Just hours after the general public was given its first taste of the proposed new skyscraper and supermarket planned for the Gold Coast, the Chicago Plan Commission scanned it, threw it in a plastic bag and sent it off to the full city council for its rubber stamp of approval.
It was just 44 hours and 18 minutes earlier that a packed crowd of neighbors gathered at the Thompson Hotel to see pictures of the proposed development at 1200 North Clark Street for the first time. Although the developer, Fifield Companies, did meet with a selection of neighborhood groups in the weeks beforehand, it was the first chance for Joe Lunchbucket and Jane Pantsuit to get a glimpse of what is planned.
What is planned is a $40 million, 35-story residential tower to replace the worn out Jewel-Osco supermarket across the street from the CTA’s Red Line Division Station. At its base, friends-of-the-blog SCB, have designed a gleaming “flagship” Jewel-Osco supermarket, with several floors of parking above the shopping space.
Chicago Architecture Blog reporter Daniel Schell was at Tuesday’s meeting when 2nd Ward Alderman, and mayoral hopeful, Bob Fioretti assured people that the event was just the first of a series of opportunities for the public to give its input on the proposal. The problem is that even as Mr. Fioretti uttered those words, the paperwork for the project had already been filed in City Hall for the Chicago Plan Commission to consider. So, was this a fait accompli?
Not at all, insists Fioretti. Chicago Architecture Blog managing editor Mary Chmielewicz was at the Chicago Plan Commission meeting today when Fioretti’s chief of staff told the Commission that the Jewel Tower haas Mr. Fioretti’s “conditional support.” And that the alderman believed the developer would make changes to the plan to reflect the desires of the community. Changes that would come after the Plan Commission had already voted on the measure.
No project in Chicago has been the subject of more “hope” and “change” since the 2008 presidential election, and it feels like we’ve been tracking it since way back then. A year-and-a-half ago, Fifield representatives were ready and eager to dish about the project, and promised an interview within days. Then they stopped returning our e-mails. Then they said they were no longer interested in doing the interview.
Since then, we’ve watched paperwork fly around behind the scenes and seen the building go from 42 stories to 40 to 37 to 35. Smart people tell us the problem was getting the air rights needed to build that tall in that location, a problem solved by including building at 1201 North Clark Street in the project. If you speak Government-ese, it looks something like this:
…sub-dividing the existing Sub-Area C into Sub-Areas C-1 and C-2, transferring unused Floor Area Ratio development rights from Sub-Areas A and B for use in Sub-Area C-1 and through the construction of various new buildings and the renovation and expansion of certain existing buildings in Sub-Areas C-1 and C-2. The resulting project will contain a maximum of 581 residential units along with approximately 57,000 square feet of commercial space.
The result is more height for the Jewel Tower, at the expense of future height gains for its immediate neighbors.
The neighbors have had a keen interest in this project ever since rumors of it started wafting around Clark and Division like the stench of urine that so often dominates the district.
Unlike most corners of Chicago that need a new tower to boost local density and spur economic development, the people in this rather tarnished edge of the Gold Coast are hoping the new building will bring them safety, security, and becomes the catalyst for a larger clean-up of the immediate area.
People who live nearby complain publicly about not just the herds of hobos that roam downtown Chicago, but also of drug activity and prostitution.
So, will the Jewel Tower clean up Clark and Division? Locals hope so. And the developer is promising that the building will have 24/7 security to help keep things zipped up in the area. That, plus the shiny new subway station next door, are the neighbor’s best hopes for living the Chicago dream in their own neighborhood.