ChicagoNorth Side

Will DePaul wreck a great development opportunity?

by Joe Zekas on 4/17/13

Yesterday’s Chicago Tribune served up this heart-stopping news:

DePaul University appears to be weighing a site west of Lincoln Park for a Blue Demons men’s basketball arena, signaling that a site near McCormick Place is not necessarily its slam-dunk pick.

Bruce Liimatainen, chairman and chief executive of A. Finkl & Sons Co., on Tuesday said DePaul has been in contact with his company in the last two weeks about the possibility of building an arena on 22 acres the steelmaker is vacating as it moves production to the city’s South Side.

Finkl’s riverfront site, close to the Kennedy Expressway, represents one of the most desirable development opportunities in the city, and is certain to elicit a variety of creative proposals when it hits the market.

Is it possible to conceive a more wasteful and inappropriate use for the site than a DePaul arena?

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Buster April 17, 2013 at 6:03 AM

What’s your ideal vision for the site Joe? It will be a long, long time coming, but I look forward to the eventual continuous river biking/walking path, as opposed to the limited, isolated stretches that have been constructed so far with each new development along the river.

Reply

RJJ April 17, 2013 at 8:27 AM

Dropping a stadium on the north side of Cermak is insane since that area is clearly residential.

South side of Cermak near Motor Row could at least spur some redevelopment similar to Greek Town in Detroit.

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Joe Zekas April 17, 2013 at 8:37 AM

I’d like to see the City facilitate an assemblage in this area, creating a contiguous site that includes Finkl and the former Gutmann tannery and extends north to Webster along the river. The result would be a site 10 times the size of Wolf Point.

My ideal vision would see a band along the riverfront sold to the Chicago Park District and the balance to a top-tier national developer charged only with creating a wonderful, dense, multi-use development that furthers Chicago’s status as a great city. The City should support the project with the infrastructure and access improvements necessary to make the project a success, and clear the path of political obstacles and provincial resistance.

Allow the nation’s best developers and architectural planners to compete in a fair and open process to create a signature project, and guarantee them the city’s full support in achieving their vision. That’s my vision. The result, whatever it is, is likely to astonish.

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the urban politician April 17, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Joe,

As a developer why would I ever want to assemble a large, signature project in or around Lincoln Park?

The era in which to do such projects in LP is long gone. LP is clearly closed off to big development and has developed a national reputation has a NIMBY-infested hellhole. In addition, I am increasingly turned off by this trend in recent years of marketing large sites to only large corporations for massive planned developments that take decades to complete, and use up thousands of hours of community meetings, negotiating, bribing, legal counsel, lawsuits (or threats thereof), while the site sits vacant generating no tax revenue the whole time.

Whatever happened to subdividing a parcel into tiny lots with preexisting zoning, and selling them off to smaller developers? There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of private investors like myself who would love to get a chance to buy a lot or two and build a home, or a two flat, or 3 flat, and gain some wealth. How about democratizing more of the city’s real estate instead of only allowing 2 or 3 huge corporations any hope of getting access to such a site?

Right now if you visit Redfin or any similar such websites, very little real estate in LP or Lakeview is available unless you bump up your minimal price to $1 million. My bet is that there is enormous pent up demand out there, and floods of people would be eager to buy up lots and get properties like this one on the tax rolls in no time.

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Joe Zekas April 17, 2013 at 1:15 PM

tup,

Apparently I wasn’t clear enough. In my dreams the city would tell the NIMBYs to go to hell. There’d be a one-hour community meeting to outline what was going to be built. Development would proceed rapidly.

Land values in this area being what they are your proposal would be anything but democratic. You’d have a wealthy enclave showcasing the homes of what one wag called decades ago “the me generation on the prairie.”

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the urban politician April 17, 2013 at 4:39 PM

Joe,

Buying lots for $250k is still more democratic than buying the whole Finkl site for $19.5 million financed by JP Morgan Chase & Co. in collaboration with the Teachers Retirement Fund of California.

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Lincoln Park April 18, 2013 at 5:55 PM

Why not build the new DePaul stadium at Finkl? It’s close to the school.

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