By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer
Published August 30, 2018
More green space and three towers are planned for sites IJKL in Lakeshore East.
A year after the initial proposal was unveiled for Lakeshore East development, Alderman Brendan Reilly and developers met Wednesday with the New Eastside Association of Residents for an informal discussion of revisions and updates on the project.
The project will develop land parcels I, J, K and L, located from 197 to 302 North Harbor Drive and from 452 to 500 East Waterside Drive. Representatives of the Lendlease Development Inc. development team and the Lakeshore East LLC development team were present Wednesday evening.
The big takeaway Wednesday was residents can expect to see a larger park area developed and one less tower. Initially the master plan called for four towers, and hotel space. Now the hotel is scrapped in favor of condominium space.
Tom Weeks, a representative for the development team, said he believes the new plan is an improvement.
“I think we have a better plan tonight,” he said. “Had you asked me that a year ago, I would have been skeptical of that. Hopefully you agree, and if not, you can talk to me tonight.”
The plan includes 127 percent more green space and the elimination of a grand staircase, replaced with a meandering path. Developers said the plan is currently about half green space and that should improve pedestrian and bike traffic through the area. The green space will be developed and maintained by private developers but it will be a public park, similar to Lake Shore East Park.
“We wanted it to be universal access. We wanted it to be universal to all,” said Tom Kerwin, an architect from bKL.
For the most part, residents’ concerns and complaints on Wednesday were focused on traffic and safety, both of which Alderman Reilly said the development group would continue to address.
Upon news of the larger green space, several residents complained of drug use and homelessness in nearby parks. Reilly suggested residents call 911 and be willing to make an official complaint if they see illegal activity in parks. The proposed green space will have a camera system and a funnel to direct pedestrians through surveillance areas, he said.
“You’ll be able to get eyes east and west,” Reilly said. “We will know who’s going through the neighborhood.”
Last summer Reilly introduced construction plans to the NEAR group and since then, his office has been receiving feedback.
Reilly has not signed off on the project and Wednesday’s meeting was intended to show how resident feedback has been incorporated into the designs.
“Negotiation have been many, many, many hours long,” Reilly told the audience at the start of the meeting. Those negotiations, Reilly said, stemmed from community concerns.
“I don’t know if you’ve read, but there’s a story about the municipal race and it’s suggested there’s a habit that I drive developers crazy,” Reilly said. “And while I cringed a little bit, I realized it’s part of doing my job.”
Reilly told the audience he must also work for business interests.
“If we have to say no, I’ve failed in my job because I’ve failed to find the middle ground and move the project forward,” he said.
One objection he would not entertain was that of residents who complained the new development would block views.
“I can’t protect your view,” Reilly told a woman. “That’s not the role of an alderman and that’s not how development works in a big city. If you want me to protect your view, I’m not your guy.”
Another concern involved pedway development. Several residents on Wednesday asked about forcing developers to build an underground pedestrian walkway but Reilly said that wasn’t going to happen.
“I don’t have the jurisdiction to assign a $10 million dollar obligation for a pedway system,” he said.
Following the meeting, Reilly said he thought the discussion went well and while he does not expect to have any more public meetings on the development, his office is still taking resident concerns.
Reilly can be contacted through his website, www.ward42chicago.com.