ChicagoNorth Side

Down-sized plans for Children’s Hospital site in Lincoln Park

by Joe Zekas on 12/20/13

Yesterday’s email newsletter (pdf) from 43rd Ward Alderman Michele Smith had an outline of revised plans for the redevelopment of the Children’s Memorial Hospital site in Lincoln Park. A more detailed outline of the plan is available via a link from the newsletter, and a video summarizing the plan can be found at the project’s website.

The new plans contain a fair measure of NIMBY-feed: reduced building heights, changes to the affordable housing component, drastically cutting retail development and increasing the amount of open space on the site.

The plan includes the addition of retail space on the ground level of the garage fronting Lincoln Avenue. That’s a reprise of the proposal that Children’s Hospital made decades ago when it built the garage. The Lincoln Park community vetoed the earlier retail proposal, resulting in the crippling of what had been one of the most successful dining and nightlife strips in Chicago.

Will Lincoln Park NIMBYs once again doom Lincoln Avenue to a third-rate pedestrian experience and continue the garage’s negative impact on the viability of nearby businesses?

You’ll gain some perspective on the prospects for the site at a community meeting scheduled for 6:30 pm Tuesday, January 14th at the DePaul Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave. According to Alderman Smith’s newsletter: “At my direction (sic), McCaffery Interests will present their plans and answer any questions you may have about this revised proposal.”

Among the questions you might ask are: how much have delays in the project cost Children’s Hospital in ongoing maintenance, how much the proposed downsizing will cost Children’s Hospital in a reduced sale price for the site, how much less property tax revenue the City of Chicago will reap annually as a result of the reduction, what lay behind changing the affordable housing component, and how a small segment of the affluent Lincoln Park community justifies ranking its interests above those of the larger Chicago community and one of its major charitable institutions? If you have an answer to the last question, chime in with a comment.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

IrishPirate December 20, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Hey Joe,

Merry Christmas. Lost hope for the new year yet? This story makes me despair.

That piece of property is the most important piece of undeveloped land north of downtown and we allow a nimby alderman and her nimby constituents to decide what gets built.

Chicago badly needs a zoning czar. It doesn’t need to be someone with development experience or training. Just someone with some independence and a basic knowledge of what’s appropriate zoning for different locations.

I’d say someone like CITY IG Joe Ferguson who has the moral courage to stand up to the pols. Ferguson is a former Federal Prosecutor. I’m generally not a fan of prosecutors as they tend to be a bit self righteous and unwilling to be flexible, but sometimes that stereotypical personality type can find a nice “niche”.

Letting alderman and neighbors make decisions over zoning is like letting teenage boys make decisions over how much alcohol the girls they’re interested in should drink. You know something bad is going to happen and society is going to be paying the price for a whole lot longer than a few months. Think of the larger society as being the drunken girls in question.

Generously there might be five neighborhoods in the city where some serious development could happen near term. Downtown, south/west Loop, Lincoln Park, Uptown and going further out South Shore at the US Steel site.

There is the potential to bring in tens of thousands of additional residents and hundreds of millions in tax revenue a year. However, Alderman like Smith, Reilly and Fioretti seem to believe that like Moses and the last Pope all goodness and knowledge flows from them.

Plus our esteemed “Mare” has decided that to placate the LP nimbys a new addition must be built to the Lincoln School. There are more than a few underutilized CPS buildings nearby. That’s only 18 million dollars so I shouldn’t complain.


Joe Zekas December 20, 2013 at 10:38 AM

Merry Christmas, IP.

The sad irony here is that the cumulative weight of these folks’ selfish decisions has made Lincoln Park a far less interesting and attractive place to live than it was when I first moved into it nearly 40 years ago.


the urban politician December 24, 2013 at 2:37 PM


Do you intend to attend the meeting and ask those questions yourself? I think more people need to present such a point of view to these kinds of meetings.


Joe Zekas December 24, 2013 at 5:27 PM


I will not attend the meeting.

I lived in Lincoln Park long enough and attended more than enough of these meetings, as a developer and as a neighbor, to understand how pointless it is expect anything but the narrowest and most selfish of interests to prevail.

You can’t appeal to the civic conscience of people who don’t have one, and who respond with a mixture of savage contempt and incredulous ridicule for the person foolish enough to make the appeal. Look at the damage these people have been willing to inflict on Children’s and on local businesses with the passage of time.

What’s needed is mayoral and aldermanic leadership that removes this kind of decision to a level where larger interests and more rational considerations are paramount. I don’t expect that to happen in Chicago during my lifetime. Do you?


tone December 27, 2013 at 10:55 PM

NIMBYs gotta NIMBY you know.


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