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Viñoly's 76-Story Tower to Start in June as Neighbors Push Back

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Some South Loopers say they felt left out of the project's approval process

Rafael Viñoly’s upcoming 76-story, 792-unit residential tower at 113 E Roosevelt is set to break ground in June after following the City of Chicago’s zoning and design review protocols to the letter. Despite acknowledging the fact that developer Crescent Heights executed their project according to the rules, a group calling itself South Loop Residents for Responsible Development claims that the voices of many local residents opposing the project were not heard during the process. An online petition recently launched by the group cites a number of grievances against the planned multi-phase project.

Most of the teeth-gnashing revolves around the tower’s base that will house a 640-space parking garage and small liner apartments facing the park. According to the online document, neighbors believe that the building’s 17-story base is too tall and is much higher than the base presented in a previous, pre-recession proposal for the corner of Roosevelt and Indiana.

The group voiced concerns about the total number of new parking spaces impacting traffic. With a similarly-sized garage planned in a later phase, 1200 new parking spaces are expected to come online. Urban theory has proven a correlation between increased parking and increased traffic and many developers are starting to see the light when it comes to cutting down excessive parking. That said, the future residents of 113 E Roosevelt may choose to store a car on site but not necessary use it to commute or run everyday errands.

The group also described the upcoming development as a "wall" blocking-off the South Loop neighborhood from Grant Park. The two-acre vacant lot where the project will rise has been effectively sealed off for years, so the wall argument may be more a function of aesthetics (or in some cases obstructed views) rather than any physical barrier that would prohibit access. Lastly, South Loop Residents for Responsible Development oppose the current plan -- or really any plan -- on the grounds that an increase in new housing supply will negatively affect existing property values.

Even if opposition to the project suddenly gains critical mass, the first tower was approved late last year and is still expected to begin construction this summer. At this point there’s really not much the neighbors can do besides grasp at some legal straws and find a reason to sue. Future phases (including the taller twin tower planned to the west) still will need to go both the community approval process and the city’s Plan Commission before moving forward and would be a great opportunity for any concerned neighbors to speak up.