Development page. Business
Climate and Districts page. 53rd TIF
An argument for Density.
New proposals and high rises and condos, conversions, density
This page is brought to you by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Development, Preservation, Zoning subcommittee, and its websitee, www.hydepark.org. Join the Conference, support our work.
For more on the topics here see the Development Navigator and home Development page, 53rd St. News, and the Density Issue page. A Hyde Park Affordability forum was held in April 2006 and am action follow up is expected in early 2007. Visit Affordability Information including about groups forming against condo conversion and about large companies and complexes turning their backs on condo conversion in favor of niche mid to upscale rental (Algonquin, MAC Properties, Regents Park.)
See Vue 53/McMobil page. Next TIF on the subject May 13, Monday, 7 pm. Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone.
Joining the "crowd" are a proposals by Ferando Leal (53rd Cornell,), Mr. Kretchmar for a high rise in the Triangle (opposed by the Alderman so dead?), Shiloh Baptist (not nec. high or even mid but dense), and now a Windermere West- (see in Development)
Vivekanada project is dropped after downzoning. The Cornell/53rd project was approved, with affordable off-site. Shiloh project was downsized and has satisfied many neighbors.
See in Development what neighbors said about development and density at the HPKCC public discussion on the neighborhood, October 2005.
There are strong divergences on whether density, conversions, new condo projects, and high rises are good or bad for the community, as well as nuances as to where the proposed changes are taking place. Some say it's nothing but bad. Even realtor Jeanne spurlock says that it's often our relatively less density that attracts home buyers to Hyde Park. Others cite our transportation and other adantages and welcome increased density, as wel as condo conversion as at least one way to renew the housing stock.
What's holding up the 53rd-Cornell project. Not the inability to locate a separate, viable affordable housing building but disagreements with neighbors including on air rights. It was reported at the January 8 TIF meeting tha Leal bought air rights from John McGarry of K and G and has demolition permits. Hearings will be scheduled for downtown in the near future. Demolition is expected to start in spring. The real sticker will be new construction, the cost of building having gone up 35%, Leal is reported as saying.
Fernando Leal presented latest concepts for a large development at 53rd and Cornell to the 53rd TIF Advisory Council public meeting September 12 and again Nov. 14. As much concern was expressed by neighbors, and by Ald. Preckwinkle, the TIF Council declined to vote. Preckwinkle was upset that height is suddenly 17 stories and the numbers of units are up while the affordable component is only 7 percent. Preckwinkle met with Leal September 23 and there have been meetings with the Dept. of Planning. Leal also needs to do traffic and shadow studies. Nov. 14. Leal's development arranged to place the affordable housing demanded in another building off site The units in the main dev. are fewer and larger. The entries on Cornell but trash and delivery on 53rd. Upon motion, the TIF Council approved the development. See below on the storm over the separation of the affordable units. There was objection and at the January TIF meeting a compromise suggested on affordable units offsite/ onsite, but the Alderman said the offsite solution was appropriate.
Re: Leal's possible mid-rise at the Vivekenanda Vedanta Society property was dropped after successful downzoning by Ald. Hairston. Mr. Leal cancelled his option. The Temple asked Ald. Hairston to restore the old zoning, as they need it to find a developer and need the high rise to finance a new temple in Lisle. The Alderman told them to first find a developer with a plan, then the matter will be brought to a public meeting.
Doctors Hospital auction was postponed. Then the U of C bought it, and is mulling a hotel-and complex.
The possibility of a deal between the University of Chicago and a prospective historic-experienced theater redeveloper/operator for the Harper Theater is apparently still under discussion and may be able to be discussed at the Nov. 13 2006 TIF Advisory Council meeting.
Fernando Leal's proposed 2005 likely 17-story mixed use development at 53rd and Cornell-now over 17 stories/see in Business Climate, has brought to the fore, or rather re ignited, Hyde Park's longstanding skepticism about high rise developments. Some of this is tied to concerns to maintain the neighborhood's walking-scale small town aspect and character, to some bad experiences, to concerns over perceived erosion of affordability and residential variety, and to the endless problems with parking, especially during the past 50 years. (For background on this see the Parking page, in which many say the obsession with "more parking" is misplaced.) Adding to concerns is an escalation of condo conversions, including a likely very large one of Regents Park. Added to this is a new 32-unit proposed development to replace Shiloh Baptist in the 4800 block of S. Dorchester, in the east end of the mansion district.
With several possible high (actually low-mid) rise proposals or possibilities in place, the Conference believes this is a good time for the community to look at the question of how much and what kind of development, both on a neighborhood wide and a proposal by proposal basis. Will balances be tipped? And are the answers different for some parts of the neighborhood near transit (transit/development corridors) and different or other parts?
A different kind of question is, who will buy all these new units? Not likely current Hyde Parkers, maybe not other South Siders with so many new buying opportunities. There may well be still some play to the spec condo-building market (bubble???), but many unit will either sit empty or be rented or bought-to-rent, and this has often led to troubled buildings.
Reaction to Leal's presentation at the 53rd St. TIF Advisory Council meeting on July 11 and September 12 shows the diversity of opinion. Close neighbors to 53rd an Cornell felt encroached upon and their quality of life threatened. (See letter further on.) Others said the building concept is tasteful and contextual and if anything should be taller.
The neighboring Bloomsbury Townhome Condo Assn. chairman said there will be problems like parking congestion, loss of privacy, lighting and a walled-in effect for their courtyard. "Why rush? We can do something that is more sensitive to the Community."
Alderman Preckwinkle responded by saying this dead space is drawing criminals and has to be addressed: this is a thoughtful alternative to what we have now. Mr. Leal said the project is already dicey because of expectations that at least 1.5 parking spaces be provided per unit, adding that he will downsize the number of units but not the square footage. See more in following. Note that the height allowed under zoning depends on many factors including site footprint and coverage.
Editorial, July 20, 2005
What didn't work in one pat of Hyde Park may actually be the best possible use in another. That's the theory behind a 12-story residential tower being proposed for 53rd Street. No, it won't replace the Mobil gas station or the old McDonald's in the 1300 block. That was tried an failed in 2002. And for good reason.
This tower will replace a dilapidated, three-story building at 1620 E. 53rd St. with storefronts that have sat vacant for more than a year. And despite complaints of traffic congestion and density from townhome dwellers to the north, this tower is just what the sorry-looking corner of 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue needs.
There's little reason not to build a high rise of some sort at that corner, which sits nexts to a Metra station and is easy walking distance to bus routes, shopping and entertainment areas. Residents can fall right out of bed onto a Loop-bound train. The Herald's only complaint is that the proposed building isn't tall enough.
Developer Fernando Leal of L3 Development LLC is proposing a 136-foot tall red brick structure with 85 to 90 luxury condominiums and street level retail. More than adequate parking (204 spaces) will be housed in three levels of the building. The height and density of the building meet city zoning codes that were updated in November 2004. The property is classified as B-3-5, which allows for a 12-story building with combined residential and commercial uses.
If the actual tower looks anything like what's on paper, Leal' project may shape up to b a welcoming entrance to the neighborhood's busy 53rd Street shopping district. It will also offer its neighbors some retail options missing from the area since Ciral's House of Tiki and other popular businesses have closed or have been forced to move in the last few years.
It should be noted too that the architect of the tower is Joseph Anutovich, past chairman of the Illinois Landmarks Preservation Council. His 15-year-old Anutovich Associates firm is behind the resurgence of residential building around DePaul University's main campus. He's currently working on an addition to the Catholic Theological Union on Cornell Avenue.
But this being Hyde Park, the word "tower" is likely to spark the ire of residents and it has here. Hyde Park has a love/hate relationship rises.
In an editorial in the Spring of 2001, the Herald backed a group of Hyde Parkers who opposed the building of an eight-story, 137-unity condominium tower with a drive-thru McDonald's on the 57th Street Mobil site, saying that kind of development would be bad for the area. The area in question is a pert of Hyde Park far removed from any public transportation and containing a mixed bag of two-and three-story residential buildings, as well as a nearby mini mall and a beautiful park across the street. An eight-story tower there would stick out like a sore thumb. But in East Hyde Park, especially on 3rd Street between Cornell Avenue and a Metra station, a mixed-use high rise would certainly work. In fact, it's the only kind of development that should be considered there.
Density isn't always a bad word, especially when placed in just the right spot, like next to public transportation. Hyde Park has few vacant parcels like that. So when one is available. the neighborhood should attract only the best to develop it. Enter L3 Development LLC. Leal's firm rehabbed the Historic Ambassador West hotel in the density-rich Gold Coast.
Now Leal has his sites set not just on 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue, but also on Doctors Hospital on Stony Island Avenue, the Vivekananda vedanta Society property on Hyde Park Boulevard and the Mobil gas station site on 53rd .
The Herald would not agree with an eight-or 12-story tower for the Mobil site. Hyde Park's Main Street needs to have a continuity of height, quality and design. a high rise will work at some locations, but not just anywhere. Limitations are necessary to prevent overzealous development. But those limitations should be thoughtful.
[See rebuke in letters further on]
Alderman Preckwinkle has made it clear she expects Fernando Leal and all other developers to provide 15% 'affordable' housing, the same as in her proposal for a city-wide ordinance. Irene Sherr, TIF consultant, told the Herald that Leal had gotten the message and has gone back to the drawing board. The Alderman or rep. and Leal have since met with the Chicago Department of Planning. At the Nov. 14 TIF, Preckwinkle said that in discussions with the Department of Housing, it was suggested that the affordable units be in another building. The Ald. concurred.
The November 30 Herald carried an editorial and a letter signed by several Hyde Parkers affiliated with the Hyde Park Cluster of Interfaith Open Communities. Both hit hard on keeping affordable units within the development, not pushed to another building even in Hyde Park. The Herald, especially, says the alderman hurt the credibility of her own cause.
Herald Editorial: An effort to combine both affordable and market-rate housing under one roof in Chicago suffered a blow recently by the chief proponent of such mixed-income developments and the builder who could have made this work in Hyde Park.
Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) has been trying to push through City Council the"Inclusionary Housing Ordinance" that will require 15 percent of units in new non-subsidized, private developments to be set aside for affordable housing. In a city bursting with new housing and skyrocketing property values, accommodating moderate-income families and senior citizens on fixed income has not been made a top priority. To her credit, the alderman has acknowledged the need for affordable housing and despite failed attempts is still pursuing the ordinance. She is even practicing "inclusionary housing" in her ward with the $36 million Madden Wells redevelopment at Ellis Avenue and Pershing Road.
So it is baffling why Preckwinkle would allow the developer of a $17-story high rise on 53rd Street the option of constructing his required affordable units "off site." She granted this alternative to Fernando Leal of L3 Development LLC at the Nov. 14 53rd Street Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Council meeting, capping off a months-long "debate" between the alderman and developer over the number of required affordable units.
Leal wanted 7 percent for his planned tower at 1600-20 E. 53rd Street; Preckwinkle insisted, of course, on 15 percent. The debate, however, was disingenuous, for in order to establish any credibility for her proposed ordinance, the alderman should not have given up on the onsite units, though the ordinance does make provisions for off-site alternatives.
All the debate did was to propel the height of Leal's tower from 12 stories to 17 and further anger a group of townhouse dwellers immediately to the north over density, congestion and aesthetics.
Was the change in height to accommodate 15 percent affordable housing while still allowing the developer to profit from his investment? Apparently so, but he can now build his affordable unit somewhere else.
We hope that Ald. Preckwinkle would reconsider the "off site" alternative and give her "inclusionary housing" ordinance sharper teeth. If t he goal of inclusionary housing is to create mixed income developments, then the "off site" alternative defeats the goal.
The Herald maintains that the height of Leal's building is suitable for northwest corner of 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue, adjacent to the Metra. And we agree with the intent of the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, to promote "high quality housing for households of all income levels, ages, and sizes located in neighborhoods throughout the city in order to meet the city's goal of preserving and promoting a culturally and economically diverse population," according to a May 2004 draft.
Can we not practice "inclusionary housing" in Hyde Park? Isn't the city supposed to be moving away from socioeconomic segregation in its housing?
and the letter from the Open Communities group
We have opportunities to create affordable housing in Hyde Park. There is new or rehabbed housing underway or being planned as part of developments on 53rd street at the old McDonald's site[,] at 53rd and Harper Avenue, and at 53rd and Cornell Avenue, as well as the redevelopment of the Shoreland on South Shore Drive and eventually Doctors Hospital on Stony Island Avenue. And there probably will be moe.
We strongly believe, as a matter of our faith and in keeping with the professed values of this community, that at least 15 percents of all large developments of this sort must be affordable.
Our seniors who want to downsize, our children who want to find their own apartments, people who work in our community, providing vital services on which we depend--all need an opportunity to live here.
Hyde Park prides itself on being a diverse community. That must include economic diversity! We need affordable units here, not somewhere else in the ward or city, but here in Hyde Park. We must tell our elected officials that this is what we want.
We are a group of individuals from most of the faith communities in Hyde Park, and many of us also participate in the local cluster of Interfaith Open Communities.....
When this position, and a proposal for about 7 affordable/cheaper units in the main building and the rest as offsite offset rental was presented by the interfaith group at the January 9 TIF Council meeting, Ald. Preckwinkle told them they were late and out of order.
Kevin Jackson of the Chicago Rehab Network supports both Ald. Preckwinkle (as a staunch champion of affordable housing) and the off-site solution.
Marc Lipinski, who actively works with Ald. Preckwinkle and social/civic causes as a lawyer, added details of the proposed ordinance and showed reasons Preckwinkle is putting affordability into practice, not backing off.
" ..Ald. Toni Preckwinkle's proposed Inclusionary Housing Ordinance does make provision for off-site alternatives to providing affordable housing on the site of a development. Those alternatives...are a.) developing or otherwise producing 1.5 times the number of required affordable units at another site within the city; b.) paying a fee of at least $100,000 per affordable unity, into the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust fund; and c.) rehabilitating double the number of required affordable units in other existing residential buildings.
[Note: c. as quoted does not state where the rehabbed units must be--none of these say "in the neighborhood," or "in the Ward."]
"Ald. Preckwinkle has taken the position that the Leal development must meet the requirements of the proposed ordinance, which can be satisfied on-site, or in a combination of on-site and off-site. ..the cause of affordable housing will be advanced.
".The effort to pass the proposed ordinance has been going on for three years. While a majority of aldermen have, from time to time, indicated support for the ordinance, the mayor's office has taken the position that the ordinance won't work because developers won't build if the ordinance is adopted. And the city has consistently been able to stall the passage of the ordinance to strip away aldermanic support for the ordinance at critical junctures.
With the Leal development, Ald. Preckwinkle is demonstrating that the standard set by the proposed ordinance can be met...
An October 23, 2005 feature in the New York Times titled "The Benefits of the Boom" included evidence that incentives that include offsite redevelopment can be win-wins even if a drop in the bucket. New York has two incentives (not stated (much) extra space for a development from developers of affordable housing or buy city-issued certificates from the affordable developers for lower property taxes. therefore, a stronger market means more affordable units. There are rules to encourage mixed income communities.
In the November 1 Herald are coverage and three 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." Top
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 of 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 an 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-sory 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 o 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, t his 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 wa 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 planting 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 t hey 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 gad rage 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 b et he 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.
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.
There is yet another new owner. Plans were downsized to 10-16 units and 2:1 parking, within the existing exterior. Whether all concerns are satisfied remains to be seen. Then-Developer Joseph Letke told a crowded meeting called by Ald. Preckwinkle November 1 that this was his first development in a historic district and admitted things go off course and assumptions were made. What had especially angered neighbors was the architect's contacting them to tear down their nice homes for parking for the development. Letke apologized. Eleanor Gorski of the Landmarks Commission reiterated no change to the front of the building. Letke said he will take public input into account. Ald. Preckwinkle indicated she wants a development--"a renovated building and not an eyesore" as quoted in the Herald.
The current building is an Orange-rated structure within an historic district, designed by Solon Beman as a Christian Science Church at the start of the 20th century. It was used by Dr. King and Operation PUSH. At the start of the 21st, the shrinking congregation had to sell; the building was saved from a likely tear-down by purchase of Jeff Smith, Oprah's chef, who wanted to make it into an educational and social center as well as his residence. Unable to make the project go, he sold the building in July, 2005. hen rumors of a 32-unit development, the neighbors protested that would be out of character with the area.
Real estate sources say that conversions of non-residential buildings into condos is only 5-10% of condo projects in our area. They may save costs but generally get tied up for years between neighbors, city codes and zones, landmark requirements/significant features, and just shoehorning to get something someone wants to buy. Density is more than just people per footage or finding parking, it involves disturbing a neighborhood's fabric and wear and tear--a social landscape.
Hyde Park Herald, July 20, 2005.
What a surprise that an old building like Doctors Hospital has a lot of asbestos problems. What is far more important is the ideas of potential buyers, particularly the one who seems to by trying to shine up to everyone: Fernando Leal of L3 Development, who seems to have decided to single-handedly change the face of Hyde Park.
A developer may prefer a high rise as a quick fix for the money, but its neighbors will not. And their history here isn't all that good. The original ones built in the 1920s were well done; still when my parents moved into Tower Homes in the late 1950's they found themselves part of a massive repair job. All our high rises now are aging so that they need massive repairs, combined with multiple inspections by the city which has become increasingly demanding in the face of several fires in its own buildings.
But our newer high rises, those dating from post World War II and others from Urban Renewal have needed rebuilding much sooner as well a changing the nature of our residential neighborhood. For example, when 5550 S. Dorchester Ave. went u, it shaded the entire block of Kenwood Avenue from 55th to 56th Streets and added nothing whatsoever to the skyline. It also has had major repairs numerous times. Similar problems have occurred at both 1700 and Regents Park, making them almost start over again.
At the same time, Urban Renewal's plan opened up space around schools and for the most part built townhouses, which are much more in keeping with our residential university neighborhood.
Hyde Park is not North Michigan Avenue where every new high rise has the fun of looking out on an ever growing sea of other high rises. By comparison, the townhouse built where Sinai Temple used to be seem to enjoy their lake view just as much.
I suggest that Hyde Park and it aldermen focus on the issue which is far more serious in the long run than the Point.
Tracy Koppel says high rise not in character with the Cornell area
She cites the successful fight against a high rise at 49th and Cornell several years ago that led to substitution of town houses. She believes the area should and could be redeveloped in character with the area and still make money for the developer. She says that similarly, while there are some tall buildings 51st to 55th, the primary character of Cornell 51st to 55th is three-flats. She worried about street congestion (where there are school crossing guards) and back up of the exits from the Drive.
She quotes a friend, "If I wanted to live in a place as congested as the North Side, I'd move to the North Side." "I ask my neighbors if they think a new, big development is what Cornell Avenue needs? Or should we stand up like the people near Cornell Avenue and 49th street and say we don't want our neighborhood to become substantially more congested?"
Dianne McGehee echoes in Nov. 9 Herald:
Developer Fernando Leal seems to be popping up all over Hyde Park whenever there is property to be bought and a building to be built. He states he wants to enhance our community, which he feels has great potential. However, I am beginning to think that potential has more to do with personal gain than community spirit.
Plans for the building on 53rd Street and cornell Avenue were presented at a meeting this summer for the residents of the area as a 12-story condominium/rental area that respected the "character" of other buildings by height and design. This building has since gained over five stories and is now a 17.5-story tower according to the developer in order to accommodated 7 percent affordable units.
Now Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) says there needs to be 15 percent affordable housing. Is Mr. Leal going to try to add even more floors to this ever-heightening structures, which will most certainly impact and change the "character" of the neighborhood?
Supposedly, sunlight, traffic congestion and parking are already problematic issues. However, we must not allow ourselves to be led down the garden path or to be made to feel that we are insensitive to the needs of others, when we, as members of this neighborhood, express to our alderman the negative impact that increased density from the addition of another high rise tower can cause.
In closing, I want to say how very disappointed I was in the past editorial by the Herald which stated that density was not an issue and that a high-rise tower on 53rd street and Cornell Avenue could offer persons the advantage of rolling out of bed and catching the train downtown for work.
Obviously, the person who wrote this does not understand that we consider the buildings in our neighborhood to be HOME destinations and not commuting points or wayfarer stations.
October 23, 2005. New York Times
The Benefits of the Boom
By DENNIS HEVESI
IT seems counterintuitive, but the luxury real estate market is helping to build housing for low- and moderate-income people.
Sometimes, the deals create what could be called sibling buildings - for example, a 42-story luxury tower on West 43rd Street is linked to five renovated tenement buildings nine blocks to the north. It was a good deal for both.
The beige-brick luxury building, called the Ivy Tower, is seven stories taller than it would have been had its developers not agreed to help finance the gut rehabilitation of those century-old buildings at the northwest corner of 52nd Street and 10th Avenue - creating 27 apartments for lower-income people.
The developers of the Ivy Tower benefited by getting 42 additional units, with rents ranging from $1,850 for a studio to $6,500 for a penthouse.
But the tenants on 52nd Street, where the five dilapidated tenements were combined and thoroughly modernized, also revel in their good fortune. "This is like luxury, so beautiful," said Sister Kathleen Cox, one of four nuns who live together in a three-bedroom apartment in the once-condemned buildings. Rents in the rehabbed building range from $297 a month for a studio to $947 for a three-bedroom.
The tradeoff linking the Ivy Tower to Sister Kathleen's relatively sumptuous quarters was made possible through what is known as inclusionary zoning, one of several city programs that provide incentives for market-rate developers to contribute to the inventory of affordable housing. They can buy extra space for their buildings from affordable housing developers; include affordable apartments in their buildings; or buy city-issued certificates from developers of affordable housing that allow them to pay lower property taxes.
"The traditional equation," said Shaun Donovan, the commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, "has been that the stronger the real estate market, the harder it is to provide affordable housing. These programs turn that old equation on its head because the stronger the market, the greater the incentive for developers to use these programs and, therefore, provide affordable housing."
As housing economists point out, the market-driven programs do not meet the city's great need for the production of affordable units - but they make a dent. And their impact is expected to increase in the next few years as builders, aware of the city's growing population, take advantage of recently enhanced incentives to build in rezoned areas like the Hudson Yards and West Chelsea in Manhattan, and Greenpoint and Williamsburg in Brooklyn.
But for Sister Kathleen and her roommates, Sisters Joan Kirby, Margaret Coakley and Judy Garson - all members of the Religious of the Sacred Heart - the impact of those incentives is already deeply felt.
Three years ago, the nuns were evicted from a tenement building on West 49th Street because a fifth nun, the one whose name was on the lease, had moved into a retirement home near Albany. They used to pay $1,284 for the railroad flat in the old building, with its bathtub in the kitchen, toilet in the hallway, no lock on the front door and rarely seen superintendent.
Now, at $337 a month less, they are in a rehabbed building with a corniced roof and arched terra cotta windows. "It's day and night," Sister Margaret said. "We have sunlight, fresh air; we have the garden outside. There's doors on the closets, doors on our rooms."
Sister Joan said, "Here, if any little nick in the floor comes, a tile comes loose, the super fixes it immediately."
Sister Kathleen says she appreciates "the variety of families in the building; we're elderly, and we just had a little baby down the hall." To which Sister Margaret added, "Just on this floor, we have four different countries."
Under the program that linked the two buildings, developers can build an extra four square feet of market-rate space for every square foot of affordable space that is created. If the affordable project is done off-site, it must be within the same community-board area or within half a mile of where the market-rate development is being constructed. Part of the concept is to foster mixed-income communities.
The rehabilitation of the 52nd Street building retained the early 1900's exterior of the five tenements with a thoroughly modernized interior. "It went from walk-ups to elevator," said Joe Restuccia, executive director of the Clinton Housing Development Company, which, along with another affordable housing company, L&M Equities, developed the project. "It has 27 apartments, a community garden."
The renovated building has more than 25,000 square feet of space. That generated more than 100,000 square feet of extra development space, which was eventually divided among three luxury developers who helped finance the renovation. The largest share, 45,186 square feet, was sold to the builders of the Ivy Tower.
Mr. Restuccia appreciates the opportunity to make such deals. "Few other cities have the incredibly dynamic real estate market we have where there's such a spread between the market rents and the affordable housing rents," he said. "So, because market-rate units bring in so much rental income, the projects have the ability to support a greater number of affordable units."
And with a lot more for-sale units on the market in recent years, he said, "The economic return on a condo project easily enables a developer to include an affordable housing component while having greater returns."
Bernard Friedman, the president of the Penmark Realty Corporation, a partner in the development of Ivy Tower, savored another sort of return from the link between his building and Mr. Restuccia's affordable project. When he witnessed people who had lived in ramshackle buildings moving into the West 52nd Street building, he recalled, "some of them had tears in their eyes."
"It's a two-way street," Mr. Friedman said. "We are contributing to low-income housing at no expense to the city and we, in turn, get the extra floors on our building."
The other luxury developers that participated along with Penmark Realty were the Brodsky Organization and the Steinberg & Pokoik Management Corporation.
Adrienne Brockington has no notion of the intricacies of another city program that allows luxury developers to profit by supporting low-income housing: the 421-a tax abatement program. But she is glad to be living in a new development - with high porches, lawns and walkways - on Loring Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn. Rents there range from $525 a month for a studio to $646 for a two-bedroom.
"It looks like down South, like in Virginia," Ms. Brockington said. "It's gated, with security. It has grass in the complex" - a far cry from the rough street in Bushwick where she lived for eight years, until 2002.
The 187 apartments in three-story town houses at 1426 Loring Avenue were developed by the Arker Companies, which has built more than 3,000 affordable rental units in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan, in large part by selling 421-a certificates.
Under the program, a developer of affordable housing can sell the city-issued certificates to developers of new luxury buildings - primarily those between 96th Street and Houston Street in Manhattan - providing a 10-year property tax abatement on the market-rate building. The current negotiable rate for 421-a certificates is about $13,000 for each luxury apartment. The stronger the luxury market - meaning the greater the value of a new building - the higher its property taxes will be; and, therefore, the greater the benefit in buying a tax abatement. So, if a developer is selling condominiums with reduced property taxes, buyers will be able to afford higher purchase prices because their tax bills will be lower.
Sol Arker, a principal of the family-owned company, said that about 930 certificates were sold to help finance the construction of 1426 Loring Avenue. The 421-a program "is only one component in the city's efforts to meet the housing needs of lower-income people," Mr. Arker said. "I don't believe there's one silver bullet that produces all of the affordable housing needed, but it significantly helps."
It certainly helped Ms. Brockington.
"I'm on disability because I had a stroke two years ago," said Ms. Brockington, 40, the mother of two daughters - one 18, the other 18 months old - who recently also took custody of her 15-year-old grandniece. Ms. Brockington, who is in a program that teaches computer skills, was one of the applicants picked in a lottery run by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to live in the Loring Avenue development. Her old neighborhood, she said, "was drug-infested; there were shootouts all the time."
A total of 4,271 affordable units have been created through the inclusionary and 421-a programs. "It's sort of Robin Hood," said Adam Weinstein, president of Phipps Houses, a nonprofit affordable housing group that owns or manages about 13,000 apartments in Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx. "It's taking the enormous value in a strong market and transferring - cream skimming, in effect - some of that value for social good: affordable housing," he said.
For example, Mr. Weinstein said his organization holds "an extremely valuable piece of real estate" on East 25th Street - an underused playground that is part of a 400-unit affordable development built 30 years ago - that will become the site of 50 more affordable apartments.
Michael D. Lappin, president and chief executive of the Community Preservation Corporation, another major nonprofit housing group, said his organization had invested nearly $5 billion preserving or developing 120,000 units of affordable housing.
More is on the way. Mr. Lappin said deals are being considered by churches in central Brooklyn that "flourished in one era and now have a lot of underutilized property" - rectories or schools. If they build affordable housing on their property and finance it by selling air rights, they will also help their members. "Their angst was that their congregants were being priced out of their neighborhoods, at $1,500 to rent a two-bedroom in a brownstone," he said.
Mr. Donovan, the city's housing commissioner, said mixed-income communities are the right model for the future. With the inclusionary program, he said, "we're essentially creating new neighborhoods from the ground up."
He expects that 30,000 units will be built in the next few years in the recently rezoned areas of Brooklyn and on Manhattan's West Side. "Using our new inclusionary program, which is the most aggressive in the country, along with city-owned land and other incentives," he said, "we expect 8,500 of those units to be affordable."
But more will certainly be needed, said George W. McCarthy, a housing economist at the Ford Foundation. Calling himself "a big fan of inclusionary zoning and 421-a incentives," Dr. McCarthy said, "While these market-based programs are laudable, they are still insufficient to meet the growing needs of New York City's low- and moderate-income families."
For those who have benefited, the changes have been enormous. David Lopez, a New York City police detective, and his wife, Janet, a waitress, and their 11-year-old son, David Jr., live in the rehabbed West 52nd Street building where the four nuns also reside. They were allowed to move in after another tenement they had been living in, on West 37th Street, was closed for renovations. The Lopezes pay $840 a month for a two-bedroom.
A 24-story luxury building is rising next door. "This area is up and coming; new apartments, new buildings," the detective said. On the open market, "I'd definitely have a hard time finding something like this in Manhattan," he said.
· Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
Compliments of 53rd TIF Advisory Council chairman Howard Males
"DENSITY" IS a tough word. It conjures up contradictory, equally disagreeable, images of crowded tenements and isolated towers. Yet freed of poverty and poor design, density means chatting with neighbors on a South End stoop, shopping for pastries in the North End or international fashion along Newbury Street, walking to a movie in the Fenway and to work in the Financial District or Back Bay, and riding the new Silver Line to Chinatown.
In fact, our fear and loathing of density is ironic, counter-productive, dangerous - and based largely on myths.
Why ironic? Boston's most expensive neighborhoods are its densest, a pattern repeated in many cities. Which places do Bostonians speak of with real affection? Charles Street in Beacon Hill, Central Square in Cambridge, Roslindale Square, and others within walking distance of the density required to support active street life. This pattern repeats itself across the United States - from Greenwich Village in New York to newer developments like Santana Row in San Jose.
Why counter-productive? Density is essential to achieving the very qualities that make communities more livable - and cohesive. Neighborhoods in cities like Boston have lost as much as 50 percent of their pre-1950 population, which in turn supported the lively commercial districts with a sense that people seek to recapture. Worse, in an era of big-box retail and Internet shopping, it takes more people living within walking distance to support lively streets in 2003 than it did in 1950. A recent study our office conducted for eastern Cambridge revealed that 1,500 to 2,000 units of new housing, within a 10-15 minute walk, are required to support creation of one block of Main Street.
Why dangerous? Avoiding density creates sprawl and in the process generates congestion, encourages social fragmentation by income, race, and age; and depletes Main Street. Because average household size has shrunk by roughly one-quarter since 1970 it takes more housing to return neighborhoods to their earlier population levels.
The Boston region pays an increasingly steep price for escalating sprawl; as we have scattered new jobs , housing, and shopping during the past 30 years rather than focusing growth where we already live, total miles driven have increased 15 times faster than population growth and the income gap between outer suburbs and core cities has steadily widened.
We need to reclaim density as a solution to, not the cause of, problems facing our cities and suburbs. So why do people fear, if not loathe, density? Blame some enduring myths:
Density depletes open space. Parks and development shouldn't have to compete. I have never seen a park redeveloped as housing. In fact, development pays for parks that the public sector can no longer afford and ongoing sprawl consumes large amounts of open space.
Density is ugly. There are many examples of large, insensitively designed buildings that mar charming neighborhoods. The problem is poor design. Often criticized buildings such as Rindge Towers in Cambridge or Tremont on the Common in Boston are less dense than much admired new housing in the historic South End.
Density hurts property values. Density doesn't hurt property values. New investment in a neighborhood almost always raises them - witness higher density housing along Washington Street.
Density causes gentrification. Just the opposite. The failure to produce enough housing is pushing up prices and forcing dislocation. The solution is to build more housing and incorporate affordability, not avoid building. Mayor Menino's Boston Housing Strategy noted that over the 1990's this region produced roughly half of the 15,000 new housing units required annually to avoid steep housing inflation.
Density causes traffic congestion. Dispersed development - at densities too low to support transit - requires multiple car trips as part of daily life and causes congestion. Blame the 35 million square feet of office space built in the suburbs, not the 9 million built in the regional core over the 1990's for increased congestion. The answer is building transit - projects like the Urban Ring - and managing traffic.
Density doesn't work in a car-dominated world. National surveys report that Americans resent lengthening daily commutes. Highly desirable neighborhoods in Boston and Cambridge boast some of America's highest walk-to-work ratios. Ask national retailers which store locations perform best these days; the answer is Main Streets, not malls. Residents in Boston's densest new housing - for example lofts along Washington Street - can park downstairs from where they live.
Recently the Globe's architectural critic, Robert Campbell, informed us that Paris is four times as dense as Boston - and few people are complaining. The next day the Globe reported that "developed" land in Massachusetts has increased by 50 percent over the 1980s and '90s, and other newspapers reported that tree cover in the Washington, D.C., region had decreased by more than a quarter in the past 20 years. Which of these futures do we want?
We can no longer afford to ignore this question. We need a new American dream, and density needs to be a part of it.
(Skosey grew up in Hyde Park.) (For more on the 56th Cornell project, see the Development page.) 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 that 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 replaced 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?