The largest real estate development on the books in Chicago is now officially off the books, as 42nd ward Alderman Brendan Reilly asked the city’s planning commission to yank the proposal from its dockett.
The Chicago Plan Commission was scheduled to hear testimony about, and possibly approve, the three-tower Wolf Point project (350 North Orleans Street). But shortly before the commission was scheduled to meet in a public session, the alderman put the kibosh on the line item.
In a letter, Reilly noted that he got the documents just 24-hours before the meeting, implying that there wasn’t enough time to give them a thorough once-over.
But plow through them, he did. And the alderman claims that what Hines and Magellan submitted to the city is not what was agreed to in negotiations between the developers and Reilly, on behalf of the neighborhood.
Historically, Chicago city councilmen will not vote for a project if the alderman for the area where it’s being built doesn’t support it. That means until the developers get straight with Reilly, the chances of the project moving forward are close to zero.
Here’s the full text of Alderman Reilly’s letter about Wolf Point:
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Alderman Brendan Reilly today asked the Chicago Plan Commission to defer consideration of the Wolf Point development proposal and remove it from the agenda for today’s Plan Commission Hearing. The Alderman announced his decision after receiving the final documents that would govern the planned development on Monday, less than 24 hours prior to today’s hearing. Further, the final documents submitted to the city did not accurately reflect the significant changes to the proposal that the Alderman negotiated on behalf of his constituents in the River North and Fulton River District neighborhoods.
“Over the past nine months, we have dedicated long hours to working with community leaders and neighbors to solicit their feedback while negotiating with the developer to make this a better project for everyone involved,” Reilly said. “I believe our transparent public review process has worked – resulting in many important and impactful changes to the original proposal that make it a better fit for the neighborhood and Central Business District. Unfortunately, the final documents submitted yesterday did not accurately reflect what was negotiated.”
Public notice for the Wolf Point proposal was sent to neighborhood residents as a mixed-use development that includes a blend of residential, hotel and commercial uses housed within three separate high rise structures. Although planned development applications typically lack a high level of specificity, details related to the architecture, programming and functionality of the site are negotiated with the local alderman and relevant city departments.
Following two well-attended public meetings in May and October, and many dozens of hours of negotiations, Alderman Reilly secured a significantly revised development proposal that addressed legitimate concerns related to traffic circulation, public open space and local infrastructure. As of Monday afternoon, the Alderman’s Office had still been waiting for the final details and data related to the number of allowable dwelling units; maximum number of hotel keys; and how each of the three proposed towers would be programmed.
Upon receiving the details related to unit counts and programming on Monday afternoon, the Alderman determined the documents submitted to the Chicago Plan Commission did not accurately reflect all of the positive changes to the project that the Alderman negotiated on behalf of his constituents. Because Alderman Reilly is firmly committed providing a fully transparent public review process for proposed development downtown, he said he had no choice but to ask the Plan Commission to defer consideration of the project.
“Thanks to important feedback and incredible support we’ve received from the River North Residents Association and Fulton River District Association, I believe the proposal we have negotiated, to date, is far superior to the original submission,” said Reilly. “Unfortunately, the ‘final’ documents submitted to my office yesterday afternoon did not accurately reflect all of the many changes made to the proposal and also introduced a particular blend of uses never previously discussed with my office or local neighborhood groups. As such, it was clear to me these last important details must be properly vetted before approving this very important, prominent and complex development proposal.”
At Alderman Reilly’s request, the Chicago Plan Commission is deferring consideration of the Wolf Point proposal to allow additional time for public input regarding the “bulk table” that dictates programming and uses for the site. Although the item is being deferred, the Alderman said he believes all other major issues related to the project have been resolved relating to: architecture, the site plan, public open space and traffic management. He said he believes the last unresolved issue is the “bulk table” that provides specifics related to the breakdown and location of residential, hotel and office use on the site.
“Our work on this proposal is nearly completed – thanks to exceptional community feedback over the past nine months, I believe we’ve made many positive changes to overall bulk, massing and infrastructure,” Reilly explained. “The last unresolved item we must address is clarifying exactly how the three towers will be programmed with residential units, hotel rooms or commercial space. I look forward to working with the River North and Fulton River District neighborhood associations to resolve this last point of contention and then move forward with the best development possible for Wolf Point and River North.”