at 53rd Street and Kenwood Avenue that is no bigger than four stories and has ample parking for its tenants.

Petitioner Jill White said that the petition is intended to sway L3 to work with the community in developing a building at the former McDonald's lot and Mobil gas station on 53rd Street across from Nichols Park. L3 has owned an option to develop the site since 2006.

According to the petition, residents want L3 to develop a mixed-use building that would blend with the rest of the 53rd Street's businesses and homes. She said L3 head Fernando Leal previously told the community that he wanted an eight-story building on the lot, which would require a zoning change.

White opposed this idea, stating that it would add to traffic congestion in a neighborhood that is widely known by its residents and businesses for having a lack of sufficient parking spots. She added that an eight-story building would obstruct views an block sunlight for resident who live on 52nd Street.

She suggested a better place for an eight-story building would be closer to the Metra station on Lake park Avenue or at 53rd street and Cornell Avenue, another L3-owned property. "That would make more sense," White said.

L3 is developing a 17-story mixed-use building at the Cornell Avenue location on 53rd Street that has about 118 condominiums and retail on the ground floor.

Fourth Ward Ald. Toni Preckwinkle said L3 has not shown any plans to her regarding the 53rd Street and Kenwood Avenue site. She said the petitioners had not contacted her to discuss what they want at the vacant lot. She also said that Leal may return to Hyde Park to reveal more plans for the site in October.

Several petitioner planned a Monday, Aug. 13 gathering as of Herald Press time....


Latest on 53rd Cornell

Late November 2010, Antheus entered a contract to buy the L3 development land at the nw corner of 53rd and Cornell. There will likely be a new plan. According to the Herald of November 24 (Alicia Barney), Peter Cassel said the transaction should be complete by the end of the year. Cassel is quoted, "We think it's a very important corner for the neighborhood. We're very excited about what's happening to the west of the Metra tracks in the Harper Court redevelopment. We're deeply invested in East Hyde Park, an we believe that this parcel can help be a link between East Hyde Park and Harper Court redevelopment. Cassel told the Herald plans are very different from L-3's high rise plan and they are hiring architects and planners. The key point is to develop something there. They will begin a conversation with the community soon after completion of the purchase.

Herald Jan 12 by Sam Cholke: Also at the [January 2011] TIF meeting, Antheus Capital said it would close next month on the purchase of a vacant lot at 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue. Peter Cassel, director of community development for Antheus, said the previous owner, L3 development and its investors, have turned over all community studies done when the site was slated for a high-rise residential building.

"I think it's most appropriately residential," Cassel said of Antheus' intentions for the site, adding that retail would likely be included to tie any development to surrounding retailers on either side of the Metra viaduct. The site will not be left as a vacant lot, he assured. "East Hyde Park could use more parking and that lot could work very well for parking if there's an extended holding period before development starts," he said. Cassel said Antheus has begun discussing ideas with neighbors, but rental housing was an appealing option."I don't hesitate to say the for-sale market remains very, very difficult," he said.



As presented at an open neighbors meeting called by Ald. Preckwinkle April 23 at Congregation Rodfei Zedek, the building has been modified for 17 to 20 stories plus mechanical space,largely to work the economics of the fact that the building will now be rental and will include 15% affordable units. Alderman Preckwinkle was able to work out with L3 Development inclusion of 15% (not just the city-mandated 10%) affordable units- and on-site. Affordable is defined as the points based on area income and characteristics of the structure as defined in terms of "points" assigned by the city: That will determine what the rents will be. Intent is to not include or use any government subsidy or Section 8 subsidy and have the structure entirely debt equity. They intend to scatter affordable units throughout the structure, but exact mixes will depend on such factors as ratios of one- and two-bedroom units rented. Undecided is whether finishes may differ in affordable units. (Unsaid but inferable from the fact that the layout is unchanged from former plans for a condo building is that it is conceivable that some or all units could at a later date become condo.) Possible rents were speculated to be, if following current nearby rents, $1000 to $1800 a month.

Note: Skepticism has been expressed to us site over whether this building can be built at all, by this team, and whether it is viable as rental or can rent at less than much more above the stated range.

At the meeting, representatives of the Coalition for Equitable Development in Hyde Park-Kenwood thanked the alderman and developer for this progress progress on affordable units and asked consideration of setting aside two-thirds of the affordable units for seniors and that units be able to accommodate the disabled. The developer noted in answer to the latter and related questions related to accessibility (and just being able to maneuver in buildings) that the entire structure must follow federal accessibility standards.

Howard Males, chair of the TIF council, noted that the project was thoroughly vetted by the TIF and its committees and was approved 2 years ago and not changed significantly enough to require reconsideration although it will be re-presented at the May 12 TIF meeting (7 pm, Neighborhood Club).

Basic features of the building, approved by the TIF Council 2 years ago according TIF chairman Howard Males, include

Answers to discerning questions including:

The traffic reviewer did not see an appreciable effect. A new shadow study will be be submitted.

This will be a quality, contextual masonry building. Designer is Antunovich firm, which has done much work in Hyde Park and much restoration work.

The development is intended to take advantage of proximity to transit, hopefully with some tenants not needed car spaces. No commitment could be made on access to parking by neighbors--except that a number of spaces on the second floor will be available to patrons of the retail, who will be able to use an elevator and use a passage through the building at ground level to 53rd St.

Hope is to help spark 53rd St. retail renaissance as well as install services needed by both residents and neighbors such as a pantry-like store or restaurant.

Next steps for the proposed Planned Development, which will take a minimum of a year, include hearings by the Chicago Plan Commission, Zoning Committee and Community Development Commission. Only property owners of note within 400 feet will get notices (to some) of these. Notices will be in the local papers and posting boards and online through the agendas of the agencies in the City of Chicago website. None of the referenced reviewers will consider the project before June or July 2008. After approvals, the permit process begins and full construction drawings drafted.

The presentation was similar at the May 12 TIF meeting, with a more clear commitment to the affordable component, to be throughout the building and apartment types, and convertibility of a part of the units to full handicapped accessibility. Stronger doubts were expressed about the development's viability. The changes were approved, but the team was instructed by Chair Howard Males to work with the next door townhouse owner who would now be blocked from light completely.



53rd Cornell background to April 23

Before the market bust, Mr. Leal of L3 was set to go on a 17-story mixed use planned development between the Metra/Canadian National tracks and Cornell Ave. on the north side of 53rd St. There was neighbor attempt at blockage, particularly from low rise condos to the north, but widespread approval as needed transit-oriented development or else indifference. The existing low-rise stores on the site were removed in late 2007. In March 2008, request was made for zoning change allowing for as high as 21 stories, although that could be just conservative filing.

Fernando Leal demolished the 53rd Cornell property and in 2008 had applied for planned developments for up to 21 stories., L3 has not yet located an of site location for its 15% affordable commitment, but is looking at some buildings. Leal said at the January 8 2007 TIF meeting that construction costs have escalated 35% over two years, necessitating a hard look that will delay start of new construction.

Background: Air rights were already finalized in October 2007 with the only neighbor who would sell theirs, Jack McGarry of K & G Building Management.

What held up the 53rd-Cornell project. Not the inability to locate a separate, viable affordable housing building but disagreements with neighbors to the north, who all have to agree in order to avoid lengthy process, hearing et al on zoning changes and especially purchase of air rights. Remember also that Mr. Leal has to sell 45% before construction can begin. And now there is the steep rise in construction costs-three bids came in at about or over a third higher than expected. Also, air rights were essential for the project to go forward. Neighbors in all directions would not sell air rights, so they were bought from John McGarry of K.

Ald. Preckwinkle said the issue had been thoroughly vetted in the community. Preckwinkle pushed for more affordable housing in Cornell-53rd as building got taller--but accepted the "affordable" buyers having another building location tbd--as of September 11, no such building had been identified in the neighborhood. The TIF Council voted OK on the project early in 2006, but a brief firestorm started over moving the affordable units off site. The project still goes before the Plan Commission and will seek both permits and the affordable off-site.

Hyde Park Herald, March 26, 2008. By Kate Hawley

L3 seeks zoning change on 53d

A stalled development at the northwest corner of 53rd street and Cornell Avenue showed a flicker of life in recent weeks as the developer sought zoning changes for the project. The changes would allow the construction of a 21-story residential building at 1620 E. 53rd St., with 206 units, about 7,500 square feet of retail space and 246 parking spots.

The development would also include a swath of land owned the Akiba Schechter Jewish Day School, one door to the west of 5235 S. Cornell Ave. The school did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The property at 1620 E. 53rd St. had been zoned for a 17-story residential high-rise with a retail component. The changes would make the project a planned development under city zoning guidelines. Residents living within 250 feet of the site received a letter from the city, dated March 4, informing them of the proposed changes. The letter says that DRW Cornell Property, LLC applied for the changes March 5. Developer Fernando Leal, of L3 Development, LLC, is listed as a manager of DRW in city records.

Last fall, L3, which is based in Reno, Nev., applied for permission to tear down a three-story brick building on the site. The lot is now vacant, awaiting redevelopment.

The project has moved slowly as L3 tries to "figure out what is possible in the changed development climate," ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) said recently. "Because of the housing crisis, it's very hard to get things funded." A call to Leal at his Reno office went unreturned. The number of L3's Chicago office has been disconnected.

Preckwinkle said last Thursday that L3 is planning to go through the process of getting city approval for the project, which means that building likely wouldn't start until next year. If the project at 1620 E. 53rd St. goes forward, it would be among several tall buildings soon to join Hyde Park's stock of high-rises. The most recent of these were constructed during a postwar building boom that tapered off by the 1970s....[except 52--S. Hyde Park and at 53rd Ellis].


Meeting to be held on 53rd and Cornell high rise. Apartments planned for 21-story tower

Hyde Park Herald, April 9, 2008. By Kate Hawley

Hyde Park residents curious about the status of the high-rise propose for the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Cornell avenue can attend a public meeting on the development April 23. Representatives from the 4th Ward and the developer, L3 Development LLC, will attend the meeting, to be held at 7 p.m. at Congregation Rodfei Zedek, 5200 S. Hyde Park Blvd.

The company had planned condos for the tower, but has switched to rental apartments since the housing market has become inhospitable to condo development, according to Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th). The project has been in the works for several years. L3 bought the property in July 2005, paying $6,840,000, according to city records. The same lots were sold to the previous owner, Mario J. Soldo, for $2,625,000 in April 2002.

In the fall, L3 applied for a permit to clear the land for development. It's now sitting empty. However, the project showed signs of life in recent weeks when the developer applied for a zoning change. The property, located at 1620 E. 53rd St.., had been zoned for a 17-story residential high-rise with a retail component.

The changes would allow the construction of a 21-story residential building with 206 units, about 7,500 square fet of retail space and 246 parking spots, according to a letter sent March 4 from the city to residents in the immediate area.

The project is a Planned Development, which means that it has its own set of specially developed zoning guidelines. To meet those guidelines, L3 needed to buy air rights over land belonging to one of the surrounding properties, according to Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th). The company eventually made a deal with Akiba Schechter Jewish Day School, located at 5435 S. Cornell ave. Akiba Schechter retains the right to build on the land, but it has no current plans for any building projects, Preckwinkle said.

The Herald contact John Roberson, executive vice president of corporate development for L3, who has a Chicago office. Calls also went out to Jim McKevitt, the company's chief operating officer, and Fernando Leal, its managing partner. Those calls also went unreturned.

However, a housing advocacy group in Hyde Pak that has been working with L3 shed a glimmer of light on the company's intentions. The group, which is now called the Coalition for Equitable Community Development, first met with L3 beginning in 20005, according to Linda Thisted, chair of the coalition's Affordable Housing Advocacy committee.

Thisted said she and three other coalition members last met with L3 in November, sitting down with McKevitt and Roberson to try to convince them to set aside 10 percent of the units in the building as affordable housing. "They didn't commit to anything one way or another," said Thisted, adding that movement on the project then seemed unlikely in the near future. During the discussion, Roberson and McKevitt mentioned they were considering switching the units in the building from condos to rental apartments, she said.


L3 lays out new plans for 53rd and Cornell. Herald, April 30, 2008. By Kate Hawley

Representatives of L3 Development came to Hyde Park last Wednesday to present their latest plans for a high-rise at the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue -- now a slightly taller building with rental apartments instead of condos.

The meeting, at Congregation Rodfei Zedek, 5200 S. Hyde Park Blvd., was required by the city since L3 is seeking a zoning change for the property. It's the first time L3 has met with the community since holding half a dozen meetings two years ago. At that time the company was planning a 17.5-story condo building. "Then the economy kind of intervened," Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), to the roughly 100 people who showed up to see the presentation.

The project has been in the works since 2005, when L3 bought the property for $6.8 million. The building that formerly occupied the site was torn down last fall to prepare for construction, but the lot has been empty since then. "I would love to be able to say that L3 somehow has a magic formula that makes us immune to all of the things that are out there in the marketplace, but we are not," said John Roberson, L3's executive vice president of corporate development. He is now the company's Chicago representative since Fernando Leal, the managing partner, moved to Las Vegas, he said.

To reflect the changing market, L3 has revised its plan to include rental apartment instead of condos and a slightly taller building -- twenty stories instead of 17.5. The new plan also calls for 206 residential units, 7,500 square feet of retail on the ground floor and 249 parking spaces.

The building's design, by the Chicago-based Antunovich Associates, has undergone only slight modifications. For example, hanging balconies in the earlier design are now recessed, to make the building more streamlined, said Joe Antunovich, principal in the firm. The overall look is meant to emulate Hyde Park';s stock of 1920s high-rises, he said.

The additional height will accommodate an affordable housing component within the building, instead of elsewhere in the neighborhood as previously planned, according to Roberson, who is a former buildings commissioner for the city.

The new plans mean the developer must seek a zoning change to a planned development, or PD, which allows zoning guidelines to be determined on a per-project basis. The PD would allow the developer to alter the proposed building's floor area ratio, or FAR, the total amount of space a building can inhabit, given the size of the lot it sits on.

The company would do that by purchasing FAR -- essentially, buying development rights-- from an adjoining property, according to Rolando Acosta, the zoning attorney for the project. L3 has made an agreement with Akiba Schechter Jewish DAy School, 5235 S. Cornell Ave. "It's not a substantial sum of money," Acosta said.

The process of getting zoning and other approvals from the city will likely take a year, according to Roberson. How quickly the project can proceed from there "kind of depends on the market," he said.

L3 will present the same material at the next meeting of the 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council, to be held at 7 p.m. on May 12 at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, 5480 S. Kenwood.