Thursday, January 31, 2008

New development in the works across the street from Wrigley Field

I swear I did not intend to post two articles in a row related to the Chicago Cubs. I have been working on this post about a proposed development across the street from Wrigley Field in Lakeview for a couple days now. Then I learned about Carlos Zambrano's new home sale on the news just this afternoon.

In any event, your guides were very pleased to see the plans for a mixed use development along Addison and Clark Streets just south of the ballpark. A Chicago developer has just announced a proposal for two 9-story buildings that could contain a hotel, 150 apartments, 100,000 square feet of commercial space for a grocery store and other retail, and 500 parking spaces.

The area is highlighted on the map above. It's not quite a perfect rectangle as shown, but slightly irregular leaving the one story commercial building on the corner of Clark and Addison in place.

Otherwise, the development site is a motley collection of parking lots, a 7-Eleven, an old building housing a Starbucks and apartments, a muffler shop and a couple of taverns. The taverns on Clark Street represent the cream of these real estate holdings.

Neighborhood reaction has been mixed, but generally saturated with longtime residents complaining about the increased density adding to the already congested nature of the neighborhood. I really have to say that a nice project like this would truly enhance the neighborhood.

It was only 25 years ago when no one in their right mind would want to live this close to Wrigley Field, and the only neighbors that had the chops to withstand the tough neighborhood were the all-night convenience store, the auto repair store and a McDonald's 24-hour drive through. All the other spaces were parking lots devoted to extracting crisp $20 bills from tourists who drove to the ballpark and wanted to park really close so as not to have to walk terribly far to the game. As Lakeview developed into a desirable and affordable neighborhood rivaling Lincoln Park to the south, the immediate area around Wrigley was shunned. Too many crowds. Too many rowdy drunks. Too much traffic and noise.

Today, the surrounding area features $600,000 condominiums, $1-million 3-flats and well over $1-million houses. The area is ready for something classier than the muffler shop, the ticket stub and the dumpy flats housing run-down apartments.

It's perfectly clear that the demographics of the neighborhood are demanding better shopping alternatives than the 7-Eleven as evidenced by the popularity of the brand new Whole Foods that just opened on Halsted at Waveland (two blocks away.) Yuppies are not going to raise their families on Slurpees and Jerky. Real food is actually in demand.

As to the complaints about additional congestion, I can only imagine that no intelligent resident of these new apartment homes would knowingly take their cars out the garage on game day. It's perfectly logical to assume that these residents who have knowingly chosen to live near such a busy attraction could only have one of two choices: (1) leave the neighborhood well before game time or (2) abandon their cars inside the garage in favor of public transport. The additional 500 parking spaces may actually serve to HELP neighborhood congestion rather than hurt it as fewer cars will be clogging up the streets trolling for smaller parking lots throughout the neighborhood.

The developer met quietly and privately with a small group of residents in early December to discuss the proposal and hear some feedback. Other meetings have been held over the past 12 months and have already resulted in scaling down the size of the project from 10 or 12 stories. Stay tuned for announcements on upcoming community meetings. These should prove to be very interesting.