By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer
Published Sept. 4, 2018
More green space and three towers are planned for the I, J, K and L sites in Lakeshore East.
A year after the initial proposal was unveiled for the Lakeshore East development, Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) and developers met in August with members of the community and the New Eastside Association of Residents (NEAR) for an informal discussion of revisions and updates on the project.
The project will develop land parcels I, J, K and L, which are located from 197 to 302 N. Harbor Drive and from 452 to 500 E. Waterside Drive. Representatives from the Lendlease Development Inc. and Lakeshore East LLC development teams were present.
The key announcement from the meeting was that 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. The space will include up to 1,700 residential units and 30,000 square feet of retail. The buildings will be approximately between 80 and 45 stories tall. Tom Weeks, a representative for the development team at Lendlease, said he believes the new plan is an improvement.
“I think we have a better plan tonight,” he told the audience. “Had you asked me that a year ago, I would have been skeptical of that.”
The plan includes 27 percent more green space and the elimination of a grand staircase, to be 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 Lakeshore East Park.
“We wanted it to be universal access. We wanted it to be universal to all,” said Tom Kerwin, an architect from bKL Architecture.
For the most part, residents’ concerns and complaints 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 people using illicit substances 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.
“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.” – Alderman Brendan Reilly
Reilly has not signed off on the project and the meeting was intended to show how resident feedback has been incorporated into the designs.
“Negotiations have been many, many, many hours long,” Reilly told the audience at the start of the meeting. Those negotiations, he 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 resident. “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 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. Alderman Brendan Reilly can be contacted via his website, ward42chicago.com.