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Children's Memorial Redevelopment Meeting Reassures Some, Riles Others

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Last night's hotly anticipated meeting to deal with the Children's Memorial Hospital site redevelopment, McCaffery Interests' 42nd over a three-year span, put some new things on the table, but not as much as attendees expected. It was to be the big unveiling of modified plans with a clear picture of the architecture, massing, and apartment units. Curbed was in virtual attendance, thanks to Ald. Michelle Smith's live stream of the action. Here's what we gleaned from two-and-a-half hours of presentation and Q + A:

Ald. Smith kicked off the proceedings by thanking McCaffery Interests for their work and willingness to engage the public to such a high degree. She balanced that by stressing the project will not have her support without "reasonable consensus" from the community. Joe Antunovich, co-architect along with SOM, spoke next, tackling the features and intents of the proposal:

· The three towers, with heights of 145', 250', and 290', were made taller and thinner to give the site some daylight. Over an acre of open public space runs between the two tallest.
· Several structures will be fully or partially preserved, including the 850-space parking garage on Lincoln, the Nellie Black and Kohl's House, White Elephant building, annex building, Boiler House & Laundry, Wilson-Jones buildings, and an orange-rated structure at 2358 N Lincoln. Some of these will only see their facades saved.
· In the retail department, the developer would like to see wall-to-wall businesses on both sides of Lincoln, between Belden and Fullerton. Retail will also wrap around a new courtyard built into the heart of the development (think Roosevelt Square, but not as cavernous). 163,000 square feet is planned in total.
· Along with the courtyard, two connected pocket parks are envisioned on Orchard and Fullerton, one with access to a rooftop park atop the third floor of a retail structure.

Soon after Antunovich wrapped up, the mic was pitched to the crowd, which lined up nearly two hours of questions (it could've ran through the night). The community is divided on the density and height issue. Some spoke of the need for density and rental housing in Lincoln Park, as both are slowly being lost. Others thought the towers grossly out-of-scale with predominately 3- and 4- story residences covering the immediate blocks. Daniel McCaffery responded that an intensive reuse is needed to help replace the economic inputs lost when the hospital relocated. He also noted that the hospital had an even more intensive use of the site, when you consider the number of beds, employees, and visitors. Furthermore, there are similarly-sized towers about four blocks to the east. The site's density is about the same as with the previous iteration, but to break up the residential massing, "we squeezed them and they went up".

Other commenters deemed the plan exceptional, including the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, salivating over business prospects. Another issue that came up more than once was the uninspired architecture, that "there are a thousand buildings just like these" across the city. We couldn't agree more. Finally, some felt the planned concentration of roughly 100 affordable units in the Nellie Black building would encourage social barriers and ill will among the project's economic classes. There's gonna be 900 market-rate apartments, after all. Why not sprinkle the affordable units amidst the general population?

For all the assurances McCaffery and his team sought to give, there was still no information on unit distribution (studios, one-beds, etc.) or projected rents. The rents we have are the affordable ones—roughly 10% of total units—which will subscribe to a 60% AMI formula. Next up: more meetings and city scrutiny. McCaffery hopes to have the ball rolling on approval this coming fall, to be followed by 6-8 months of demolition and 3 years of construction. We'll be back at it again before too long.
·Developer of Old Children's Hospital Site Ramping Up Density [Curbed Chicago]

Children's Memorial Hospital

2300 Children's Plaza, Chicago, IL 60614 Visit Website