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Solstice on the Park (56th Cornell Antheus development project)

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Written by and responsible: Gary Ossewaarde

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The latest iteration of Solstice on the Park, 1634 E. 56th St, 56th and Cornell ne corner, Planned Dev. 282, was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission February 18 2016 and goes to the Zoning Commission in future weeks. Changes are

Windermere House – no changes

5528-32 S Cornell – reserve the 53 dwelling units for affordable housing

Solstice Building - 33 feet closer to 56th street and right up to Cornell; no hotel

Construct no fewer than 316 parking spaces (in a larger parking building including underground so 15 feet shorter; a fitness room and two possible retail shops, along with a private drive along the front south face of the building that provides the entrance and exit to the parking garage. )

Construct no more than 250 dwelling units (original condo plan had 153 larger-sized units)

The plan will have a full complement of trees along 56th (excepting at the Com Ed vault an entrance.

The maximum height will remain at 299 feet

Over 1 M was invested in Bret Harte School's new drives and parking, playground and other improvements.




Windermere sites at 56th and Cornell
New News coming from Nov. 5 2015. Note that more updates are now being posted in the Antheus/MAC page. This will be a rental building with no hotel and keeping the building to the north affordable in perpetuity.

Peter Cassel of MAC Properties et al, adt teh November 5 HPKCC board meeting, discussed and answered questions on the proposed Solstice on the Park development on the northwest corner of 56th and Cornell Ave. Basics: The project is in request for amendment to planned development and will be a slightly smaller and shorter (25 stories) version of the original design. It will be a rental building without a hotel and with the parking partly underground so that the parking structure (now detached) will be only 3 stories above ground with 216 parking spaces including for the building north of Solstice, and the Windermere. There will be 250 apartments with rents starting about $1,800 for a one-bedroom and topping at $4,500 for some 4-bedrooms. The building to the north (52 units) will be affordable and rent-frozen in perpetuity. Hope is for construction to start in 3rd quarter 2016 and to take two years, except the parking garage, which will be built first. Accommodations for Bret Harte school are complete. Concern was expressed about renters in the affordable building, citing past experience—Cassel cited experience with current affordable properties and use of proper screening and management to expectations.
He said City Hyde Park is renting well; three large retail spaces are leased plus Regis office rentals and there will be small retail on the Harper side.

Peter Cassel presented the rebirth of the project and answered questions at the February 5 2015 Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference board meeting, one of several to be held including a full open meeting February 10 at Piccolo Mondo.

Solstice development at 56th and Cornell- Peter Cassel for Antheus/Silliman Group/MAC. Properties.
Background: Antheus has about 100 buildings and 4,500 apartments in Hyde Park-Kenwood, all rental, and with a high occupancy rate. Its larger new or renovated developments include Del Prado, Shoreland, and City Hyde Park (which will have a Whole Foods and. he announced, a Marshall's).

Antheus intends to move ahead on the project, using essentially the LEED design of Studio Gang (CEO Jeannie Gang) and height (24 stories), although the change to rental configuration and numbers of units may cause it to be narrowed and the parking addition larger and with a conference center/ballroom deck. Market demand analysis prompted the change from condos to rental. The number of units, if an all-apartment building would go from c150 to as many as 250.

Preferred plan- 2/3 rental with c.200 units, other third a hotel with 130 or so units. Alternate, if the additional approvals for hotel were too costly or lengthy would be a c.250 unit rental building.

After public and stakeholder meetings, they would like to file an amended Planned Development (PUD) document within 4-6 months and start the process for zoning and planning approvals-- amendment and zoning are necessary anyway and the building size and height are beyond what current zoning allows. A hotel would need a liquor license.

They have an affordable component agreement with Coalition for Equitable Community Development, but that would be revisited because ordinances have been passed-- and a new one is proposed, and the number of units is greater.

Questions and concerns: Need to take care with parking and service entry and esp. egress- cars shoot out, and better lighting is needed. Congestion is already high at times including on Cornell, 56th, 56th-Stony-Lake Park convergence, and there are adjacent playgrounds and school; Bret Harte still closes off 56th St. part of the day. (Cassel said a traffic study is now underway, including understanding how the school drop-off works.)

Can the shadow effect be mitigated. (That varies by time of day and season and moves around).

The unit sizes? Most are one or two bedroom with some studios and three bedrooms. Rents when it opens will be market rate, higher than at the Shoreland and comparable to City Hyde Park.

Hotel ? (MAC would own it, a hotel company would run it- probably a soft brand (i.e. not Marriott) which gives more flexibility.
The hotel is not dependent upon or related to a Presidential Library, which would follow years later.)

All are invited to the public presentation and discussion Tuesday, February 10, 6 pm at Piccolo Mondo, 1642 E. 56th St. Cassel will also present at the February 9 Jackson Park AC 7 pm at 6401 stony Island and hold resident and stakeholder meetings.

February 10 2015 Eli Ungar of Antheus and two specialists on his staff gave an illustrated public presentation on Solstice and answered questions, at Piccolo Mondo, 1642 E. 56th St. The following is what was different or in addition to what's above.

The arrangement with Bret Harte is a formal agreement.
Affordable component- The prefer to keep the arrangement for the north building (5528), which is 53 units, far beyond what even a revised ordinance would require for set aside- it would be contiguous and it would be in perpetuity. They have met (that morning) with CECD Affordable Housing Advocacy.

Building options-- they are going ahead with it as rental (esp. since it will be easier to convince funders for rental), but preference would still be condo. About 9 months from now they will reach a point of no return-- for condos, they would have to start advertising and selling.
The definitely want the hotel option, but that depends on the city letting it happen outside downtown. And for a hotel a liquor license is the deal breaker. What has changed? Buildings actually under way or done-- last previous about 1987, 1979.
Also, they learned the hard way that 145 at c2,000 sf was wrong- could not sell and certainly would not rent. The new sizes and numbers they think will rent fast, and could sell as condos. the floors and rooms are configured so they work either way. And have the amenities (and views!) and a more generous size than most new buildings, so will attract renters or buyers.
250 1,200 sf if rental or if the lower half is a hotel, 180-200 rental units and hotel with 130-160 hotel style rooms. (The specs given to the city have to say the maximum allowed.)
Parking is in excess of what the city asks, especially transit-oriented. They admitted that they are not increasing the parking spaces with the increase in unit numbers, citing their experience with the large remodeled rental buildings they have (also Del Prado and East View did not require any parking spaces). They still intend to serve the various "constituencies" and hope to have some extra parking for the neighborhood. The parking bustle would go higher (ballroom floor, 4 parking levels above ground, the 1st floor restaurant, and a parking floor underground there).
Building parking would enter from 56th next to the school (fenced off) while the hotel and service entry would be from the drive off Cornell. Parking studies are under way. (Two curb cuts would be added on 56th, two on Cornell eliminated.)
There is a zoning issue with having a hotel in a combination building in neighborhoods as well as need for a liquor license to serve in the restaurant, not take out-- experience would be similar to Piccolo Mondo- they would need community support.
Looks will change as the carved out balconies would change to fit the new number of units. It stays LEED certified.
The amenities in the apartments and in the common wil be such as are competitive and would fit with converting to and selling as condos-- more than what's in usual rental buildings. And the views in all directions is the real cachet--including unblockable view to downtown over the railroad.

An amended PUD would be filed, having text document that controls, including the review process, the bulk table, drawings (with which permits must compare). The FAR (floor area ratio) would stay 6.6. Parking 423 spaces. 200 bike spaces (1 for 2) . Maximum flor a floor 5000 sf. Maximum height 299 feet (most the city will allow at this site or equivalent of 24 floors).
One reason that it's hard to put up building here is that land costs about what it does downtown but you cannot sell for or rent for as much as downtown.
Public notice will be sent to residents within a certain distance giving the plan and changes needed in detail and inviting feedback. And they will have to deal with several city departments until all are satisfied with the plan-- at that stage al notices and hearings are under the control of the city.

Answers- c90% will be one or two bedroom, the rest efficiency or 3 bedroom. There would be limited possibility of combining or adjusting units if any, more possible if condo.
A serious question was raised about whether affordable could mean lots of unscreened Section 8 residents -- experience and crime were bad when that was the case in the 1990s. 53 all together is too much affordable? The Alderman suggested a strategy reserving a block for middle class who want to be able to stay in Hyde Park.


Antheus completed its work of new playground and new student drop off and staff parking lot for Bret Harte School in summer 2014. mayor Emanuel presided over the ribbon cutting. Still to do in conjunction with Solstice is a school staff parking component.

Archive sample-We learned at an HPKCC forum with Eli Ungar May 6, Tuesday, that the Solstice on the Park proposal remains on track but will not break ground before fall 2008, after gauging sales at its new model center (on the site). Some units have been sold. The project in spring 2008 was showing the on-site model and selling units. About 50% will have to be sold before construction can start, no earlier than fall 2008. Writers continue to point out some received maintenance issues and feasibility in light of necessary prices. The arrangement with Coalition for Equitable Community Development to keep (assuming the project goes forward) all of the units in the building to the north affordable in perpetuity is complete.

The story continues in the Antheus page (including site plan and rendering.) Unanimous support was expressed at a public meeting November 15 at Bret Harte School. The developer and architect answered questions in full detail in addition to careful presentations. See there also the latest site plan and rendering. This project will be one of 3 featured on a national television program on green/LEEDS design.

A local group known informally as Back to the Drawing Board conducted much research and has had a full discussion with Alderman Hairston. The alderman, as well as the group, is in regular discussion with Antheus Capital (the developer) about certain changes the group thinks will make the development more an asset and less a problem, but design, while it could be tweaked, is pretty close to final.

Agreement was reached with Bret Harte school although concerns remain. Antheus will pay for a new playground, disabilities accommodation and air conditioning, new drop off drive, and more. Also, agreement was reached with the neighbors in the building Antheus bought to the north of the Windermere lot and with Interfaith Open communities to keep the building affordable rental with frozen rents in perpetuity.

See Discussion with HPKCC board. As discussed in April 2007 Conference Reporter.
In perspective: Antheus/MAC Properties.

Antheus Properties will build a condominium building designed by Jeanne Gang and StudioGang with parking on the surface lot of the Windermere, 1604-24 E. 56th St. There was a neighbors and community stakeholders meeting October 23 2006. The expected-to-have-preceded earlier meeting with the Windermere residents and businesses will be scheduled as soon as interim parking and other details are determined. Note that Antheus now has 17% of Hyde Park's rental properties. Representative Eli Ungar said that the economics is against building new rental buildings in Hyde Park.
See takes that are very different from that below on the meeting and project, below.

Revealed was a 25-story, 268-feet, 136 unit building. The latter is not set and will depend on such things as due-diligence marketing "advice" from the financing firm, but is expected to be a mix of sizes but to keep the number of units per floor small (4 to 8). The developers insisted they will not go higher. The project will consist of replacement and new parking, a lobby and club area intended so serve as a context-friendly transition to Cornell, the tower, the alley moved northward, and the independent 5628 building that will not undergo significant change, will stay rental, and serve as a buffer for the existing condo buildings to the north. (The Cornell block is almost all condo low rise or single homes.)

The developer promised a careful interim parking plan that will provide spaces for every existing tenant, even if valet and shuttle service has to be brought in.

The developer will ask the city for permission to move the alley to the edge of the 5528 building as well as to include the latter building in the existing Windermere planned unit development. (The developer seemed to say that 5528 will remain a separate LLC from that owning the Windermere and, until units are sold and an association formed the new site.) They and the Alderman would also petition to make the remaining south part of Cornell also northbound one-way.

Drop-off buses and traffic for Bret Harte would go north on Cornell, west on the new alley, and south along the east edge of the Harte property, or north via alley to 55th. The developer is negotiating with Bret Harte re: its drop-off and parking for staff as well as to pay to redo the playground and landscaping. Entries to the building and to parking will be on Cornell. And the Cornell face will be designed as contextual to Cornell, including the tower part being setback.

The building has been set back from 56th to minimize shadows on both the Windermere House and the houses to the north. Landscaping will ameliorate and ground parking south of the building. The building, designed by Jeannie Gang and Gang Studios, will have many green and energy/heat efficient features and will be bird- and neighbor-friendly through such features as tilted and tailored glass and an offset, faceted, rugose face that will make it distinct from most modernist buildings.

Shadow studies were shown and explained, showing that shadows at one time of the year will encroach on the front yards of two houses, but go no further. Main impact of shadows will be on units in Windermere House with west exposure, and efforts were made to minimize the shadows.

Some said they want no height, or that the building should be "classical" like the Windermere, or that at least a lower section should have a facewall up to the 56th sidewalk (shown by a map of 56th to the Drive to not fit in with existing, which is a sawtooth profile). But most seemed pleased or accepting, provided the interim parking and logistics are good. Alderman Hairston also felt, when asked by this reporter, that the project is a "home run."

Schedule: nothing happens before fall of 2007.

Coverage of the evolving plan:

Herald, October 11, 2006.

MAC Property Management LLC will seek public input at 7 p.m., Oct. 23 [2006], at the Windermere House, 1642 E. 56th St., on plans to build condominiums at the corner of 56th Street and Cornell Avenue adjacent to Bret Harte Elementary, 1556 E. 56th St., on the northwest corner of 56th Street and Cornell avenue. It is currently being used as a parking lot.

The New Jersey-based company took over operations at the Windermere Sept. 29 when another company, Windermere House, LLC, bought the 220-unit rental building from former owner Sheldon Baskin, of Metroplex, Inc. Windermere House, LLC, was created for the sole purpose of owning the property. MAC shares a New Jersey Address with Antheus Capital, LLC, which provides investment capital.

Hairston said MAC provided her with preliminary plans for a low-rise development. "The building will fit into the neighborhood," Hairston said. "It is not going to obstruct views." Drawings call for grade-level and some below-grade parking, the alderman said. And the developer plans to ask the city for permission to push back the alley running between the proposed site and another parking lot just north of it, thereby expanding the lot size.

Hairston said moving the alley north would improve safety conditions around Bret Harte by separating the children from traffic. "There have been problems with people speeding through the alley, she said. "If you can lessen the opportunity for children to come in contact with moving vehicles, it's a good thing."

Almost all of the land surrounding the Windermere as well as the parking lot is zoned R-5 and RM-5, which makes it unlikely that the developer will need the city to approve a zoning change to build condominiums. "Regardless of what the city requires, it's my policy to have a community process," Hairston said."It's important for people to have a say-so."

Herald article cites Peter Skosey of Metropolitan Planning Council, others talk about upside to density in relation to 56th Cornell project, especially when close to transit.

(Skosey grew up in Hyde Park.) Hyde Park Herald, November 16, 2006. By Erin Meyer

The density of a proposed mixed-use condominium development for East Hyde Park will benefit the neighborhood as a whole, according to city planner Peter Skosey.

Englewood, N.J.-based Antheus Capital plans to build a 25-story, 268-feet high mix-use condominium complex on the northwest corner of 56th Street and Cornell Avenue. The proposed development, according to Skosey, vice president of external relations a Metropolitan Planning Council, is an appropriate use of he land, which is zoned as a planned development."Rather than focusing on the positive benefits--the increase in housing options, more customers for retail and more transit--the focus is always on parking," Skosey said.

He added that the density associated with planned developments encourages pedestrian-friendly retail districts. In some cases, Skosey said, more density also means more affordable units. "In order for the economics to work you have to spread the cost over a larger number of units," he said.

He also spoke to the importance of a pedestrian-friendly design. "Ideally this development should have nice frontage on 56th and Cornell with the garage entrance off the alley so cars interfere as little as possible with people walking on the sidewalk," he said.

Antheus has become a major Hyde Park property owner, having bought through different limited liability corporations 19 neighborhood properties, including Algonquin Apartments, Windermere House and Village Center. Six of those properties are located on Cornell Avenue. This is the development company's first project involving new construction in the neighborhood...

Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th) commended Antheus for working with her office and the community. "This company has been true to their word," she said. "You don't get the feeling that they are trying to pull something over on you or rush something through."

Before it can be approved by the city, Antheus' proposal will undergo more review than most. Due to the property's proximity to the lakefront and public parks it is subject to Chicago's Lakefront Protection Ordinance. The ordinance comprises 14 policies and 13 purposes that developments within a fourth of a mile of the lakefront must comply with. "We have been blessed," said Irma Tranter, president of Friends of the Parks. "Chicago is unique among other cities with the lakefront park system. The ordinance is the most recent effort to ensure that it remains pen, free and clear." Tranter said the particular parts of the ordinance that would apply to 56th Street and Cornell avenue include how the building impacts access to the green space, park space and the Museum of Science and Industry. Increased vehicular traffic is also a concern. "The building should not block the sunlight for example. It should ensure a harmonious relationship between lakefront parks and the community edge," she said.

While many of those who live in the immediate area are calling on the developer to scale down the size of the building, others say the 136-unit condominium is exactly what the neighborhood needs. Hyde Parker Rushim Bains returned to the area after living in Washington, D.C. "I came back to Hyde Park because I love it," he said. "But the neighborhood lacks so many of the amenities North Side neighborhood enjoy, particularly in terms of retail options." Bains described Hyde Park as an "island" and pointe to t he planed 17-story condominium development at 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue expected to break ground this spring. "More density in East Hyde Park along the Metra tracks will mean better transit and more retail. That's how it works" he said.

Rushim Bains tells in Herald letter, NIMBYism alive in Hyde Park. November 15.

The headline "Resident blast condo development" in the NOv. 8 issue of the Herald made it appear as if there was overwhelming opposition to this development from the neighbors, but the text in your article appeared to suggest it was more 50/50. If there is anything that adds thunder to what is known as NIMBYism (Not IN My Back Yard), it's the illusion that opposition is much greater than it really is.

This discourages developers and can falsely influence the alderman, and we all get stuck with a dull and uninspiring parking lot because a handful of neighbors don't want anything built next to them. Of course, in light of the struggling retail scene in Hyde Park, as well as problems with affordable housing, simple supply and demand dictates tha a lot more housing is the ultimate cure for this chronic situation--a fact that has totally slipped past many people.

All this aside, how would you describe the actual strength of the opposition to this proposal based on the last meeting? The one-sided negative responses in the letters section (of the same issue) are quite disappointing. From complaints about traffic and parking, to demands for a park instead (get real), to concerns about shadows (this is Chicago, people), these are the same cyclical arguments NIMBY's post across the board, from neighborhood to neighborhood. It's almost as if people don't realize they live in a major American city.

I would hate to see such a beautiful design by a renowned and talented architect such as Jeanne Gang get scrapped or get replace by another one of those dull, monotonous, cookie-cutter brick boxes because some neighbors have no aesthetic sense whatsoever.

Hyde Park has a great collection of architecture, so why are we trying to stop this tradition here and now?


Note, we have been told that sale of the Windermere, 1642 E. 56th, will not bring conversion or a change in the status of that large, upscale rental building. The ballroom will house a state-of-the-art neuroimaging center (in conjunction with U of C Hospitals). (It was not clear to us whether that will be the current ballroom in the southeast corner--the once Anchorage Bar and later Jewish Senior Center--or the old ballroom in the north center--probably latter to avoid street vibration.
Top More on Antheus- 1

Herald, October 18, 2006. By Erin Meyer

MAC Property Management, LLC, will seek public input at 7 p.m., Oct. 23, at the Windermere House, 1642 E. 56th St., on plan to build condominiums at the corner of 56th Street and Cornell Avenue, said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th).

The proposed site is adjacent to Bret Harte Elementary, 1556 E. 56th St., on the northwest corner of 56th Street and Cornell Avenue. It is currently being used as a parking lot. The New Jersey-based company took over operations at the Windermere Sept. 29 when another company, Windermere House, LLC, bought the 220-unit rental building from former owner Sheldon Baskin, of Metroplex, Inc. Windermere House, LLC, was created for the sole purpose of owning the property. MAC shares a New Jersey address with Antheus Capital, LLC, which provides investment capital.

Hairston said MAC provided her with preliminary plans for a low-rise development. "The building will fit into the neighborhood," Hairston said. "It is not going to obstruct any views." Drawings call for grade-level paring and some below-grade parking, the alderman said. And the developer plans to ask the city for permission to push back the alley running between the proposes side and another parking lot just north of it, thereby expanding the lot size.

Hairston said moving the alley north would improve safety conditions around Bret Harte by separating the children from traffic. "There have been problems with people speeding through the alley," she said. "If you can lessen the opportunity for children to come in contact with m

Almost all of the land surrounding the Windermere as well as the parking lot is zoned R-5 an RM-5, which makes it unlikely that the developer will need the city to approve a zoning change to build condominiums. "Regardless of what the city requires, it's my policy to have a community process," Hairston said. "It's important for people to have a say-so." Top

Herald October 25 2006. By Erin Meyer and Daniel J. Yovich. Seeking answers to new condos. Windermere owners propose 25 story building next door

Neighbors of Hyde Park's newest condominium development sought answers during a Monday N.J.-based Antheus Capital, 56th Street and Cornell Avenue.

About one third of approximately 60 [sic over 100] neighbors in attendance were tenants of the Windermere House, 1642 E. 56th St. Several said they were disappointed that they had to learn of the condominium project from a newspaper account instead of the Windermere management company. [Management reps said they delayed a planned meeting with residents because they wanted to bring them a complete parking and construction conditions plan, details of which should be ready within a couple weeks. One suspects that they scheduled this meeting as a preliminary heads up for stakeholders, and it got away into a public meeting before they could set up a residents meeting.]

Mitchell Brown, a 16-year resident, said one reason he chose to live in the Windermere is because it is one of only a few high-end rental properties with parking in the neighborhood. "It is very offensive to learn of his from the newspaper and not from our building [managers]," Brown said before the meeting began. "If this project is going to do away with our parking, even on a temporary basis, I am gong to have to rethink my options."

Antheus President [sic? MAC President?] Eli Ungar said the company had planned to meet with Windermere residents earlier but had been unable to do so. "I know parking is on a lot of people's minds," he said. "What I want to tell you is that we will rebuild each and every parking space after construction."

Zoning lawyer Graham Grady told neighbors that the property is currently zoned as a planned development, which is the same as Windermere House. Resident Christine Brown asked if the building at 5528 S. Cornell Avenue would require rezoning. Ungar explained that Antheus bought that building prior to acquiring the Windermere and that the company does not plan to make any major changes to the property. [Except to move the alley closer to it. He will seek to add the building to the PUD, he said.] He reiterated that all the existing parking spaces would be preserved or replaced, in addition to an adequate number of spaces to serve the proposed development.

Ungar said Antheus would also schedule a second meeting with Windermere tenants. "What we would like to do is meet with all of the Windermere's residents and retailers and with their help hammer out a plan," he said.


The proposed site currently serves as a parking lot. But in 1893 the parcel was home tot he original Windermere Hotel, constructed for the Columbian Exposition.

During the past decade, Antheus has become a major Hyde Park property owner, having bought through different limited liability corporations 19 neighborhood properties, including the Algonquin Apartments, Windermere House and Village Center. Six of those properties are located on or near South Cornell Avenue. [The other line of acquisitions is along and north and south of 53rd Street from Lake Park to Woodlawn, in addition to being a player along Lake Park at 47th. It sets up individual owning corps and uses subsidiary (?) MAC Properties as its manager.]

This is the development company's first project involving new construction in Hyde Park. Current plans call for 136 units with grade-level and below-grade parking or the complex. Construction plans also will likely include a proposal to relocate to the north an existing alley the juts behind the property, which is located east of the Bret Harte Elementary School. Fifth Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston said she was adopting a wait-and-see attitude on the project before giving it her final blessing. "I want to hear what the people have to say tonight," Hairston said. Top

In the November 1 Herald are coverage and two letters on the Windermere project that are very different in tone and content from other comments, showing how differently people can view the same meeting.

Neighbors blast condo plan- Cornell residents ask Antheus Capital to scale down Windermere West building. By Erin Meyer

Residents whose homes share the block with a condominium development proposed for Cornell Avenue and 56th Street are challenging how the 25j-story "glass tower" would fit into the historic neighborhood.

Kathy Newhouse has lived for 37 years across the street from the site, which currently serves as a parking lot. "I think this development would forever alter the block," she said from her home in the 5500 block of South Cornell Avenue. "This area is already over built. We don't have any breathing room." If the proposed development goes forward, Newhouse's living room window will look out onto a glass exercise and pool facility.

....the company invited neighbors to an open meeting Oct. 25 where preliminary plans were unveiled. Antheus, accompanied by a zoning lawyer, presented shadow and traffic studies and detailed preliminary plans for the complex.

Since the meeting, anxiety has increased among some neighbors--particularly those living in nearby single-family homes--about the building's height, density and design, as well as its potential impact on traffic and parking.

"The houses at the end will be in eternal darkness," said Elisabeth Clemens of the 5500 block of South Cornell. "We don't want the tall gloomy buildings of the Loop in Hyde Park."

While some neighbors want the building scaled down, the developer reported a positive response from others. "We are delighted with the strong support our initial plans for Windermere West have received from the broad community. As a significant property owner in Hyde Park, we will continue to work to further the design for the benefit of the entire community," [Eli]Ungar said. "Hyde Park's vibrancy and rich architectural legacy demand that this must ultimately be an asset for the entire neighborhood."

Some local officials also said the proposal is an appropriate use for the land. "I think if we are going to do a large residential complex this is a very good spot for it, with its proximity to Metra trains and the CTA," said Bob Mason, executive director of the South East Chicago Commission. "Density is not always a bad thing."

Residents will have at least one more opportunity to weigh in on the proposal. Due the the property's proximity to the shoreline and public parks, it is subject Chicago's Lakefront Protection Ordinance. The ordinance requires the Chicago Plan Commission hold a public hearing before any significant changes can be made to the property. Top


Interfaith vows to pressure developer for affordable housing. By Daniel J. Yovich

The Hyde Park Cluster of Interfaith Open Communities will seeks the support of Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) in trying to force a developer to provide affordable housing units as part of his plan to build a new condominium complex west of Windermere House. At its October 27 meeting, the Interfaith group voted to meet with Hairston as soon as possible to enlist her help in forcing Englewood, N.J. -based Antheus Capital, LLC to provide approximately 20 new units of affordable housing in lieu of its plan to build a 25-story condo tower on the northwest corner of 56th Street and Cornell Avenue.

As alderman, Hairston holds significant clout over zoning matters affecting her ward. In 2001 [sic?] she put the kibosh on a proposal by the Vivekananda Vedanta Society's plans to build a mid-rise on the 5400 block of South Hyde Park Boulevard in th wake of neighbors' concerns that the project would add to the area's housing density.

Hairston said she regularly meets with the Interfaith group and wants to hear their thoughts on why they think Antheus should be forced to provide low-and moderate-income rental units if they are allowed to build the condo complex. "I think this is a conversation that needs to continue," Hairston said. "I understand the concerns here and realize we need to talk about how we can best achieve a solution that works best for the neighborhood."

One of the major housing problems in the Hyde Park section of Hairston's ward is the aging baby-boomer population that is steadily being priced-out of affordable housing, Hairston said. That trend is likely to continue. Despite a slump in condo sales and conversions in many part of the city, Hyde Park condos continue to command top dollar and local property owners converting apartment to condos have so far been undeterred by talk of a bursting housing bubble, said Patricia Wilcoxen, Interfaith's program director.

Through more than a dozen limited liability corporations, Antheus has become a major player in the Hyde Park housing market. Since 2001, Antheus has bought 20 different properties totaling 2,000 rental units, or about 17 percent of the Hyde Park-Kenwood area's total rental units. Antheus' long-term investment strategy includes extensive rehabilitation and remodeling of its properties, recouping some of these costs through increased rents.

"Antheus is very responsible property owner," said Lawrence Bloom, a former 5th Ward alderman and real estate broker who has been involved in at least on Antheus property deal. "They invest in their properties. I don't think any alderman has gotten a complaint from an Antheus tenant regarding upkeep or maintenance."

But the increased rents Antheus charges after rehab projects further erodes the area's stock of affordable housing and helps contribute to rent increases across the Hyde Park area, Wilcoxen said. "We realize our limitations and that there is little we can do on our own to force the developer to do the right thing here, to set aside some affordable housing," Wilcoxen said. "But we can encourage him to embrace some possible solutions, and meeting with the alderman will be our first step."

In an interview with Herald reporters before the Oct. 23 public meeting, Antheus President Eli Ungar said he was sympathetic to neighborhood concerns about the dwindling stock of affordable housing. Ungar noted the continued conversions of Hyde Park apartment units into condominiums benefits Antheus, which, through MAC Properties LLC now controls about one in every six apartments in the community. "I also realize that the condo conversion trend is not helpful to the community," Ungar said.

Ungar said he also understand the problems faced by some longtime residents who have seen their housing costs increase over the past several years, and acknowledged that low- and moderate-priced housing in the area is becoming scarce. But penalizing developers for the ongoing gentrification of an area is not a solution to the problem, Ungar said, noting that the problem exists not only in Hyde Park but in many other areas across the country.

"I think this is a national issue and that it is unfair to place the burden of a solution solely on a builder," Ungar said. "If we're really going to get serious about this problem, then it's going to require a solution that involves input at the local, state and national levels."

A Tale of two wards

The Hyde Park Interfaith group is composed of most of the area's churches and synagogues, its mission to help residents become informed and active in addressing the problems and seeking solutions to the area's lack of affordable housing. The group has long

Supported 4th Ward Ald. Toni Preckwinkle's proposed affordable housing ordinance which would require developers of new and rehabilitated housing to set aside 15 percent of their units for low- and moderate-income buyers. That bill has languished for two years in the City Council's housing committee.

Preckwinkle said she has been pro-active in trying to retain what affordable housing remains in her district, requiring builders in the ward to adhere to the requirements in her proposed bill. "The truth is, we've tried to implement the ordinance, especially as it applies to public-owned land that is sold to private developers," Preckwinkle said, noting Oakwood Shores, Jazz on the Boulevard an Lake Park Crescent among the new development projects where she has won set-aside concessions from builders.

The lack of affordable housing is much more pronounced in Preckwinkle's ward than in Hairston's, Bloom said. In February, the Chicago Tribune Sunday magazine noted areas of Preckwinkle's ward are among the most rapidly gentrifying in the city, citing a real estate boom not only in Kenwood but also in Oakland. "You can't fairly compare the two wards, it's apples to oranges comparison," Bloom said, noting the relative affluence of the northern part of Hairston's ward when compare to the South Shoe and Woodlawn areas of her district.

Hairston said one of her immediate concerns is the high concentration of low-income housing in the southern section of her ward, and said she is taking a "block-by-block" approach in analyzing what new projects might mesh well with a neighborhood's character.

"You can't concentrate low-income housing in very narrow areas," Hairston said. "We have to take a balanced approach to this issue. I don't think the solution is for all of it (the ward's affordable housing) to fall on one side of our ward."


Letter by Robert Greenspoon and Jennifer Yorke in November 1 Herald

Hyde Park learned Oct. 2 that Antheus Capital plans a 25-story glass box with checkerboard facade to tower over the Windermere apartments, and blot the morning sun on the Bret Harte playground. The west alley between 55th an 56th streets on Cornell Avenue will move directly across a row of single family homes. That row of homes will also face directly into a natatorium. Two hundred off-street parking spaces will disappear for a year. This "plan" will seriously alter the character of the block and create unhealthy density.

Antheus Capital (and its corporate sister MAC Property Management) have no apparent experience in new high-rise construction. Yet principal Eli Ungar asks the community to trust him; he knows what he's doing. Mr. Ungar and his architect Jeanne Gang do not live in Hyde Park--Ungar is from Englewood, N.J. When confronted at the Oct. 23 community forum, Ms. Gang offered no specifics for how her glass building will comply with applicable regulations and good environmental sense, and avoid interfering with the migratory patterns of Canadian geese and mallard ducks.

More than one member f the community used the word "ugly" at the forum. Does Hyde Park need a 268-foot glass monument--a possible danger to children during construction and to the environment afterwards?

Is there a better place for it than in a potential preservation district? The scarred-glass block would loom over the trees and playgrounds of Jackson Park and capture the critical glances of visitors to our famous museums, not to mention drivers on Lake Shore Drive.

Mr. Ungar, there is an alternative. You say your recent purchase of the Windermere apartments (and 19 other Hyde Park rental properties in the last few years) will bring you financial success. You are already taking advantage of apartment scarcity caused by condo conversion by less insightful and less sensitive developers. You have a great opportunity now to improve and give back to the community that will support you and your company. Can you find a way to convert the "Windermere West" surface parking lot to additional green space enclosed for and devoted to the use of the elementary school next door? A gift to the children and the environment will win you friends in Hyde Park; an architectural mistake will not. Top

Kathie Newhouse says Back to the drawing board

The 5500 block of South Cornell Avenue is a designated historic district. On hearing of the proposed 25-story glass building for the corner of 56th Street and Cornell, I immediately felt cognitive dissonance--similar to when Marshall Fields became Macy's

The height and cantilevered glass-box style of the Antheus Capital group "plan" are clearly inappropriate. As a component of the plan, north of the current alley and fronting on Cornell, would be a glass-covered pool/exercise room.

The open, airy space, of the two existing parking lots offers relief and offsets the over-built density of this area. I just doubt that the limited space will allow for replacement of all existing parking places plus 136 more spaces for the new structure.

Any such structure ought to be no higher than the Windermere House and be built primarily of brick. As I've said, this area is a historic district. Our house is a George Maher, built in 1888. My suggestion is: Back to the drawing board!

Diana Jiang says high-rises detract from quality of life

About a year ago there was much talk and debate about a proposal to build a high-rise at the corner of 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue. The Tax Increment Financing Advisory Council supported the plan, eagerly thinking of the increased revenue the building would provide. The subject faded from view with the news that he developer was having trouble finding acceptable property for affordable housing.

Suddenly, this fall, we have learned that the development has received approval from the TIF, and that the developer is planning to begin building this spring! Now we are learning about another large development on Cornell Avenue, this one at the corner of 56th Street and Cornell Avenue. Both of these developments create very similar concerns for us, and, because they would both be fairly close together, we believe that they need to be considered together by the community.

We believe that these new high-rises would detract from the quality of life in East Hyde Park. For example:

1. It is not safe to have the only driveway for a parking garage for 200+ cars located so closely to the intersection of 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue. Students going to two separate schools heavily use the intersection and a crossing guard is necessary due to all the traffic at that intersection. Adding a driveway for a busy garage will make it much more dangerous.

2. Very much the same thing can be said of the parking garage for the proposed development at 56th Street and Cornell Avenue.56th Street is very narrow, and with Cornell Avenue one-way for most of that block, 56th Street will be the only access to the development. How will this affect the children waling to and from Bret Harte Elementary School each day?

3 If you count Bret Harte's playground, the 56th Street development is next to or directly across the street from three playgrounds.

4. The 53rd Street development will have the only driveway for its parking garage located directly across from a school's driveway.

5. During the summer, that same driveway will be very close to the driveway for a 250-child summer camp. During the morning drop-off there are often backups of cars waiting to enter the parking lot.

6 Several years ago 59th Street in front of the Lab Schools was two-way. Because of concerns about traffic and the safety of the children being dropped off, a few blocks of 59th Street were changed to one-way to decrease the amount of traffic near the school.Why is there talk of doing the opposite near these East Hyde Park schools?

7. How will the residents of the area like it if Cornell Avenue has to become one-way between 53rd and 51st streets?

8. What about narrow 56th Street and Bret Harte? Will 56th have to be changed to one-way?

9. Cornell Avenue is already busy and should not be expected to handle the additional car traffic. Even before the sewer construction on Hyde Park Boulevard, there were often eight or more cars backed up at the Cornell Avenue stop sign. The proposed building at 53dd Street would have something like 165 units and the one at 56th Street would have another 136, which means there will be 200 to 600 additional cars driving through this little corner of Hyde Park. Will we now need to fill the area with traffic lights?

10. These luxury high-rises will likely be occupied by many two-car families, putting extra stress on parking in the neighborhood.

11. More high-density developments will diminished the neighborly feel of Cornell Avenue.


Former ald. Larry Bloom's criticism of Ald. Preckwinkle's set aside ordinance re: the 56th Cornell building was in turn criticized by Marc Lipinski, who in the past has done work for the Alderman. Lipinski Nov. 8 asked what interest Bloom has in the Antheus project.

Maryal Stone Dale says, Hyde Park is not Central Station South

I sympathize with all the neighbors' complaints with the idea of the sky-high condo but also feel that it is very questionable that a building like that be set right next to a school. This neighborhood is not "Central Station South" for young upwardly-mobile career types but a residential neighborhood for families. Its proximity to the Metra station is totally irrelevant, too.

Those of us who lived through Urban Renewal still remember that one of its guiding principles was opening up space around schools and other institutions. So now developers are going to build there? Perhaps Ray's field is next? Lots of room there.


56th-Cornell developers talk with, answer questions from HPKCC Board January 4, 2007. Presentation by "Back to the Drawing Board" group in April 2007 follows.

56th and Cornell Developers discuss the project, affordable housing with HPKCC Board
January 29, 2007. By Gary Ossewaarde

On January 4the Conference Board heard Antheus Capital; Bell, Boyd and Lloyd and Studio Gang architects presented and answered questions on their proposed development on the Windermere parking lot, northwest corner of 56th and Cornell. Eli Ungar of Antheus Capital and David Quinn of Studio Gang were the main presenters along with Graham Grady. They described the stake they have in the project being done right and without harm, as owner of more than twenty rental properties in the neighborhood, several on Cornell Avenue, including the Windermere House and the long three-flat building just to the north of the proposed site. Their properties are upgraded and to be held for the long run. This will be their first non-rental and new construction in Hyde Park.

Careful site, shadow and traffic flow evaluation preceded structure placement. Meetings were begun with neighbors, community organizations and adjacent Bret Harte School from early in the planning. They have been acutely aware that current vicinity residents, the school and businesses require no loss of parking during and after construction and an adequate number of spaces for the new residents and that Cornell is a modest density residential street. Assets include proximity to transit and Jackson Park and the lakefront.

They hired Studio Gang, an architectural firm that has experience in innovative solutions and environmentally green structures and asked them to design a building that is new rather than old-looking, contextual including in its height, attractive, bird and environmentally friendly, neighbor friendly, parking-neutral, financially viable, and an asset to the community over the long run. No retail is to be included.

At 268 feet and 25 stories, the structure is between the tallest and shorter structures in height on 56th Street. It will be set back 40 feet from 56th--the other buildings on the street have cut-ins-- and will present no blank walls. There will be a ground level rise to the lobby to accommodate the underground part of the five levels of parking. Parking will not be visible from Cornell; a stepped-back, glassed health club would front instead. The number of units per floor, their size and numbers of bedrooms will be determined by market factors and is designed to be flexible.

Two problems that were not yet fully resolved were entry and exit for parking (planned for 56th, but with some board members suggesting entry from Cornell), Bret Harte School accommodation, and the alleyways and ground parking to the north. The developer would like to provide the school with a new playground, greenery, staff parking, access route, and pupil drop off (off-street) that would not adversely affect Cornell. Cornell would become one way northbound from 56th and not just from the present parking entry, solving safety hazards for the school and bike/pedestrian and auto traffic.

The tower has intriguing, environmentally friendly features. First, inward-angling glass panels on the south facade are intended to not attract birds, provide unit owners privacy and reduce both heat load and light and glare for neighbors. (The glass will look green from the ground because it will reflect the park.) The north face is designed to bring more winter light into the units. Second, features will be incorporated to reduce energy and utility use and heat load, and the building may seek “LEED” certification.

Asked about prospects for “affordable” units, the developers said that the market makes it very difficult to build new structures containing affordable owner units, and new rental buildings are completely out of the question in Hyde Park or nearby (none having been built since 1969). The replacement cost for a $5 million-priced building is $15 million and assessments and taxes for similar buildings vary enormously. Programs designed to help, such as Section 8 and Class 9 have now gotten out of balance, so that only desperate landlords will use them---until they convert the building to condos, and those that have a good market for their units will turn down prospective occupiers under these programs who won’t or can’t pay market prices or rents no matter who goes to bat for them. Section 8 at present is not profitable to landlords and is tied up in inspections and other bureaucracy. (Class 9 subsidizes 20 percent (was 33%) for multiple-unit and $16% for single-occupant structures and involves tax breaks if the units are upgraded—but this is no longer profitable and is inappropriate for an owner building, the board was told. Landlords are phasing out of Class 9.)

HPKCC board members asked for careful thinking and best solutions for interim parking, construction staging, the look of the lobby and entry area, avoidance of a wide curb cut for vehicular access while providing building drop off but not adversely impacting pedestrians and the play lots in the park, best points for school drop off, service vehicles and vehicular parking entry and access and circulation.

The current schedule is to proceed with planning and hearings, then full design, with startup desired for late 2007 and completion early 2009. Management will be by MAC Properties (an affiliate of Antheus) until owner occupiers have a majority of units and form a board.

"Back to the Drawing Board" group presents its concerns to HPKCC Board April 5, 2007.

56th Cornell Development guest presentation and discussion at HPKCC Board mtg., April 5 2007. Opposition presentation by Mr. Robert Greenspoon and associates.
By Gary Ossewaarde, Secretary

Robert Greenspoon, attorney and neighbor; Rebecca Moore, neighbor; Gerald Salzman, parking and traffic expert with Desman Associates; and Oscar Worrill, a city inspector, submitted a few copies of a binder, “Back to the Drawing Board, Presentation to the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference April 5, 2007,” supported with Power Point and discussion. The document included a Traffic and Parking Review and a compete draft of proposed zoning amendment ordinance changes requested by the developers, Antheus Capital, LLC (who presented at the January board meeting).

Initial statement and concerns by the presenters included:

· A zoning change is required (filed February 7 by Antheus) during which process there is an opportunity to seek changes;
· 61 neighbors have signed a petition of objection;
· The building is higher than neighbor groups were told (299 ft .vs. 268);
· 36 parking spaces are lacking from fulfilling the zoning requirements of 1:1 for condos and of no net loss to existing space renters (In fact, according to ordinance, they said, neither present or new parties may be favored against the other in a zoning change.)
· Cornell will have a 50-foot high long face north of the 299-foot high tower, and Bret Harte will face a blank west wall on the extension, even if vines are planted there. The entire complex is twice as long north-south as either Bret Harte or the Windermere.
· Bret Harte is cast in a shadow a good part of the day;
· The 5528-32 Cornell affordable building will have an alley pushed right up against its front doors, with a large volume of traffic and sitting cars (resulting in smog) especially at school drop off and pick up times, and will in other ways become unattractive. These tenants of affordable units bear the bad impacts and these valuable affordable units are degraded and devalued. (Ordinance requires assessment of community health, safety and welfare);
· The traffic and drop off plans for the new complex, the school and regular traffic are poor and inferior, not well thought out, create conflicts and non compliance with rules, and endanger children. Many parents will make easy drop offs so the kids will be running across Stony Island, 56th or Cornell. (The present school traffic arrangement is bad, they say, but the proposed will be worse.)
· Little planning is indicated for mitigation of construction noise and dust—the latter having affected asthma during other construction projects, especially by schools.

They said the project is objected to by 61 neighbors. It is likely to go forward and they are not trying to stop it, but there is room for changes in this once-in-a-generation opportunity: The project is still before the alderman and zoning commission staff, with city hearings not yet scheduled.
Their document and talk condensed the key flaws to:

· Missing inclusionary affordable housing—should be the same as what Ald. Preckwinkle is doing in the 4th Ward, 22 units, except this 15% should be in the complex. Why can others such as Leal make a profit with an affordable units agreement but Antheus not?
· Missing parking spaces (36);
· Unfavorable impacts on current affordable-housing residents at 5528-32 Cornell (40% being Section 8);
· Flawed traffic plan with conflicts;
· Traffic flow, including likely parent drop off noncompliance Child/car and pedestrian/car conflict is bad.
· The character of the complex is non-compatible. (It should have brick and terra cotta, no blank walls or impacting shadows, and height should be topped at the highest buildings along 56th (apparently excluding 1700); currently no feature is contextual with anything the vicinity).

They called for a new plan that reflects Hyde Park’s and adjacent neighbors’ character and needs. Opposing the current plan: nearly all property owners within 250 feet and affordable housing advocates, represented by the law firm of Ungaretti and Harris. They requested HPKCC to join them.

Asked about Bret Harte reaction, the presenters reported that the LSC had held discussions with the developer about concerns and had approved the project for consideration of a substantial gift for school amenities that would be available upon zoning and plan commission approval. The presenters also said the LSC members indicated they were unaware that the project is not a done deal but still open. Some HPKCC members advised that the presenters would not get far unless they persuaded Bret Harte to modify its position.

Asked about the position of the 5528-32 residents, Mr. Greenspoon said they appear very concerned but are reluctant to get involved because their landlord is the developer.

HPKCC board members suggested that, to garner community support and have an honest evaluation of the development, the presenters need to develop an alternative physical plan. The presenters felt preparing an alternative might be trying to constrain the developer--a plan is the developer’s burden, and they do not have resources.

Another asked if they had made the presentation to the alderman if they, the presenters, are sure she really has an open mind on the development. They had not yet. On Alderman Hairston’s position, they cited a Crain’s article of March 5, saying she has not made up her mind. On the alderman’s approach to affordability, they said there is no evidence she has leaned on the developer on this issue.

President Rumsey summarized reactions of board members to the developer’s presentation at a previous board meeting: Several had expressed admiration for the green (LEEDS) commitment, the design, or for a high building. Members had also expressed concern about the sloped approach to an elevated entry platform and too much setback from the street; concerns about lobby and Cornell looks and design; traffic flow conflicts including on the 56th sidewalk in general—including too many curb cuts. Members had suggested moving the auto entry to the complex to Cornell Avenue.

Members now added that little had been much thought out as it was early in the planning, including staging, storage and alternatives for current parkers during construction. (Greenspoon noted that zoning hearings actually do not consider such issues.) Other matters brought up as not addressed by the developer included garbage pickup, the fact that many children come to school via the alley along Metra, which would become more heavily traveled including for pickup and delivery. The sidewalk issues were raised again as really serious. Yet, members thought the developer seemed flexible and willing to address concerns.

Mr. Salzman of Desman Associates gave a breakdown on traffic and parking concerns: 142 units create 298 trips in and out a day. At peak times about 37 cars leave, 35 enter an hour. 208 parking spaces are presently available, mostly used by Windermere residents. The new building will result in a 68 percent increase in traffic moves. It’s not the number of trips but how traffic flows, and when that may overwhelm the site.

350 parking spaces are needed to accommodate current and new parkers; only 314 are provided for a net deficit of 36. Current law requires 1 space per condo unit. The zoning ordinance frowns on discriminating against either former or present users.

A member asked if the presenters had considered seeking to have the building moved to another location, presumably not next to a school, and enlisting the Schools CEO, for example, to accomplish this. This was an option, Mr. Worrill said, noting that in recent times the only housing built right against schools was low rise such as townhomes, with greenery required.

Mr. Worrill said that also important are the design and scale incompatibility with neighbors, density concerns (citing the Metropolitan Planning Council that density must be done with care and good site design), and the accommodation of affordable units, saying that the developer would still have 120 or so units to make up for not recovering full value on 21 or 22.

President Rumsey noted that the board is very concerned about affordability issues and suggested we need the current definition of affordability. He also suggested some of the other issues could be addressed if the 50-foot high extension north of the tower along Cornell Avenue, were eliminated.

The presenters were thanked. Rumsey agreed to give the presenters contacts. Two copies of the presentation packet were given the board.

Later in the meeting, the board consensus was that many want the project to go forward and like many aspects of it, but that there are serious concerns meriting placement of the matter on the May meeting agenda

Changes revealed in presentation, discussion with Bret Harte.

Antheus Capital’s revised proposal for a 26-story condominium development on the northwest corner of 56th and Cornell,
Antheus presentation before the Bret Harte Principal and Local School Council, April 16, 2007

The team of Eli Ungar (Antheus Capital) Graham Grady (Bell, Boyd and Lloyd), and Studio Gang Architects first discussed compensatory and good will improvements the developer offers Bret Harte School. One, air conditioners, provided receipt can be worked out with CPS, would be installed this fall, before construction starts and certainly before the 2008 warm weather.

New playgrounds (and the developer agrees these will be completely new and installed in phases) have problems to be worked out, as the school believes the older children’s game area to the north (c30x50 or the size of a gym) may be too small and too close to adjacent buildings, parking lots, and drop offs. It is also not certain these could have ball games, replacing supervised play across the street in the park, and so could necessitate continuing to block off at least an access corridor on 56th at Stony Island.

Accessibility for persons with disabilities including parents to the school is vexing, but the developer is committed to providing whatever facilities the council prefers. Ramps: room is really tight and the structures would be intrusive and disrupt the play areas. One or more lifts would have drawbacks and limitations. The school could have dedicated rooms for meeting parents and others, now in the Windermere, later in the new building.

In short, the school gains more usable land, new playground, accessibility, and air conditioners. The school people acknowledged that these address current deficiencies at the school and the developer acknowledged it needs to both make up for inconveniences and be a long-term good neighbor.

The council said there would have to be a parents meeting to make a decision.

Developers assured the school that the space, interfaces, and separations for auto drop offs and other traffic will be sufficient. School reps said they would need to see mockups and refined scale drawings.

The new schematics by the developer showed a reduction in 56th St. curb cuts, and these will be at the same grade as the 56th sidewalk, both per Dept. of Transportation requirement. There would now be clear lines of sight of at least 50 feet long for drivers along the building driveways, which would now have gentler slopes—exit ramp rising. Views from the sidewalk and street would also be clear.

The “hill” from 56th to the tower lobby will now be less steep, lead to a traditional lobby entrance, and have a curved drive to the lobby like that of Windermere East, with greensward within and on the sides of the drive, open to the public. The drives to the building’s parking will remain west of this drive.

The tower is repositioned to reduce shadows to the school and neighbors.

Trucks and other delivery will now be hidden from view, including of the school, one in the bays, but will have to do backing and turn-around to enter the bays. (Developers expected deliveries to be seldom after the move-in period). Hours would be limited and a flag person could be provided. Space between the building drives and the start of the school drop off drive would vary from 40 to 15 feet, with a separating c. 4- foot wall. Schools objected that the traffic configuration still precludes closing off 56th should some prove necessary, although most conceded being able to avoid street closure is preferable. They also said there will be ample space between the school lot line and the north (50-foot high) wing, whose back wall will be attractively treated with vines.

The developer said the alley from 55th will be wider and safer, with scavenger carts moved back as soon as current leases for 55th St. stores (currently giving right to dumpsters in the alley) are renegotiated.

Both agreed a working group has to be set up. The developer was asked and said he wanted a vote and written statement of support. The LSC and Principal Parks said the developer must refine and specify the drawings and specifics of what they intend to do, including for the school, then come to an advertised meeting with parents. Based on the latter, the LSC will decide.

The developer’s schedule was about 16 months construction starting with preliminaries in January 2008, assuming approval by the Plan Commission and City Council, which has been petitioned but not yet scheduled. (The developers meet with city departments and the school and LSC April 24.) They expect to carry out full abatement of dust, noise, and staging. The alley and future lot to the north will be built first. The building will be LEEDS certified.

In conversations after the meeting, some school reps. said to this reporter they expect the project will be approved, anticipate inconveniences the better part of two years, and seek to keep these to a minimum and get as much improvement for the school in return as possible. The developer also said they are working as hard to make the experience and result better for neighbors including the 5528-32 building as they are to accommodate the school, and said that there will be more clear and open room for the 5528 building than from the current parking.


HPKCC Board Discusses Proposed 56th & Cornell Development with Planners, Critics
by Gary Ossewaarde [HPKCC Secretary and board member][From the April 2007 Conference Reporter]

Major changes such only come along once in a generation are in store for 56th and Cornell, further south at 5800 and maybe elsewhere on Stony Island over the next few years. The Conference Board heard in January from of the 56th Cornell developers and in April from critics the plan, then from another with concerns about University of Chicago’s likely direction for former Doctors Hospital.

On January 4, HPKCC board members were favorably impressed but left with several concerns and unanswered questions about the proposed 26-story condo high rise for the present Windermere House parking lot, northwest corner at 56th and Cornell. Eli Ungar of Antheus Capital, developer, and David Quinn of Studio Gang Architects were the lead presenters, along with Graham Grady of Bell, Boyd and Lloyd.

Mr. Ungar stressed that as owner of many rental buildings in the area—several on Cornell, including recently-purchased Windermere House, Antheus has a stake in a having a building that makes a bold contribution and does not detract from the area. Antheus and its associated MAC Properties upgrade rental properties and hold them for the long run. This development will be their first foray into new condo construction.

Ungar and Quinn showed how site, shadow and traffic flow studies guided structure placement and site layout. Meetings with neighbors including Bret Harte school were started fairly early in the planning. They said they know the importance of no loss of parking during or after construction and that the Cornell residents, especially value the quiet and historic, low-rise architecture of their street. They believe, nonetheless, that the site, adjacent to transit, Jackson Park and the lakefront can absorb and support the increased density.

Studio Gang Architects, which has experience in innovative solutions and environmental buildings, was asked to design a new-looking, attractive building that respects neighbors including the school and birds, yet is parking neutral and financially viable.

The designed structure, then 268 feet and 25 stories (later raised a story) is midway in height between taller and shorter buildings on 56th Street. It would be set back 40 feet from 56th St. (noting that other buildings on the street also cut in and out) with a rise to the lobby entry to accommodate part of the parking. Behind the tower, set toward the south to reduce shadows, would be a 50-foot high but set back blanked-glass wall health club along Cornell.

The tower was noted as having visually interesting and environmentally friendly features, including inward facing, sloped glass walls to not attract birds, provide owner privacy, and reduce heat and utility load and glare for neighbors but bring in more winter light to the north face. Green (“LEED”) certification may be sought.

The presenters said they were prepared to make substantial improvements to Bret Harte, including the schoolyard.

Board members expressed concerns about traffic patterns and sidewalk cuts and other dangers to children and pedestrians (including for the play lots across the street). Members for solutions for interim parking, construction staging, the look of the lobby and its elevated approach and of the extension along Cornell, and patterns for traffic and service vehicles.

Asked about prospects for “affordable” units, the developers said the market makes this difficult—the last new rental building in the area was put up in 1969. Replacement costs for a $5 million-valued building is $15 million. Subsidies such as Section 8 and Class 9, they said, do not allow enough return.

The current schedule was to proceed with planning and hearings for the needed zoning change (planned development amendment) and construction from late 2007 to early 2009.

At the April 5 board meeting, a neighbors’ group seeking substantial changes to the proposal and called “Back to the Drawing Board” presented their concerns and critique. Chief presenters were neighbor Robert Greenspoon, parking expert Gerald Salzman of Desman Associates, and Oscar Worrill.

They first noted that 61 adjacent property owners had signed a petition of objection, the building has grown to 299 feet, the plan is now 36 parking spaces shy of promised no-net-loss. Features they said need to be changed are:

· Lack of inclusionary affordable housing—other developers have it

· Flawed traffic plan and missing parking parity

· Very adverse impacts on the affordable tenant building to the north

· Blank walls, shadows, and traffic hazards for the school

· Non-compatible scale, materials and design compared with Cornell Ave. and 56th St. including blank walls and continuous north-south length twice Bret Harte or the Windermere.

Board members asked questions and made suggestions for both the developer, Antheus, and the Back to the Drawing Board group, and will follow this development closely.

The board also discussed concerns with Steven Donald (UNITE HERE Local 1) [about what options] the University of Chicago may adopt for development and management of the former Doctors Hospital as a housing, hospitality and conference venue.