Construction: Wrigley Area Development Under Fire

29 May

A rendering of the the Addison and Clark proposed development in the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago

In recent weeks, Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood, home of Wrigley Field, has become somewhat of a battleground, with the controversy stemming from a proposed $100 million hotel, residential and retail complex.

Two years in the making, M&R Development’s Addison Park on Clark includes a 137-room Hyatt Hotel, 135 residential units, 147,000 sq. ft. of retail space and a 399-space underground parking garage located at the south side of Addison Street, from Sheffield west to Clark Street.

A number of residents and neighborhood associations are opposed to the eight-story height of the development as well as its potential for destroying the Wrigleyville neighborhood’s character. The area is known for small and independently-owned businesses, including restaurants, bars and boutiques.

Despite this opposition, Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney of the neighborhood’s 44th ward is backing the project.

“After four major redesigns based on resident and group concerns over the building height and style, the alderman’s Community Directed Development Council (CDDC) voted in favor of the project moving forward,” said Max Bever, Tunney’s community outreach director.

The plan threatens a number of businesses, including the renowned iO Theater, formerly ImprovOlympic, one of possibly nine businesses that would be displaced by the project. Theater alumni include Tina Fey, Mike Myers and Seth Meyers.

“We’ve been a part of this neighborhood since the 1980s and in our current Clark Street location since 1995,” said Charna Halpern, iO Theater owner and director. She estimated there are approximately 10,000 people involved in the protest. “Building a hotel in Wrigleyville makes sense, but when you knock down the neighborhood, it defeats the purpose.”

Halpern had rallied more than 10,000 Facebook supporters at press time on her “People Against the Malling of Wrigleyville” page.

A petition opposing the development also is in the works and available online, according to Halpern. In addition, marches protesting the project are being planned.

The 600-member Southport Neighbors Association has objected to the scale and height of the project, which it states nearly doubles the zoning and creates a precedent for other area property owners.

“When the vote came to approve or oppose the development plan at the CDDC level, six of the nine neighborhood organizations voted against it,” said Attorney Jill Peters, president of the Southport Neighbors Association. “The residential vote was outweighed by the support of the remaining institutional and commercial members.”

Development opponents also have voiced concern that the complex will compromise the prominence of Wrigley Field, a neighborhood and baseball icon since it was built in 1914.

“Our biggest concern is that allowing something this massive will have a domino effect, driving up rents and property taxes, while forcing small, independent businesses to make room for big box stores,” Peters said. “The development will completely change the character of this neighborhood, which is already extremely dense and congested. If eight stories are allowed for this developer, others will expect the same.”

Alderman Tunney will determine the groundbreaking date for construction, which is estimated to be the summer of 2011. The project will take between 18 and 24 months for completion.

“There are misconceptions that small businesses will be torn down to make space for big box stores,” Bever said. “There is no letter of intent for buildings to be demolished. The space isn’t conducive to big box stores. The alderman will work with the developers and property owners to have businesses return [after construction is completed].”

When asked if there is a comparison to other mixed-use developments by sports and entertainment venues, such as Staples Center’s LA Live, Kansas City’s Power & Light District near Sprint Center and the Victory Plaza by Dallas’ American Airlines Center, Bever said the development’s unique location cannot be compared to any other.

“This is a solid proposal that has been worked on for many years. Building owners and partners are dedicated to the project,” Bever said. — Lisa White

Interviewed for this article: Max Bever, (773) 525-6034; Charna Halpern, (773) 880-0199; Jill Peters, (312) 214-3434

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