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Herald coverage of the September 8, 2003 Meeting
Hyde Park Herald, September 17, 2003. By Mike Stevens and Caitlin Devitt
It could be a big year for local development, according to the 2003-2004 agenda of the Tax Increment Financing Advisory Council, a group of residents, businessmen and developers who advise the alderman on development on 53rd Street.
The group's tentative agenda for the year focus on such long-discussed proposals as a public parking garage, the future of the Herald building and attached movie theater on 53rd Street and Harper Avenue (both now owned by the University of Chicago), the future of Co-op Markets and what should be Built at the current site of McDonald's on 53rd Street.
In addition to construction of a parking garage, also identified as a top priority for TIF money was an addition to Canter Middle school, 4959 S. Blackstone Ave.
As a TIF district... is expected to get roughly $23 million revenue over the next two decades; currently $162,460 has been collected since the TIF district was designated in 2000. Sometimes the city will front-end a TIF by issuing bonds for certain projects.
Also at this TIF advisory council meeting, new members and officers were appointed and old ones bid farewell. Departing officers were Homer ashby, Arnold Randall, Patty Kidwell and Nancy Stanek.
New members are Steve Soble, owner, [Seven Ten]; business owner Rod Sawyer, architect Andre Brumfield; and Louis Conforti, co-President, Prime Group Realty Trust.
The remaining council members are: Nell Whitman, resident; Howard Males, owner Research Pros; Jo Reizner, head of Real Estate Relations for the University of Chicago; Jane Comiskey [sp.], resident [and Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference]; Virginia Vaske, regional administrator with Chicago Public Schools; Antoinette McAllister, resident, Trushar Patel, owner, Rajun Cajun; Charles Newsome, owner of Kimbark Plaza's Video Connection; and Chuck Thurow, Executive Director, Hyde Park Art Center.
The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. At the meeting, the TIF Advisory Council will present its annual report, which will include how much revenue is predicted to be generated, among other development issues.
May minutes are not available to this writer. The July 2003 meeting:
The council postponed adopting by-laws revisions (mainly concerning terms and appointments) and learned revised plans for the McDonalds development on Lake Park and 52nd and plans for the new Hyde Park Art Center facilities.
The new McDonalds will be set back from the corner of 52nd and Lake Park to avoid a ComEd vault. Parking spaces will stay the same and traffic will loop around the building with entries off both streets. When the facility is opened, the current McDonalds at 1344 E. 53rd will be closed and the lot sold.
Hyde Park Art Center has hired architect Doug Garofalo to design space in its new building at 5020 South Cornell, recently donated by the University of Chicago. Director Chuck Thurow, also a member of the TIFF Council, wants a glassed-in 2nd story facade where changing digital images would be projected to the outside. The new center will triple existing space at 5300 South Hyde Park. Occupancy is expected in 2006.
From the Minutes of the TIF Advisory Council Meeting of July 15, 2003
Moved and passed to confirm the slate of current officers for another term with a change in secretary.
Males asked Committee chairs to confirm remaining members and ask newcomers to send a note to the Alderman's office.
June 13 Walking Tour on visibility, lighting, railings, traffic lights.
June 19 Lake Park Corridor Task Force met with CDOT on preliminary plans. Fall start is anticipated for 53rd and 55th east of viaduct.
53rd update: Tim Barton, coordinating planner DPD gave an overview of possible new zoning ordinances...for consideration...this fall. Mr. Baron gave a presentation centering around principles of zoning such as: 1) protecting residential character; 2) making districts fit residential character; 3) strengthening business districts; 4) creating downtown-specific zoning; 5) retaining jobs and attracting industry; 7) promoting housing affordability and choice; 8) expanding environmentally responsible zoning.
Lake Shore Drive Reconstruction. Chris Wuellner described progress on the project.
Alderman's Report. Reviewed developments. Announcements. Adjournment.
Report of the TIF Advisory Council meeting of March 10, 2003
Retail developments were discussed. The Hyde Park Bank announced that remodeling on the rear and Old Lake Park Avenue sides will result in elimination of the walk-in facility. The drive-in will stay open, according to president Tim Goodsell, and the bank will now open on Wednesdays and longer on Saturday. Several observed that this favors the auto and traffic congestion over walking, while the direction now, including with zoning reform, is to preserve and strengthen the character of 53rd Street as a pedestrian friendly business street. Members of the audience sought information about funds currently in the TIF (only a few hundred thousand).
A call was made for nominations for next year.
Budget: the city does not release details. Members asked how they can do their duty and voted to ask Ald. Preckwinkle to get information.
Hyde Park Bank President Tim Goodsell presented bank lobby and walk/drive up renovation plans. Nichols Park Advisory President Stephanie Franklin announced a public meeting on plans for the new gym and north end of the park.
Public Safety officer Matt Crowl expressed Mayor Daley's concern for further reduction of crime. Ideas included more youth and parolee activities, counteractions to gangs, and gun control. Many questions were asked.
Nell Whitman introduced a proposal to ask the alderman to report annually on the state of the TIF. This was remanded to committee for refinement and consideration at the next meeting.
Report of the TIF Advisory Council meeting of January 13, 2003
This very short meeting approved the first expenditure of TIF monies, for the 53rd Street StreetSweep program with Breakthrough Urban Ministry.
Plans for McDonalds and a discussion on mixed use development and the proposed zoning ordinance were presented. Staggered terms for the advisory council will announced in January.
McDonalds will build a new drive-in facility at the southwest corner of 52nd and Lake Park Avenue. The current restaurant will remain open until the new one is finished, then demolished and the land sold. The franchisee is not the same, but every effort will be made to offer positions (80-90) to current employees and area residents. As mandated by the city, the new 4,000 sq. ft. restaurant will hug the northeast corner of the lot. There will also be green awnings instead of red--and no arches. 32 parking spaces will be provided. There will be only one curb cut--traffic from northbound Lake Park will have to enter via 52nd since Alderman Preckwinkle refused to allow a cut through the median of high volume/speed Lake Park. There will be no access from the alley. Hours of operation will be 6-11, 12 on weekends. Shell will do haz-mat cleanup, the site will be landscaped and the alley screened, and there will be daily trash pickup. Work should start about 90 days after approval of the Planned Development--c. May, with at least 4 months to build. Presenters remarked that there is a good chance a spinoff high-scale Chipolti's will open in Hyde Park. Upon request of Alderman Preckwinkle, the council supported the McDonald's request and plan for PD 38.
Arnold Randall of the Department of Planning and Development and Tim Barton of the Zoning Reform Commission discussed proposed changes in commercial and mixed use designations. The goal is to protect viable pedestrian-oriented streets such as 53rd while granting new flexibility and preserve neighborhood character through community-by-community shaped rules and designations for commercial strips especially, including ability to bring in other uses, especially on the ground floor. Nevertheless, standards would be made more clear. Communities would be able to decide what and whether they wish designations applied via the mapping process. Standards would include uniform building lines (close to the sidewalk), facade (glass) transparency, entrances on the walk, reduction of curb cuts, parking shared or behind buildings, and signage controls. 53rd and Lake Park may be designated a transit-development node and 53rd designated a pedestrian oriented street to be preserved. The first pieces of the zoning ordinance are just now being introduced in City Council. Hearings will be held, but action is not anticipated until the middle of the year, after which the application to localities will begin.
For additional information, contact Howard Males via the South East Chicago Commission (telephone 773-324-6926).
At the TIF meeting on Sept. 9, at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, Howard Males presided over two presentations, followed by open-forum questions.
The first item on the agenda was a presentation regarding the future of the Hyde Park Theatre Building, with Hank Webber, Vice President, the University of Chicago. Mr. Webber stated the University's goal: to develop the currently closed theatre and adjoining office complex in a way that would "liven and contribute to the vitality of Hyde Park and 53rd Street" and that "draws people to that part of the neighborhood." He stated that the University is not committed to restoring the building and that they would consider demolition and construction of a new complex, although their first preference would be to restore the existing structure, if feasibly possible and if an appropriate tenant can be found. He mentioned that the University had been discussing possibilities with Chicago fine-arts theatre groups, performing art groups, and even organizations like Second City.
Audience questions and suggestions seemed to fall in to two broad categories: the possibility of turning the building into a community/fine arts center (such as for children's theatre or that would house concerts), or the possibility of attracting a large commercial business (such as The Gap), which would increase the shopping appeal of 53rd Street.
Mr. Webber is open to additional suggestions; his email is firstname.lastname@example.org. (Webber has been holding small meetings and appearing at larger ones seeking input. Both residents and UC students seem to break into different camps concerning reuse or replacement ideas.)
The second presentation was an update on the Lake Park corridor, from Janet Atarian of the Chicago Department of Transportation. Armed with an impressive array of charts and diagrams, Ms. Atarian discussed plans to improve the Lake Park Avenue from 47th Street to 57th Street. Her discussion was separated in to three areas, in order of CDOT's emphasis: (1) Viaduct stabilization and improvement; (2) Embankment stabilization; (3) Street, median, bus stop, and sidewalk improvements. Her presentation included drawings of proposed metal arches that would be inserted into the viaducts between the currently existing columns, providing protection from water (to preserve the murals), pedestrian handrails, and additional lighting.
Some audience members were disturbed by her suggestion that they would need to cut down all the trees on the current embankments and remove all plantings in order to stabilize the current configuration. At the TIF board's suggestion, she will consult with LILAC and other community groups to see how this can be completed without antagonizing the community.
Call to Order: Howard Males, Chair, called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
Council Members Present: Homer Ashby, Jane Comiskey, Pattie Kidwell, Antoinette McAllister, Howard Males, Charles Newsome, Trushar Patel, Arnold Randall, Jo Reizner, and Nell Whitman.
Approval of Minutes: The minutes of the July 15 meeting were approved as circulated.
Hyde Park Movie Theater Presentation: Howard Males introduced Hank Webber, Vice-President for Community Affairs at the University of Chicago who made a presentation on the Hyde Park Movie Theatre. Mr. Webber reported that the University has recently purchased the Hyde Park Movie Theatre Building. The purpose of his presentation was to discuss the University's goals for the building, the building condition, short-term issues and future plans. The University wanted to take this opportunity to have a conversation and hear from the TIF Advisory Council and the gathered group.
Goals: The goal of the University with the building is to enliven and contribute to the vitality of the community and 53rd St. The intent is for the building and its use to draw people to it. The one constraint that the University is working under is that it is not in the business of handling real estate. The building and its use will have to earn money. There has to be a return. The University does not see ownership of the building as an investment.
Building Condition: Mr. Webber asked a consultant the University ha hired to report on the condition of the building. He reported that the building needs as much put into it to restore the building as it cost to purchase it. There are four separate roofing systems, all of which need to be replaced. The structural system is in good shape. The plumbing systems need repair. The building needs tuck pointing. The electrical system is in poor shape. The HVAC is not modern and needs a lot of work. There is a lot of cosmetic work needed that is visible from the street.
Short-term Improvements: Jo Reizner reported that in the short term pigeon droppings will be cleaned up and device will be erected to keep the pigeons from resting on the building. New canopies (awnings) will be installed along with uniform signage. The front of the building will be cleaned and painted. The trash area will be enclosed. The interior on the second floor will be re-painted. There will be extermination for pests and pumping out of water.
Program Planning: No firm decision on program has been made yet . Some ideas that have been floated are a fine arts center, new commercial enterprises, and a performance space. The University is also open to cultural institutions looking for a home. There has been some thought to possibly taking the building down. If a new building were to be built the University would build something so it was commensurate with the current surrounding buildings. The University certainly wants to talk with potential partners and tenants.
The presentation was followed by questions from the Council and the audience. The question was asked if a market study has been done. Mr. Webber indicated that none had been done. One Council member indicated he was not thrilled with the idea of the building remaining a movie theater. Rather he would like for it to be something special that will draw people.. A comment from the audience noted that if it were a commercial enterprise it would support the notion of building the proposed parking lot. Another comment hoped that if it were a business venture that the important thing is that it be successful. The suggestion of a Second City was countered with the fact that with a church near by the second City could not get a liquor license. It was felt that the site should generate both daytime and nighttime use. Other ideas for use that were put forward included: Old Town School of Folk Music (They have been contacted and said no), a Gap or Target, a bar, DuSable Museum, mini-cultural center, a fine arts theatre. There was a great deal of support in the audience for a cultural/entertainment centre with the observation that the more it can be used in the day the greater its viability (a children's theater might be a good option). Final comments from the University observed that the foot print of the building made for a difficult commercial/retail mix, that the building was built in the 1920's and cost the University 2.275 million dollars. Mr. Webber encouraged interested persons to contact him if they had additional comments and ideas.
Planning and Development Committee Report: Homer Ashby summarized the printed report of the Committee, which was handed out at the meeting. The committee strongly agreed that the part of the theater building facing on 53rd St. on the first floor should remain retail. No recommendations were made about the second floor. It was felt that the best possible use of the theater section would be that of "a successful movie theater." The plusses and minutes of such use were outlined in the written report. Some members of the Committee also felt that a proposed drive through McDonald's at the Shell station on Lake Park was an appropriate use of the site and that whatever was built at the Mobil/McDonald's site should make a special effort to relate its development to the park and the significant role such a location has in the community.
Lake Park Blvd. Presentation: The presentation by Janet Atarian of the City of Chicago Department of Transportation was devoted to three projects: 1) viaducts, 2) embankments, and 3) streetscape.
Viaducts: The viaducts at 51st, 53rd, 55th, 56th and 57th have a number of problems. Theatre are different elevation levels of the sidewalks, broken skylights, graffiti, and deteriorating murals. Improvements of the viaduct surfaces seek to avoid attaching things to the wall surfaces. The City is in the process of investigati[ng] who owns the rights to the murals and how they should be treated as objects of art. Lighting would be improved and used to indirectly flood the viaduct area. Metal surfaces would arch above the sidewalk linking newly decorated columns and surfaces that would stand out from the walls
Embankment: Most of the vegetation along the embankment along Lake Park Ave. would be eliminated and replaced. The retaining walls will either be eliminated or replaced. Those walls which are removed, will require vegetation that will stabilize the slope. The fences will be moved up higher on the slope and the 5-foot walls will be made shorter.
Streetscape: There will be no sidewalk on the East side of Lake Park Ave. There will be, however, an enlarged, paved surface where the bus stops are on the East Side. There will not be a raised planter in the center of the street. Bump outs for light poles would make walking along Lake Park easier and more of a corridor and less of a barrier. The City indicated that nothing was set in stone and welcomed further input. Suggestions from the audience included working with CTA to eliminate the number and location of bus stops along Lake park Ave. City planners were cautioned about the erosion dangers associated with elimination of some of the more mature trees on the embankment.
Howard Males announced the date of the next TIF Advisory Council meeting...November 11, 2002 at 7:00 p.m. at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.
The meeting was adjourned t 9:00 p.m.
Respectfully Submitted, Homer Ashby, Vice Chairman
At the July 15 TIF Advisory Council meeting, city planner and Hyde Parker Tim Barton introduced the rationale and concepts behind the complete rewriting of Chicago's 1957 Zoning Ordinance now underway. The intent is to balance incentives to bigness and growth with respect for quality of life. Side effects of not using such standards vary from stacked towers to sidewalks with numerous curb cuts, garages along sidewalks and parking lots in front of stores. Another intent is to provide predictability and district guidelines that fit neighborhoods and their space uses.
So, height and maximum lot coverage regulation will be important. Sunken terraces and long, featureless walls will be discouraged. This neighborhood has pressures toward teardowns and build-ins and conflicts over what densities and should allow in our largest residential buildings. Introducing intermediary residential districts, such as an "R 3 ½ " for two-flats and "R4 ½" and/or "R6" for mid-rise buildings.
Standards will be adaptable for buildings along varied kinds of commercial and residential streets whether pedestrian or auto oriented or transitional. One idea for changing or declining commercial strips is to allow ground-floor residential development.
A more controversial idea would mandate more parking space per unit or square footage for high-end residential development but waive the requirements where affordable housing (with its higher costs) is to be encouraged. (The latter assumes working people use mainly public transit and that transit goes where jobs are and at the right times of day. Proposals for such issues are likely to become embroiled in current controversies over affordable housing mandates.)
The rewritten ordinance is also likely to encourage shared off-site parking, bike parking, softened and landscaped edges, including more greenery on pedestrian-oriented commercial streets. Parks would now have their own district designation.
Regional input meetings were held this summer. But there is still time to learn more and state your views before the ordinance goes into text, and of course there will hearings later this year. Contact the Mayor's Zoning Reform Commission at 312/744-2050 or cityofcityofchicago.org/mayor/zoning. HPKCC has sent representative to one of a series of invitation meetings this fall for business and organization leaders. We are forming a study committee and will both work with other organizations and our aldermen and may hold a focused forum on zoning reform impacts in our community. Gary Ossewaarde
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