Fisticuffs avoided at Plan Commission hearing on new Cabrini-Green high-rise

We were secretly hoping for some actual yuppie violence when we attended a Chicago Plan Commission meeting earlier today when plans for a 25-story high-rise proposed as part of the redevelopment of Cabrini-Green were approved. People lined the walls of the room as the meeting approached. In one corner, developer Kingsdale Enterprises, LLC arrived with project architect Lucien Lagrange in tow. In the other corner, Jenny Saville White and Samuel K. White, residents of Old Town Village West arrived to voice their opposition to what Jenny called a “Gold Coast wannabe” building.

The proposed high-rise – bounded by West Division Street, North Howe Street and West Elm Street – would include around 196 residential units in a high-rise at one end of the site, 44 units in a nine-story building at the other end, and a three-story parking garage with 270 spaces in the middle. About 5,000 square feet of retail space would occupy the ground level. Ten percent of units would be reserved as CHA housing and 10 percent as affordable housing.

The detractors don’t oppose residential development on the site, they said, just the scale and density of the proposed high-rise. Jenny refered to the new, mostly low-rise developments replacing Cabrini-Green high-rises as a “great new experiment” and attempts to build a community on a “human scale.” Samuel expressed concerns about the discontinuity of a high-rise in the midst of mid-rises (he seems to have forgotten about the many high-rises recently demolished and the various Cabrini towers still standing) and a what he saw as a lack of parking and infrastructure.

Lagrange quietly spoke in defense of his building, describing the all-glass skin as unobtrusive and the height as “very much in scale” with its surroundings. The building would be slender with a curved facade and recessed balconies, and the parking area would be set back from the street and surrounded by landscaping. Based on the rendering presented today, this elliptical design looks like some of Lagrange’s best work (a la Kingsbury on the Park, Erie on the Park, and the new towers planned for Prairie Avenue), nothing like the French vintage-looking stuff he’s designed for the River North / Gold Coast area.

In the end, the commission passed the motion for the development, and nary a blow was dealt.

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