ChicagoDowntown / Loop

Quote of the day – Alderman rejected it straight away

by Joe Zekas on 2/23/12

First Ward Alderman Proco Joe Moreno appears to be vying for the Brendan Reilly do-it-my-way award.

From today’s email newsletter:

The 1600 N. Ashland project (former Pizza Hut site) will be a showcase for mixed-use, transit-oriented development. They propose to have 11 stories, between 70 and 80 units for rent, with commercial space at the base of the building.

This is exactly the kind of building that should be in this location, because of its proximity to the Blue Line. We had proposals for single-story commercial developments, which I rejected straight away.

Set aside, for a moment, the merits of the project, and ponder the attitude of the Alderman. Frightened yet about “owning” property in Chicago?

A community meeting on the proposed development is scheduled for Monday, February 27, 6 p.m. at the Near North Montessori School, 1434 W Division St.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Lee February 23, 2012 at 2:14 PM

I don’t see the problem. The fact that he “rejected” a proposal means that they must have been looking for some kind of special treatment — changing the zoning or something else they’re not currently allowed to do. If they just built within existing zoning, they wouldn’t need special aldermanic approvals. So what’s the problem with the alderman not approving special treatment for developers proposing inappropriate developments? I would be more frightened about owning property if aldermen approved every request from developers to change zoning and allow variances.


Joe Zekas February 23, 2012 at 2:22 PM


Your assumption that you can build what zoning allows as of right in Chicago is exceedingly naive.

And you don’t see the problem with a single person having the power to reject a proposed change out of hand, with no practical recourse against that power?

That power has led to much public corruption over the years. Yet another ex-Alderman was indicted today.


the urban politician February 23, 2012 at 9:54 PM

The Alderman can stop an “as of right” development by simply getting in the way of the permitting process. When issuing a building permit, all permits have a 10 day “Aldermanic hold” period in which the Alderman can (correct me if I’m wrong on the details here) stop or perhaps delay the permit’s issuance.

Technically the developer can probably file suit against the Alderman, but I’m sure they would much rather not be in this position to begin with. The process can delay the project for months or years, cost a lot more money, etc, and invite the ire of that ward’s Alderman in perpetuity–such that if you want to do any other major projects in that ward you will have to deal with that.

That’s why it makes more sense to simply come to the Alderman first, drop some change into his campaign fund, and get his or her blessing from the get go.


the urban politician February 23, 2012 at 9:57 PM


We live in a democracy, and while I believe strongly in it, every once in a while I don’t mind the benevolent dictator. The (exceedingly rare) Alderman in Chicago who actually WANTS more density near transit is something I can live with. I see it as a counterbalance to all those other Alderrats out there who abuse their power to accomplish the opposite goal (turning Chicago into a suburb).


Joe Zekas February 23, 2012 at 11:24 PM


There’s no such thing as a good dictator, especially one who indulges fantasies.

It’s a very open question whether the market will support the development that the alderman favors.

I could very welll be wrong, but my educated gut tells me that we’re not going to see an 11-story building in that location.

Can any of us be sure that backing this proposal isn’t just a more devious means of accomplishing a NIMBY objective? They don’t always come at you head-on, you know.


CaptainVideo February 25, 2012 at 1:20 AM

An alderman who wants to upsize is a lot better for the well being of the City than one who wants to downsize.


Joe Zekas February 25, 2012 at 3:50 PM


Your preferred type of alderman can be just as destructive to the economic well-being of the city as the downsizing variety.


CaptainVideo February 27, 2012 at 1:33 AM

Upsizing adds to the city’s tax revenues; downsizing reduces the city’s tax revenues.

Upsizing helps increase the city’s population; downsising reduces the city’s population.


Joe Zekas February 27, 2012 at 7:15 AM


The exercise of arbitrary power rather than the rule of law frightens away people, businesses and tax revenue.


CaptainVideo February 27, 2012 at 12:49 PM

The exercise of such power is a way of life in Chicago. Since it is, it should at least be excercised in favor of upsizing instead of downsizing. For some aldermen there is not a project that they don’t consider too high or too dense.


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