A West Loop community meeting devoid of naysayers is about as rare as an 8 p.m. Saturday reservation at Girl & The Goat. But that was the case Tuesday evening when Convexity Properties asked West Loopers for their blessing on a rezoning proposal.
The property in question is a musty old three-story building at 832-856 West Fulton Market. Convexity is pursing a zoning change to allow 18,000 square feet of retail at ground level (with no one tenant exceeding 7,500 square feet), 9,800 square feet of commercial space and a 50,000 square foot, two-level space for the anchor tenant: Brooklyn Bowl.
With about 23 lanes, rolling a ball toward pins is only a part of Brooklyn Bowl’s business model. It’s also a dining and music venue, not dissimilar to City Winery, where wine and song coexist.
Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. (27th Ward) kicked off the meeting by explaining that four community organizations had already weighed in, and essentially gave the rezoning plan a thumbs-up, albeit with a few comments. Those came from the Randolph-Fulton Market Association, whose executive director, Roger Romanelli, was on hand to reiterate RFMA’s primary concern: parking.
“We all want more entertainment options, and we love the idea of retail,” Romanelli said. “The issue for us is: this would be a destination, the largest entertainment-retail space in our community. You mentioned they might hold private events. If the facility were at full operation at noon on a Wednesday, that would mean a total occupancy of 1,700 people. So we ask to consider adding 10 percent more parking.”
Alderman Burnett cautioned Romanelli and the residents in attendance that the Chicago Plan Commission would actually prefer fewer parking options in the West Loop. The developer is only required to include 80 spots under city zoning rules.
“They feel that if there’s more parking, more people will drive, and that will be more challenging,” he said. “They want people to take public transportation. That’s why we have the L station at Morgan and Lake.”
The development team of DRW and Convexity acquired the property several years ago. Initially, they considered a 17-story hotel tower. That didn’t sit well with the Chicago Plan Commission or residents. The prospect of Brooklyn Bowl should receive a clearer path toward completion. Convexity is on a fast track—pending the zoning change, they intend to begin initial excavation in November. And there’s plenty to do there. Chris Oakley, Convexity director of design, described the building having a “Frankenstein locker of a mechanical plant. “
Oakley said Convexity has been working with the Chicago landmarks commission staff as well.
“We’re approved for the general aesthetics of the building,” he said. “Our proposal incorporates the facades of neighboring buildings, and introduces a new building component on the northeast property.”
Mike Breclaw, principal of OKW Architects described the site plan, which will maintain the façade of the structure. He said an overhead canopy would be added and the sidewalk would be rebuilt. Parking will be accessed from the rear (Wayman Street) and off of Peoria Street.
“The intent of the building is to work with existing language of the block,” Breclaw said. “That will include a punched window. The storefront will be similar with the rhythm of the street, with cast-iron detailing and vertical windows.”