Residents opposed to plans for Lincoln Park Hospital speak out at developer-sponsored meeting

11/17/2010 10:00 PM

Contributing reporter

20 Comments - Add Your Comment

In new renderings for the reuse of the Lincoln Park Hospital campus include 162 residential units and nearly 100,000 square feet of office and retail space across 3-acres.

Neighbors who oppose designs for a mixed-use redevelopment of the shuttered Lincoln Park Hospital are bearing down hard on the latest iteration of the plan.

Owners Michael Supera and Richard Zisook recently unveiled their revised proposal to build 162 residential units and nearly 100,000 square feet of office and retail space across the 3-acre medical campus.

The project, dubbed “Webster Square,” would reuse the hospital’s 12-story main building, located at 550 W. Webster, and develop a 12,000 square foot “boutique” grocery store at the site of an existing parking garage across the street. Designs also include six floors of medical office space, a fitness center for residents and a green roof on the parking structure.

Though garnering some local support, the plan has again received substantial disapproval from a band of neighbors who hold that the development will upset the character of the neighborhood by increasing traffic flow and pressing retail space into this historically residential pocket of Lincoln Park.

Lincoln Park resident Gary Raju said that the scaled-back plans did little to lessen his distaste for the project. Raju was one of about eighty community stakeholders who came to hash out the reworked plans at a presentation given by the development team last Wednesday.

“Both proposals are not consistent with the character of community,” said Raju, who lives just north of the main hospital building. “They’re just moving the same puzzle pieces around.”

The meeting, held in the basement of the Francis W. Parker School, was led by Marilyn Katz, a consultant hired by the developers to shop out the plan to residents.

Supera and Zisook seek a zoning change for the property, which now can only operate as a medical facility. The hospital closed in 2008.

Initial designs for the project, introduced in early 2010, imagined over 200 condo and townhouse-style residences and 30,000 square feet of retail built on the property. The proposal also hinted at leasing the retail space for a Walgreens and included senior housing in the residential piece.

This vision was met by scorn from many residents, as told by signs that read “No High-Rise, No Retail” in the windows of homes bordering the site.

Ald. Vi Daley (43rd) told residents at a town hall meeting in January that she would block the project’s advancement pending full buy-in from the neighborhood, which would likely require the deletion of retail from the plan and a markdown in residential unit density.

But if current sentiments prevail, that endorsement, regardless of the latest revision, could still be a long way off.

The continued presence of retail space in the plan remained a deal-breaker for residents who were concerned that a grocery store would increase traffic in the area and bring added risks to pedestrian safety. The project might encourage other developers to solicit similar retail components into the area, Raju said.

“Then it stops becoming a traditional working community, and it loses its charm,” he said.

During the nearly two-hour presentation, neighbors launched a volley of questions at Katz, regarding—among other things—parking arrangements, use of green space, and protocol for loading delivery trucks coming in and out of the site. Some voiced fears that the proposed grocery store would encroach on Carnival Foods, a local grocer located a block southeast of the site, while others construed that the expected visitor traffic to the development was being wrongly weighed against previous traffic levels at the hospital, which rarely came close to meeting its 450-bed capacity in the years before it closed.

Central to the message of the audience, who at times shouted over each other to speak their disdain for the plans, was the feeling that the developers had not come back with a plan different from the one they had rejected nearly a year ago.

This, coupled with fears that Daley would try to move the proposal through city approval before she leaves office in May, left neighbors ruffled.

“There’s a concern that the tide may be shifting,” stated former Ald. Marty Oberman, who had previously come out in opposition to the development. “We’re not sure when the decision is going to be made.”

About six people in the audience raised their hands when asked to identify themselves as supporters of the Webster Square plan.

After the meeting, Katz said that the developers knew they couldn’t please everyone.

“There are certain people who will not be moved, and they’ve tried to delay the process as much as they can,” she said.

The new plan, she said, contained a number of changes sensitive to the residents’ concerns. This included the removal of all retail north of Webster, no use of public alleys and no increase in building height, said Katz. “There was a lot of responsiveness,” she said.

Katz also stated that the reactions expressed at presentation, which was intended to be a private meeting, she said, were not representative of the entire neighborhood. She said that the developers had received over 150 letters of support for the new plans from residents in recent weeks.

Daley’s chief of staff Chuck Eastwood said that—despite the show of resistance at the Parker meeting—resident views on the development, as he saw it, were still “very divided,” noting the alderman’s office had also received e-mails and letters written in support of the project. Eastwood said that important thing was not to rush the process, but to identify how to move forward.

“Whether it’s this project, or a reiteration of it, or whether it’s something completely different,” he said. “You can’t just let it sit there.”

Eastwood said that a community meeting on the proposal will be held at the end of November.

Zisook and Supera won the deed to the hospital property after settling a $31 million foreclosure suit with previous owner Mark Hunt in October 2009.

The partners have completed a number of residential condo developments on the North Side over the last few decades, including, most recently, projects at 600 and 530 N. Lake Shore Drive and the Whitney at 1301 N. Dearborn.

20 Comments - Add Your Comment

By Boyee from Mid-North (Lincoln Park)
Posted: 12/03/2010 8:36 PM

This project would likely be supported by the neighborhood if the tower stayed at 10 stories, removed the retail, and had to follow neighborhood RM-5 zoning on any new building built (which has a height cap of 47 feet). The other redevelopment parts could stay and would assuredly gain the support of Mid-North, most of which is in a landmark district. All the alleged "green space" in this plan consists of the parking garage roof and building roofs.

By Boyee from Mid-North (Lincoln Park)
Posted: 12/03/2010 8:31 PM

It is quite apparent that Tupper has never had the pleasure of living in Lincoln Park and clearly has the view of an outsider looking in. The neighborhood wants a redevelopment, but without adding floors to the tower and the retail which as never been on Webster Ave. between Clark St. and Lincoln Ave. since the mid 70s when the neighborhood tore down the last area retail in this stretch and replaced it with the Walpole Point neighborhood because it was unwanted

By Duff from Lincoln Park
Posted: 11/22/2010 4:48 PM

If the retail is the main problem, then why not at least approve the residential/medical use/fitness center phase, and create solutions in the interim on the parking garage site to figure out whats best for it. Anything is better than nothing. And the city wont allow a project of this size with the bones in place (steel structure) to redevelop to disintegrate to rubble and low density housing, when the tax revenue is significantly higher as a 100plus residential units and medical offices.

By coco from Lincoln Park
Posted: 11/22/2010 2:41 PM

Its obvious that the opposition for this project has been engineered for political reasons. Its really easy to say we have too many grocery stores but clearly a tenant wants to be in this space. How can you shop local unless you have a local option? While Webster is a residential street, the traffic warrants more business in the area. When the Hospital closes we will have a prolonged period of stagnation and this will mean less taxes generated, home values go down, taxes go up.

By Jonathon from Lincoln Park
Posted: 11/21/2010 1:26 PM

people really are complaining about a possible grocery store lol! Get a life!

By Will from Oz Park
Posted: 11/19/2010 5:56 PM

One thing that is missing is a fact-based approach to representing the views of the community. It is obvious to me, and to most, that the retail element is a no-go. Chuck is quoated in here in such a way that suggests the the community is equally divided. A more statement would be we recieved "X" for and "Y" against. The neighborhood has presented patetions with "X" signatures against, while the developers have done so as well with "Y" signatures. Let's work with the facts.

By Tupper from Chicago
Posted: 11/19/2010 2:11 PM

Boyee and the rest of the NIMBY\'s here are misleading readers. This is nothing more than a selfish act of NIMBYism at its worst. What they expect is unrealistic. If you can't live near a small grocer then you really need to rethink whether you belong in the city or the suburbs. This a very vocal and very organized minority. Lets not fool ourselves. They want to hold prime real estate and share it with no one to enhance their property values. Ald Daley, approve the project please.

By Tupper from Chicago
Posted: 11/19/2010 2:11 PM

Boyee and the rest of the NIMBY's here are misleading readers. This is nothing more than a selfish act of NIMBYism at its worst. What they expect is unrealistic. If you can't live near a small grocer then you really need to rethink whether you belong in the city or the suburbs. This a very vocal and very organized minority. Lets not fool ourselves. They want to hold prime real estate and share it with no one to enhance their property values. Ald Daley, approve the project please.

By Boyee from Mid-North (Lincoln Park)
Posted: 11/19/2010 11:57 AM

I was at the meeting with Marilyn Katz and only 3 people said they supported the proposed development, not 6 like mentioned in the article.

By Boyee from Mid-North (Lincoln Park)
Posted: 11/19/2010 11:53 AM

I am assuming that Tupper lives many neighborhoods away from this development and would have a different opinion if this development was within 5 block of where he or she lives.

By Boyee from Mid-North (Lincoln Park)
Posted: 11/19/2010 11:50 AM

Webster Ave. is one of only 3 East-West street that runs continuously through all of Lincoln Park. Webster is a pretty narrow side street. Having a loading dock with semis pulling in will effectively create a bottleneck on Webster, putting traffic at a dead stand still. This will make only 2 continuous E-W streets in LP. Also, Webster Ave. is narrower than the length of a Semi-Truck, so having a loading dock on Webster makes no sense.

By Boyee from Mid-North (Lincoln Park)
Posted: 11/19/2010 11:45 AM

There are at least 10 existing grocery stores in Lincoln Park: 2 Dominick's 2 Treasure Island Lincoln Park Market Big Apple Finer Foods Carnival Trader Joe's 2 ALDIs As well as a Whole Foods a little over a block south of Lincoln Park. What is the reason for building another?

By Boyee from Mid-North (Lincoln Park)
Posted: 11/18/2010 11:09 PM

The hospital is currently surrounded on 3 sides by a historic district of 2-3 story housing. The developers plan to add 2 stories to the 10 story tower and take up 2/3 of the current parking garage with the Fresh Market grocery store, including a loading dock. Semi-trucks will effectively block the narrow street that is Webster. The development as it currently exists is flawed in every way.

By Boyee from Mid-North (Lincoln Park)
Posted: 11/18/2010 11:03 PM

The Mid-North neighborhood and I vehemently oppose any retail or high rises on this development. A 22-23,000 sq. foot grocery is not "boutique" as the developers claim. Also Vi Daley stated in January that she would not support this plan without majority neighborhood support and the neighborhood is currently over 79% against this particular redevelopment. We do want it redeveloped, but solely as low density residential. This hospital has not been heavily used in over 20 years.

By Ruth Aizuss Migdal-Brown from Mid North in Lincoln Park
Posted: 11/18/2010 5:23 PM

We are absolutely against the Lincoln Park Hospital plans. The developers and are lying through their teeth about the project which would make Webster Street impossible to traverse at any time. We do not need another grocery store and what they are planning is 20,000 square feet with huge eighteen wheeler trucks blocking Webster as they attempt to get into the loading docks which are on Webster. They are not reusing the hospital. They plan to tear it down to the steel structure and rebuild it.

By Brendan from Lincoln Park
Posted: 11/18/2010 5:21 PM

"Then it stops becoming a traditional working community, and it loses its charm,” (Gary Raju) said. What exactly is a "traditional working community" as Mr. Raju calls it? I for one think that the current proposal is very much in keeping with the project location. The site is part of the Lincoln Avenue business corridor - inclusion of some retail is not out of line. Also, look at Belden Center and its empty stores (pre-recession). How much of a real problem do you think it will be here?

By fred shapiro from Lincoln Park
Posted: 11/18/2010 3:08 PM

The reason that the neighbors are concerned about the Alderman is that her words and actions rarely co-incide. At this meeting, Marty Oberman implored Vi not to rush this through and not to have a meeting between Thanksgiving and Christmas. So our Alderman calls for a public meeting right after Thanksgiving, giving people less than two weesk notice. If there is no hurry, why is Vi rushing this? The Alderman's office is so inconsistent as to be incoherent.

By PMR from Lincoln Park
Posted: 11/18/2010 2:50 PM

I attended the meeting and with a few exceptions this article is accurate. A couple of clarifications: if you look at the developer's drawings, the "botique" grocery store is actually 20K sq ft + loading dock this would bring semi trucks down residential streets; they are adding 2 stories to the tower (building up to the top of the building mechanicals which you cannot see from the street) and increasing the width and depth.Tell Vi NO--meeting 11/30 7pm LPHS auditorium

By MG 2200 from Lincoln and Webster
Posted: 11/18/2010 2:24 PM

I live very close to the Lincoln Park Hospital. There is no support for the developer\'s latest proposal. Almost every one of my neighbors opposes the retail space. Loading docks on Webster will turn it into an ugly utility alley, and will tie up traffic. Trucks will constantly be driving past Oz Park. Traffic will be held up while they double park and try to get into the loading docks.

By Tupper from Chicago
Posted: 11/18/2010 9:57 AM

Worthless NIMBY's.... Their arguments have the zeal and senselessness echoing those of Tea Party activists. From what planet did they get the idea that retail and residential can't be mixed? Absurd. These people simply won't be appeased, and thus there is no point in trying to bargain with them. They are not going to be happy until Lincoln Park is turned into a suburb, which would erode its appeal even further. Ald Daley, don't cave to these NIMBY's. Please approve this project!