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Live reporting by Chris Ridgeway
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Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris
Happy Thursday! Today I'll be live tweeting the April meeting of the Chicago Plan Commission—a committee originally established in 1909 to implement the Burnham Plan for Chicago. It's scheduled to begin at 10a.
@CHIdocumenters #documenters

09:41 AM Apr 18, 2024 CDT

Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 2/56
@CHIdocumenters These days the commission reviews of proposals that involve Planned Developments (PDs), the Lakefront Protection Ordinance, Planned Manufacturing Districts (PMDs), Industrial Corridors and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts.
These can be hours-long meetings.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 3/56
@CHIdocumenters Today's agenda includes adding a spiffy outdoor restaurant deck at southside's Rainbow Beach, a mega-church expansion near the United Center, and in Bucktown, expanding the Costco—which, you know, isn't exactly small as it is.
Full agenda:…
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 4/56
Today's meeting is in the City Council chambers at City Hall. You can follow along live at @ChicagoDPD livestream:
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 5/56
Ok, getting started at 10:09a. The commission is chaired by Laura Flores. She reads rules and calls roll. You can see all members of the commission here:…
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 6/56
Commission approves last meeting minutes, then announces two plans that will be deferred until May's meeting: 1/ Onni 700 West Chicago LLC at 700 W Chicago Ave in West Town and an 2/ Industrial Planned Development on W Ogden Ave in Lawndale
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 7/56
Because some folks showed up to speak on the deferred Lawndale development agenda item, the chair is allowing public comment anyway.
Commentator says Lawndale is historically disinvested, and tearing down these historic warehouses with hardwood floors should be opposed.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 8/56
Public commenter: The Turner Manufacturing Buildings used to employ 500 people and made nationally known home decor. Comment from the great-great grandson of the Turner family.
And now President of @Pres_Chicago speaks to oppose this demolition…
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 9/56
@Pres_Chicago "We can have big box buildings anywhere. We need to preserve these historic structures" - @Pres_Chicago
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 10/56
Commission votes to defer this one until May 16.
More on this story at the Trib…
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 11/56
Ok, next proposal. 303 W. Division St. Near North Side. The applicant proposes to add “medical service” and “animal services” to the "Old Town Park" residential towers at Wells & Division.
This is a no new construction proposal, it is a technical change to allow a dentist & vet
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 12/56
.@AldermanBurnett says the community supports—they met with the Near North Unity program. "no brainer" to support.
VOTE: Commission approves.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 13/56
@AldermanBurnett Now a 3-phase plan from The City Church to build a worship auditorium and eventually a residential tower a few blocks from the United Center at 116 – 138 S Paulina St
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 14/56
@AldermanBurnett As is standard, a lawyer now presents on behalf of the applicant, and is accompanied by the church pastor, architect, and traffic engineer. Phase II includes classrooms and multi-purpose space.
Architect talks through details on the presentation deck:…
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 15/56
@AldermanBurnett Pastor Kent Munsey—the applicant—speaks for some time, saying their church grew by thousands, and has 400 active volunteers in the community, and that his grandmother immigrated to Chicago from Norway.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 16/56
@AldermanBurnett Public comment: the first notes that he’s not particularly a church-going person…but there are a lot of vacant lots in this area… and he hopes this can jump start development in this area.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 17/56
@AldermanBurnett Three church members also in support, praising church for “lots of young people," outreach ministries for sex trafficked women, and food picnics for community partnered with 27th Ward.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 18/56
@AldermanBurnett Commissioner asks whether child drop-off has been considered. Lawyer says a full childcare center would need additional review.
@AldermanLaSpata positively comments that this is the first "transit-oriented" church he's seen.
@AldermanBurnett says his son attends this church
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 19/56
@AldermanBurnett @AldermanLaSpata .@aldermandburnett notes that he sees growing churches as "economic development engine" and says they integrate better in mixed-income areas because "they love everybody." Notes Soul City Church attendees in West Town have moved further into West Side as renters and owners.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 20/56
@AldermanBurnett @AldermanLaSpata VOTE: City Church Fellowship application passes.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 21/56
@AldermanBurnett @AldermanLaSpata Now, the "Lofts at Avenir" at 734 N Milwaukee Ave in West Town near the Chicago Blue Line stop. Existing 22-story building has an older adjacent brick office space that would be converted to more residential units.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 22/56
@AldermanBurnett @AldermanLaSpata Presenters walk through detail including CDOT traffic review, green space (the pool deck exceeds square ft requirements), and has 6 affordable housing units in compliance with Chicago 20% rule. Also meets urban design guidelines including wide sidewalks, maintained by building.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 23/56
@AldermanBurnett @AldermanLaSpata "Sustainability points"
Proximity to transit (5 points)
Bike Parking (5)
EV charging station (10)
Waste diversion at demo (10)
Indoor water use reduction (10)
CTA digital display (5)
Provide EV readiness for 2 of 10 parking spaces (5)
= 50 points
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 24/56
Commissioner Claudette Soto makes a pointed observation about construction jobs claims: previous $16 million project claimed to create 70 construction jobs. This $6 mill project claims 200 construction jobs.
These are inconsistent claims.
DPD rep agrees there is no standard.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 25/56
@AldermanLaSpata notes that he personally travels on bike through these nearby intersections and they can be dangerous. Raised crosswalks or other solutions should be considered.
@AldermanBurnett notes his approval of project.
VOTE: 734 N Milwaukee Ave passes.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 26/56
@AldermanLaSpata @AldermanBurnett Next is 5730 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Austin. Hartgrove Hospital seeks to expand to build additional patient rooms and additional parking on the adjoining city lot.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 27/56
@AldermanLaSpata @AldermanBurnett I'm not familiar with this facility, but as context not from the meeting, I'm surprised to see a very poor 2.2 star rating over 428 reviews on Google Maps. Some rough reviews there. I have no way to verify.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 28/56
@AldermanLaSpata @AldermanBurnett Applicant presenter says there is an urgent need for more beds in this mental health facility. 160 inpatient beds currently, and since 2020 has been "at capacity." Proposed expansion adds 48 new patient beds, serve 65 more patients daily.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 29/56
@AldermanLaSpata @AldermanBurnett Presenter emphasizes that this lot has chemical contamination, and currently is not fenced from pets, children etc. He lists specific contaminants, however this does not appear to be documented in the presentation. This development proposal would include clean up as required.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 30/56
.@ChicagoDPD staff member presents reasons for recommendation based on their criteria. They do this following each proposal.
Commissioners briefly ask about 1/ local org outreach 2/ note that bike & ped access via Roosevelt is poor
VOTE: Hartgrove hospital application passes
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 31/56
@ChicagoDPD Now on to 2746 North Clybourn in 32nd Ward, aka COSTCO. "Applicant proposes to amend Planned Development 728 to expand the boundary... make landscape improvements, add a 14,120 square foot addition to the warehouse, and add 67 parking spaces."
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 32/56
@ChicagoDPD Plans formed with Ald @ward32chicago. C&W Autobody will be torn down. Other businesses currently on property (Chase, Ulta) will be relocated. The entire parking lot is reconfigured to slow traffic and reduce cut-throughs. And a new entrance on Damen Ave. with new stoplight
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 33/56
@ChicagoDPD @ward32chicago Costco Gas Station to be overhauled expanding with 5 more pumps (have you ever seen the lines on the weekends?) and add EV chargers.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 34/56
@ChicagoDPD @ward32chicago 14,000 SF expansion of the main warehouse, which I hope means more free samples.
More planted trees.
A tiny "pocket park" on site.
And an expansion of the riverwalk in the back, which most folks don't know about (personally was there last week, and it's mostly overgrown)
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 35/56
@ChicagoDPD @ward32chicago Commissioners questions:
Q: Is there sidewalk access from Damen?
A: Yes we will cut the fence to allow peds in.
Q: What about traffic on the Clybourn side?
A: New signal there as well, and we expect less traffic because Damen will now allow legal turns in from both directions
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 36/56
@ChicagoDPD @ward32chicago More acknowledgement that the traffic in this area is heavy and gas station queues will have improvements to manage the line.
VOTE: Costco application passes.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 37/56
@ChicagoDPD @ward32chicago Ok, in our fourth hour of this meeting. I'll be honest, I don't know how the commissioners are not needing bathroom breaks.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 38/56
@ChicagoDPD @ward32chicago Next:
Anticipating summer, this is an application at Rainbow Beach Park (3111 E. 77th St.) in South Shore neighborhood. The applicant proposes the construction of a 4536-square-foot outdoor deck with shade structure and seating space.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 39/56
@ChicagoDPD @ward32chicago Applicant presenter: There is a space for a bar with canopy. Been in touch with harbor authority and mayors office for people with disabilities to meet their requirements. "Ideal location"
@ChicagoDPD recommends approval.
Confirms letter of support from Ald. Mitchell
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 40/56
@ChicagoDPD Public commenter: Our community beaches have not had ample offerings in recent years, despite recent commendable equitable investments. Many concession stands have closed. Norman’s Bistro is a trusted south side operator, would draw new visitors and revenue to Rainbow Beach
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 41/56
@ChicagoDPD Rosa Escareño, CEO of @ChicagoParks, is also a ex--officio commissioner for the Plan Commission. She abstains from this vote because her team worked on the project. She notes we have 200 small businesses on Chicago Park District properties…
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 42/56
@ChicagoDPD @ChicagoParks Specific proposals are now complete. Now we move to an informational presentation on the Chicago Sustainable Development Policy—the point system that is required for some projects to include "green" choices.
Here is the full presentation:…
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 43/56
@ChicagoDPD @ChicagoParks This policy started in 2004 a "green roof" policy. But not all buildings can do this. Now there is a menu of strategies that a developer can choose from, including energy, bird protection, stormwater management, green transportation, etc.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 44/56
Today DPD proposed multiple updates to the scoring system and menu that would go into effect Jan 1, 2025. Updates include EV-fast chargers, hazards for birds, building electrification, non-toxic pavement sealers, and air-quality monitoring during construction.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 45/56
Commissioners comment on updates: all praise for the engagement process. Chair Flores and Ald LaSpata emphasize the responsibility to educate other elected officials more widely.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 46/56
More commissioner comments: These standards are not enforced for all projects: only that need certain zoning approval or are using certain types of financing.
We need outreach to our developer community so they can step up.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 47/56
Two public commenters oppose the proposal because they say it does not mandate bird-safe glass, instead leaving it as an option.
"Millions of birds fly over our city every night during migration season. Tens of thousands collide with our windows and die."
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 48/56
More commentators self-described bird enthusiasts & 'Chicago bird collision monitor:
"Nearly 1000 birds died at McCormick place on a single day last October"
"Chicago is the worst city in the United States for bird strikes"
"We took a wrong turn" with non-mandatory bird policy
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 49/56
Ok, now final presentation of the day on the Harlem Ave Visioning Study, in Montclare and Dunning by the senior planner for the NW side.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 50/56
"This stretch of Harlem does not have a cohesive identity." But we note 13 Italian restaurants and 10 Italian-american businesses, and could compare to other cultural corridors in Chicago.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 51/56
This is a state (IDOT) route, and it's two miles, and so there are challenges. But we identified existing opportunities, and potential smaller focus areas.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 52/56
Created a brand which can unify the Harlem corridor and business stakeholders. And many asked about signage, wayfinding or gateway designs. In the 1990s, there was a previous recognition of this area as a "Little Italy" of Chicago
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 53/56
Quite a lot of detail in this proposal. DPD has a minisite on this area…
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 54/56
Says he is the oldest still-working community member.
"We eat well, we dress well, we dance, we scream, because if we don't scream, we don't love you."
"But our community is getting old."
"Come and see our neighborhood"
"Help us make the community vibrant again"
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 55/56
Ok, meeting agenda is over. Five hours later—the Chicago Plan Commission marathon (if you run 11:26 pace). Chair Flores adjourns at 3:02p.
Chris Ridgeway @ridgewaychris 56/56
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