Plan Commission approves zoning change for redevelopment of Lincoln Park Hospital
12/22/2010 10:00 PM
A rare approval from the city’s Plan Commission brings plans for the redevelopment of Lincoln Park Hospital one step closer to fruition.
On Dec. 16, the commission unanimously approved a zoning change for the site, which — if passed by City Council — would allow owners Sandz Development to build condominiums, offices and space for a 20,000-square-foot Fresh Market grocery store on the 3-acre campus, located on the corners of Lincoln and Webster avenues east of Geneva Terrace in Lincoln Park.
The project, dubbed Webster Square, has been met by mixed reviews from the neighborhood over the past year. Supporters have said the development will stimulate tax revenues and enhance residential diversity. Meanwhile, the grocery store has remained a sticking point for residents, who argue that it will spoil the character of the neighborhood and intensify the area’s already heavy traffic congestion.
Sandz principals Michael Supera and Richard Zisook won the deed to the hospital property in October 2009, after settling a $31 million foreclosure suit with previous owner Mark Hunt. The site, which has been vacant since 2008, is zoned solely for medical uses.
The commission passed the amendment despite a lack of support from Ald. Vi Daley (43rd), who cited continued resident opposition to the plan. This was an atypical move in council proceedings, as aldermen usually have the last word on development in their respective wards.
Daley has previously stated that she hopes to have an agreement in order for the redevelopment before she retires from her post in May. In the past few months, the alderman has worked to negotiate planning concessions between Sandz and opponents of the project — but a consensus had not been reached in time for last week’s meeting.
This was apparent in the dozens of statements given by residents and community stakeholders on both sides of the issue during the public hearing, which lasted more than four hours.
Former alderman Marty Oberman, a vocal opponent of the plan, argued that support for the development has come mainly from residents who do not live close to the hospital site and would not be directly affected by the development.
“You have to look at how this impacts the people who live and work right there,” said Oberman during his presentation.
Others stated that the added traffic would be a safety risk for children at nearby schools and the neighboring Oz Park.
Thaddeus Wong was one of many residents who spoke in support of the project.
“In reality, there are a lot of conveniences that we get by living in Lincoln Park, and there are some things we have to give at times,” said Wong, who lives a few blocks from the site. He called the project “very well thought out,” noting that it would create jobs in the neighborhood.
In her recommendation, Daley acknowledged that the developers had worked to ease resident concerns over the project, as seen in a promise to limit daily intervals of delivery trucks coming in and out of the development’s loading areas. But, she said, the bloc of neighbors who have remained opposed to the proposal is still too sizeable to ignore.
“Based on that, I cannot support this project,” said Daley.
After the meeting, David Goldman, a principal at Sandz, said he believed that neighbors who oppose the retail component would eventually come around.
“Residents are going to be excited once they get to know the Fresh Market,” he said. “It’s really ideal for Lincoln Park.”
As for the lack of an aldermanic endorsement, Goldman said that his team will continue to work with Daley.
Daley said she still expected a consensus to be reached between the developers and opponents of the retail piece, predicting that the council’s Zoning Committee, the next hurdle for the rezoning amendment, would hold up the amendment pending her support. Daley is vice chairwoman of the Zoning Committee.
“[The developers] know that can happen, I have talked to them about this,” she said.
But at this point, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Sandz finds full buy-in from the opposition camp with the retail component in place.
In an e-mail sent to neighbors a day after the hearing, resident Ed Burnes, who has been active in organizing against the project, expressed his thanks to Daley for standing against the plan and stated that “negotiations ... can only succeed if the developer eliminates the 20,000-square-foot grocery store.”
“Their insistence on offering minor concessions while retaining the retail will only serve to prevent an agreement being reached before the end of Alderman Daley’s term,” he wrote.