After much debate, and many proposals passed, demolition on the Lincoln Park Hospital, which closed down in 2008, has finally begun. While some still strongly oppose this plan, this may be as good as it’s going to get.
The hospital’s campus, which spans three acres, is located at the intersection of Geneva Terrace, Lincoln Avenue and Webster Avenue. Plans for the redevelopment of the space started in 2008, and have been creating a rift between neighboring citizens since then. Some believe that a new shopping center and commercial office building would be good for the local economy. Others argue that a shopping and business center at this already congested location would only worsen the situation, especially from a traffic and parking standpoint. The most controversial part of the plan takes the form of a 20,000-foot grocery store.
Former alderman Marty Oberman, along with a group of neighbors, filed a lawsuit against Sandz Development, the company at the head of the plans, and the city, claiming that the new proposal was illegal without the support of residents.
Michele Smith, current alderman, based her campaign on the promise that the Webster proposals would not pass without significant support from the surrounding residents. As of February, 56.7 percent of the surrounding-area residents opposed the plan.
With this new proposal, grocery store loading trucks will be rerouted to Lincoln Avenue in the interest of clearing traffic congestion, office space will be pulled back to make room for 75 residential rental units, and the 40-unit apartment building on Grant Place will be transformed into eight single-family homes. As many residents were calling for less traffic and more residential space, this plan seems to be a step in the right direction.
“Residential use is something that is more preferred by our community, and is a less intense use than commercial office use,” Smith says.
Yet, some residents are still unhappy. Bonnie Shapiro, a resident who has already spoken out against the plan several times, claims that this new plan is still “out of sync with the neighborhood,” adding that she resented “how it was started, developed and agreed on by the city of Chicago.”
Smith believes that this proposal is as close to middle-ground as anyone can hope for; due to recent changes, the lawsuit filed against Sandz will likely be dropped.
“Everyone appreciates that this was a very difficult situation,” said Smith, “and that under a lot of difficult circumstances, we did the best we could.”
And that will have to be enough. Demolition on the former hospital has already begun, signaling the beginning of progress on the new development.
David Chernoff, director of planning and zoning with the Mid-North Association, applauds Smith’s efforts even as he admits to being less than fully satisfied with the finished proposal.
“She fought very hard, and this was the best she could do,” he said. “We are very much appreciative.”
He admits that sending loading trucks down Lincoln Avenue is helpful, but also confesses suspicions that the new rental units were done not out of compromise, but out of “a recognition of the realities of the real estate market these days.”
The Chicago Real Estate Local has stated that the Webster Place plan may be good for the area–if not for the residents, then for business. The blog claims that the redevelopment “will bring density to a vibrant neighborhood.” Hopefully, as construction continues, more of the residents will begin to agree.