North Halsted Neighbor Group Fighting High Rise Development

May 9, 2012
From a press release from North Halsted Neighbors:   There is a major storm brewing in Chicago’s dense and diverse 46th ward over a twin-tower “mega development” that a broad array of residents and businesses oppose. The proposed plan for 15- and 12-story towers calls for 270 apartments and nearly 14,000 sq. ft. of commercial space – making it the largest building on Halsted from the Loop to the north of the city. Despite widespread and vocal opposition, freshman Alderman James Cappleman insists, “It’s a done deal” as he seeks approval for rezoning from five stories to the development’s proposed 15 stories. Opponents cite unwanted density and traffic, and a negative impact to affordable housing and property values. The 46th ward includes popular residential and commercial neighborhoods like Lakeview and Wrigleyville, Uptown and Sheridan Park, parts of Lincoln Park and Ravenswood. Alderman Cappleman has evoked the ire of several hundred of ward voters because of his staunch support for this mega development at the northwest corner of Halsted and Bradley Place. Many residents and business owners believe the development would greatly conflict with the character of the community and the preferences of a majority of area residents. The proposed development site, a huge parking lot, has an interesting history. According to Attorney Thomas Pikarski, of the law firm Gordon and Pikarski, who has been retained as counsel for Halsted Neighbors: the proposed development site is an approximately 59,000 square-foot lot that is currently used as parking for the Open Arms Worship Center. The property had previously been a source of controversy, as it was illegally leased for baseball parking in violation of City of Chicago ordinances. While the lot continues to be owned by the Center, the proposed developer, JDL, holds the note on the property. The Center entered into a development agreement with JDL. “The neighborhood is faced with a situation where a sophisticated developer acquired rights to a distressed property at a price below market rate and now seeks an even greater windfall by proposing an unjustified level of zoning designation that will result in significant damage to the community,” Pikarski stated. The Community Fights Back A broad, diverse and invested coalition of residents has gone to great lengths to try and convince Alderman Cappleman and JDL that the development as proposed would have a devastating impact on the immediate neighborhood and the ward as a whole. They feel they’re not being heard. The Alderman’s opponents include at least 12 area condominium boards representing more than 800 residents; East Lake View Neighbors (ELVN), a member-driven group of local residents; the Northalsted Business Alliance, a local business organization comprising more than 80 businesses along the popular corridor; and Halsted Neighbors, a grassroots organization that was formed specifically to challenge the allegedly rigged process and the potentially devastating, proposed mega development. ELVN wrote and issued a letter to Alderman Cappleman on April 30, 2012, strongly stating its opposition to the proposed development. The full letter can be read here. According to opponents like Mark Usiak, board president of his building’s condo association and a member of, residents in the surrounding blocks would suffer from reduced property values and a compromised quality of life if the new development were to happen. Halsted members even invested their own money to hire architects to develop and share with Alderman Cappleman alternative designs and impact studies to no avail. The impact studies concluded that current residents would suffer from momentous increases in density and congestion; see city water, sewerage and electrical infrastructure greatly taxed at their expense; and lose natural light. At a standing-room-only meeting at Gill Park Field house on March 26, with more than 150 local residents in attendance, Usiak asked all those who opposed the JDL development to raise their hands. With Alderman Cappleman and Jim Letchinger of JDL Development in attendance, Usiak states that nearly every attendee raised his or her hand. Halsted Neighbors has launched a petition drive and has already obtained nearly 800 signatures   aimed at demonstrating to the alderman and city officials that the proposed project is unwanted and that community members want adherence to current zoning. At Alderman Cappleman’s own planning meeting on Monday, April 30, many in attendance heard him state that he wasn’t interested in compromise or in building consensus. This has greatly frustrated residents, reinforcing the view many hold that Cappleman is not fulfilling his obligations as a public servant. “It’s my opinion that the Alderman is confusing the facts,” claimed Justin Westcott, resident and board member of his homeowner’s association on W. Bradley Place, directly across the street from the planned development. “He began this process by saying he was neutral and would do what the community wanted. His actions seem to demonstrate otherwise. We believe his failure to adequately notify the community about public meetings is a tactic to limit input and help JDL push through this rotten deal. “I know this is how Chicago politics can work; but we hoped our new mayor, administration and city council would signal a new era,” added Westcott. “I thought we lived in a democracy. I don’t think Alderman Cappleman got that memo.” Gill Park Coop Residents at Risk Longtime residents at the Gill Park Cooperative (GPC) at 810 West Grace stand to suffer more than most if JDL and Alderman Cappleman get their way. Directly north of the site, the building is a rental co-op with many lower-income and minority residents. According to GPC residents, the proposed mega development would decrease GPC property values enough to derail long-term plans for the bank to finance a total rehab conversion of the co-op to affordable condos for current and future residents. Loretta Cobb, president and long-term resident of the GPC released the following statement from her board.  "Gill Park Coop is a culturally diverse melting pot.  This proposed development jeopardizes the GPC community’s continual efforts to improve the quality of life for our members – and realize a long-held dream to have greater control of our destiny. We’re not anti-development; we wanted to compromise with JDL, but they weren’t interested.” As for Alderman Cappleman, his response to GPC residents and their allies entails a suggestion that the city’s Low-Income Housing Trust Fund program (LIHTF) will reap a much-needed $2.4 million for citywide low-income rentals from JDL. It’s not being made clear that these funds can’t be earmarked  for the 46th ward. Local Business Community Ups the Ante Another influential group of opponents is the local business community – especially those with businesses along the North Halsted corridor. Jim Ludwig, the 25-year owner of Roscoe’s Tavern and vice president of the Northalsted Business Alliance, says rezoning the area to accommodate JDL would hurt already-struggling local businesses. Ludwig helped secure passage of the current five-story zoning laws. In an April 26, 2012 letter to Alderman Cappleman from the board of directors of the Northalsted Business Alliance, the group stated: “The current commercial zoning on Halsted (specific to the west side of the block between Bradley and Grace) is precious to our organization. It was deliberately created through tremendous effort and through many years of collaboration and agreement by the many organizations that make up and share our commercial street, including the City of Chicago.” (The full letter can be read here.) The letter adds: “We fear that the premature and apparent approval of the proposed development, creating a predominantly residential building with a minimal commercial presence, violates the intent and nature of the protections this zoning provides our district. Our organization has successfully supported this zoning in the past because it facilitates a harmonious balance of building height, residential density, commercial vibrancy and an appropriate structural mass on our street. We feel that the proposed structure does not honor the promotion of these successes. On May 24th, the project moves to the Chicago Planning Commission for review and potential approval.  Should planning officials side with the developer and green light the project, it would be a devastating loss to the residents and businesses opposed to the project. It would also set a precedent for future exceptions to the five-story zoning law. “People from all walks of life are very angry about the way this has been done,” added Usiak. “We’ll keep fighting right up to the wire with the goal of making a solid case to the planning commissioners that would require Alderman Cappleman and JDL back to the table for more community input and compromise. Should that fail, we’ll explore other options – including litigation,” Usiak concluded. About Halsted Neighbors is an ad-hoc committee of concerned citizens working on behalf of the community with an emphasis on the neighborhood impacted by the proposed development. Local residents who would like to learn more about the proposed project or who may be interested in signing a petition against the development can visit

20 Responses to North Halsted Neighbor Group Fighting High Rise Development

  1. Ald. James Cappleman on May 10, 2012 at 8:39 am

    When I campaigned for alderman, I made the commitment that I would establish a 46th Ward Zoning & Development Committee that would be made up of a broad representation of the ward. Thirty organizations were invited to send a representative to be a part of this committee and I selected 3 experts to also participate: one in real estate, one in transportation, and one in historical preservation. The process was set up so that the votes of the representatives were recorded, thus calling for more accountability that their organizations be truly represented. I did not seek the use of consensus because it’s not possible for a group of 30+ individuals to reach consensus and such a process would stifle all development from every happening. No alderman anywhere relies on consensus to make zoning decisions for major $100,000,000+ developments.

    There were at least 10 public meetings and over 10 other meetings that the developer had with any interested party to discuss this development over an 8-month period of time. I supported the work of the Z&D Committee over many months of negotiations, along with many negotiations with various City departments. Because this is a $100,000,000+ project, I was adamant that this be a decision that reflected the input of the entire ward and not neighbors living closest to the project. Many neighbors objected because of their concerns about blocked views. Legally, no nearby high-rise resident can lay claim to a view unless they own the air rights. No one did. Some objected because they didn’t agree with the views of the church on this property. Some objected because they thought residents in the apartments would complain about noise from the bars, but the bar across the street from the proposed project is very enthusiastic about this development.

    In the end, the Z&D Committee was 100% in agreement that they wanted a planned development rather than have something built there that was already zoned to be there. They did so because they did not want a big-box development and a planned development also allowed for curb cuts to be made along Halsted, thus taking traffic flow off Bradley. There was a 2/3 vote of the committee to have a sub-committee of 5 people hash out the final details because it was clear we were rehashing ideas over and over again. I asked that a representative from 828 W. Grace, from North Halsted Merchants, and from East Lakeview Neighbors be 3 of the 5 members…. all three groups had a history of voting against this project. I also selected an architect from the group and another neighbor who lived on the northern edge of the ward to help represent the other ward residents. This group voted 4 to 1 on the final project. They met for 3 1/2 hours to hammer out the details with the developer and I purposely stayed away to not give any influence to this group. In the end, I chose to accept their final decision.

    The process I have used to involve the community is one of the most inclusive processes that any alderman has ever used to make a zoning decision. It’s also one of the most, if not the most, transparent process as well. I remain committed to fulfilling my campaign promise of involving the Z&D Committee to make major zoning decisions that affect the lives of all residents living in the ward.

    In the end, I chose to honor the hard work of the 30+ members of the Zoning & Development Committee. Their decision is supported by best practices and also finds support in our 46th Ward Master Plan. To learn more about this process and this development, please go to

  2. Eddie on May 10, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    This is hardly the “largest building on Halsted from the Loop north” … Skybridge is most likely the holder of that title @ Halsted & Washington, and there are other buildings of equal height already lining Halsted.

    Not to mention, the area this building is proposed for is a HIGH-RISE district (Gill Park Coop is taller as is the high-rise to its west & others along Pine Grove, Grace, Irving Park, etc.)

    The complainers are only concerned about their own views & the potential for competition posed by this building if it were ever to go condo (and yeah, it probably will in the next 10 years). Gill Park Coop’s value will only increase if this is built, not decrease … only their views will change.

    The addition of this development & the apartments will only help the Halsted corridor, not hurt it. This isn’t the Dakota all over again, so let’s stop the ridiculous association.

  3. pete on May 11, 2012 at 8:22 am

    As a long term resident (I live 2 blocks away from the site) I agree with the Alderman and the development. I attended 6 separate community meetings and was notified of several more merely by subscribing to ELVN, and the Alderman’s website. At each of the meetings I saw the same people there objecting; Mostly Bradley neighbors and the residents of the Grace Condo Building. The Grace Building who “hired” an architect who was also a resident of the project were the most vocal because they feared losing city skyline views. Interestingly, I recall when their building was built and took advantage of the same zoning increase process. All the same arguments were used then and have not proven true. In the end, I prefer the development proposed rather than a giant Walmart or grocery store which were the other possible uses that complied with underlying zoning.

  4. Scott on May 11, 2012 at 9:37 am

    According to your D-2, Cindy Anderson, gave your campaign $6,536.47. At the March meeting of the Z&D committee and according to the minutes posted on your website: “Cindy Anderson made a motion to close the meeting to the public.” Another one of your campaign contributors and one of your experts, Mark Zipper, contributed $5,087 and supported Ms. Anderson’s decision to close the meeting to public”. Another one of your Zoning & Development Committee members and campaign Contributors, Scott Baskin,($750) also voted to close the meeting to the public. These three represent 6.4% of your claimed campaign budget of $180,000. What is this all about? Whey are big time contributors to your campaign motioning to close a meeting to the public? “The process I have used to involve the community is one of the most inclusive processes that any alderman has ever used to make a zoning decision. It’s also one of the most, if not the most, transparent process as well.” Really? Do you know the definition of conflict of interest–perceived or real?

    It is impossible to determine other campaign contributors who sit on the Z&D Committee because your office does not list the individuals you selected to sit on the Committee–only the organizations. Again, another shining example of transparency. I don’t think you would find this process listed under “best practices”.

    You can wax poetically about how you have the most this and the most that but based on the data above, you are exhibiting typical Chicago style politics: reward your supporters and ignore your opposition.

    As resident and voter of the 46th Ward, you have sided with a big time developer with a shady past over your constituents. And that Alderman Cappelman, is appalling.

  5. Marissa on May 11, 2012 at 10:09 am

    I used to take the things the Alderman said at face value too. That was until I learned that in Capplemanese, “I am completely neutral” translates to “I was the one who proposed this development” and “I stayed away to not give influence to this group” perhaps means “My cronies mediated for me”. As far as the sub-committee which voted 4-1 is concerned, the Alderman specifically selected people who he knew would approve the building as-is with very little fight. Alderman Cappleman doesn’t like the stance of the usual representative from North Halsted Merchants? Okay, then the Alderman can call up someone else to take their seat. That in addition to the fact that the ELVN representative voted for the development, in direct contradiction to the stance of ELVN itself. When ELVN wrote a letter requesting a recall to correct this voting error, Cappleman refused.

    Just like he continually refuses to give the community an adequate chance to speak up to the 46th Ward Zoning & Development Committee. The Alderman and his staff have consistently blocked community attempts to educate the Zoning Committee with additional information from experts regarding the ramifications of this development. It is unfortunate that the Alderman is so scared of opposition that he intentionally filters and edits the information that the Zoning Committee receives…this is censorship!

    Additionally, the Alderman claims that there have been 10 public meetings and 10 additional meetings. However, one look at the 46th Ward website will disprove this claim. In fact, going through the calendar back to November 2011, the development is only mentioned twice; once in the additional information section under the March 15th ELVN elections (where the Alderman presented JDL’s project himself!) and the other, the December 8th Zoning Committee meeting. Where are the other 8+ public meetings noted?

    Let me also point out that it is difficult to get people to “public meetings” if the meetings themselves are not written on the 46th Ward calendar or noted in its emails (thus, not made public). Oops, well it must have been a mistake! Clearly, if the Alderman and his staff were notified, they would correct the omission and add meetings to the calendar. If you assumed this (like I did), you would be wrong, because despite numerous phone calls, the Alderman’s staff still did not add the meeting dates and times to their website. It almost appears there is a concentrated effort to keep people in the dark about any meeting related to this development.

    Finally, let me just address claims that this high-rise “belongs” in the neighborhood due to the presence of the 810 Gill Park and 828 W. Grace high rises. Unfortunately, if Cappleman hadn’t been censoring so much of the information allowed to the public, more people would know that Grace Street marks the end of a demarcation zone of larger buildings to its north…thus, Grace Street is the end of one zone and the beginning of another. That is why all the buildings following are much smaller (on Bradley, etc). Saying that the bigger buildings on Grace justify building another high-rise overlooking Bradley is just ridiculous. It’s like going to the zoo and saying that a lion is the same thing as a giraffe just because their pens are right next to each other.

    As for people only being concerned about their views, I wish I had a view to be concerned about! Unfortunately, I don’t. I guess I will just have to content myself with more real concerns like traffic, safety, density, and how this one bad choice will affect our neighborhood for DECADES to come. I am so glad that after getting married, going through name changes, and switching from an Indiana to an Illinois license as of last year, I am now registered to vote in the state of Illinois!

  6. Kevin on May 11, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Pete, I appreciate and respect your desire to see the building built. Just to address a couple of points, the opponents of this plan are a big group with lots of people and lots of different opinions and motivations. What got someone involved in dissenting may no longer be the reason they are involved, or they may now have more than one reason. Everyone has their own reasons, as you undoubtedly have yours. I would venture to guess that of the six separate “community” meetings that you attended, the majority of them were as a result of HN and other organizations demanding that the meetings take place. At a meeting with the Alderman in November, he indicated that the public meetings phase of the development was over, and it was “a shame” we had missed it. As far as who appeared to complain– you expected it to be different people?

    Finally, the people who want marginalize opposition to this project keep talking about views, and everyone seems to be overlooking the fact that this building is NOT TO BE LOCATED AT the corner of Halsted and Grace. There’s a restaurant there and a church, and sadly, this building will not have any access from Grace Street whatsoever. This development is to be built at the corner of Halsted and Bradley Place.

    Bradley Place is all of ten or fifteen blocks long in three places east of the Chicago River and is not a “through-street”. At the location in question it is three long blocks in length, and most importantly, only three narrow lanes wide, two used for parking and one for the one way street. I’ll eat my Cubs hat if Grace Street is not twice as wide at its widest point. Grace has two huge lanes, diagonal parking on one side and parallel parking on the other.

    A building of this size and scope does not belong here and the entire harmony and fabric of the surrounds will be effected by this. Comparing it to 828 and 810 are not reasonable. Compare it to the literally hundreds of buildings around it in the other three directions.

  7. Ald. James Cappleman on May 11, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    I want to make a few things clear:
    1. My decision reflects the decision made by the 33 members of the Zoning & Development Committee. Thirty different organizations sent their own representative to these meetings… I did not choose them. As a matter of fact, one member of the Z&D Committee ran against me in the election.

    2. The entire Z&D Committee wanted a planned development rather than what was zoned to be built there. Two-thirds of them voted to have a 5 member sub-committee hammer out the final details with the developer.

    3. This 5-member sub-committee had 3 of its members with a history of not supporting this project, yet 4 out of 5 of them voted on the final version… at the request of the 33-member Zoning & Development Committee.

    4. This planned development also went through substantial changes based on input from many different City departments with expertise in urban planning, architecture, zoning, and traffic engineering.

    Because this is a $100,000,000 development that affects the entire ward, I had representatives from the entire ward weigh in on this decision. The process I’m using to make development decisions is one of the most inclusive processes in the City and it’s based on a campaign promise I made while running for office.

    I promised I would use this committee to guide me in development decisions and I stand by my word.

  8. Justin Westcott on May 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Alderman Cappleman,

    The list of neighbors’ rejections that you have listed in your response above is certainly not complete, nor does it reflect the primary concerns of neighborhood residents, myself included. Perhaps you did not intend for it to be an exhaustive list, but regardless, I offer the following concerns that have already been communicated to you and the developer, yet hardly addressed to the satisfaction of ward residents:

    1. Negative impact to property values – most notably the impact to the condo conversion project at the Gill Park Co-Op. Thanks to the size and scale of this proposed development, it’s quite feasible that the Gill Park conversion project will not be successful.

    2. Congestion. This concern takes many forms. For example: noise on the outdoor area, sure to be amplified by the fact that there are 15 floors of glass for it to bounce from (I lived in a high-rise in the Loop for 2 months and can attest to this). Also, congestion raises parking concerns in a neighborhood already faced with far too little parking options.

    3. Impact on city infrastructure. This neighborhood has been faced with many issues ranging from plumbing / flooding to electrical outages.

    4. This development diverges significantly from the size, scale and character of the vast majority of surrounding buildings that define the community. Kevin also points this out in his post above. Allowing such a development in this community sets a precedent for others to follow. We will not only be burdened by the existence of this development, but also with the countless battles to be fought with other developers seeking to do the same in our neighborhood. Approved zoning is in place to protect us from this issue… it’s a shame that you are so eager to overturn it.

    Many neighbors objected because of their concerns about blocked views. Legally, no nearby high-rise resident can lay claim to a view unless they own the air rights. No one did. Some objected because they didn’t agree with the views of the church on this property. Some objected because they thought residents in the apartments would complain about noise from the bars, but the bar across the street from the proposed project is very enthusiastic about this development.

    These are real concerns voiced by your constituents. We have tried to work within your process to raise them to you in a constructive manner, but you have shut us down and seemingly refused to listen. I’d offer that it’s time to admit your process is not working.

  9. Scott on May 11, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    1. My decision reflects the decision made by the 33 members of the Zoning & Development Committee. Thirty different organizations sent their own representative to these meetings… I did not choose them. As a matter of fact, one member of the Z&D Committee ran against me in the election.

    And I assume every member is an expert on zoning and the impact such a planned development would have to our neighborhood? This is a 300% increase from current zoning.

    2. The entire Z&D Committee wanted a planned development rather than what was zoned to be built there. Two-thirds of them voted to have a 5 member sub-committee hammer out the final details with the developer.

    When did the entire Z&D committee want a planned development rather than what was zoned to be built there? What venue was this vote taken? Where are the minutes from your transparent process that support this claim?

    3. This 5-member sub-committee had 3 of its members with a history of not supporting this project, yet 4 out of 5 of them voted on the final version… at the request of the 33-member Zoning & Development Committee.

    Chester and Patrick voted against their official position of their member organizations. You know this. You’ve known ELVN and the Merchants were and still are against the development. It’s wrong Alderman. The official position of ELVN and the Merchants, stated TWICE in letters to your office is that they oppose this development. So claiming they’ve suddenly seen the light is nonsense. When someone gives you their “blessing” even though you know it’s totally wrong, where is the morality in that?

    4. This planned development also went through substantial changes based on input from many different City departments with expertise in urban planning, architecture, zoning, and traffic engineering.

    The City can say all they want. The decision is yours. Plain and simple. You are the Alderman for this ward. What you say goes. Period. No committee can make this decision–only you.

    Because this is a $100,000,000 development that affects the entire ward, I had representatives from the entire ward weigh in on this decision. The process I’m using to make development decisions is one of the most inclusive processes in the City and it’s based on a campaign promise I made while running for office.

    This is not a Ward wise decision. How does this impact neighbors at Montrose and Broadway? If you are talking about the $2.4 million going into the low income housing fund, that fund is used city-wide, not earmarked for the 46th Ward. How does this affect the entire ward again?

    How is it that neighbors are getting great communication about meetings for the Maryville site but nothing about this project? The fact that this was posted on your website 8 days before the Z&D was to vote last November speaks volumes of your inclusive process. At that meeting in November, you indicated that the public meetings phase of the development was over, and it was “a shame” we had missed it. Anyone wanting to comment had to write their comments down on a card and you would select the comments. You don’t have an entire group of people left out because you failed to properly notify them of their opportunity to contribute to the dialogue.

    If you say this is a $100,000,000 project, how much profit will JDL and Harlem make off this deal? Where are the financial projections of profit? We’ve heard upwards of $30 million. So the neighbors get screwed, the City gets $2.4 million and the developer walks out of the neighborhood with $30 million.

    I promised I would use this committee to guide me in development decisions and I stand by my word.

    And everyone else be damned.

  10. Ald. James Cappleman on May 11, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Justin, there were 33 members of the Zoning & Development Committee who heard your concerns at numerous public meetings. This committee’s vote tells me that they were not convinced to vote this project down based on information you provided them. There were also many experts from various City departments who weighed in on this development. I cannot take their expertise lightly.

    There’s an assumption that many have made that I make this decision alone. I made this decision based on the feedback of many ward residents, the Z&D Committee’s vote, and the many experts from many different City departments.

  11. Scott on May 11, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    Alderman, with all due respect: you were elected to serve us. Not various City departments. You have done so many good things for the Ward–L stop renovations, Uptown Theatre rehab, slow walking the Maryville site–what in the world is going on with this project? The three organizations most impacted don’t want it. Residents most impacted don’t want it. Why can’t it be within current zoning so we can all stop this bickering and work together to solve the Ward’s problems. This makes no sense!

  12. Kevin on May 12, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    For what it’s worth I would concur and in fact amplify Scott’s statements and question: What is different about this development? Community communication has been erratic at best. You tried to stop public meetings before many people could weigh in. When you were forced to have them, you tried to vet the questions that were asked and the presentations that were made using index cards, and disallowing video cameras although nowhere near enough notice was given to allow the community to attend. Then, after a time, you decided to begin having the voting portions of the meetings closed to the public. The “minutes” that you are publishing are absurd. In the last meeting, I understand that you were overwrought and some members of the Zoning and Development Committee defended you. At one prior meeting, I understand that
    a member of your staff stood up and told a resident to shut up.

    Alderman Cappleman, since you have been so kind as to post a few responses here, maybe you’d be kind enough to answer a couple of direct questions:

    What has you and your staff so flustered about this, Alderman, and why can’t everything slow down to a pace that you and the community are able to manage openly and without drama?

    What possible negative effects of this planned development on the residents of the Gill Park Coop have been raised with you, and how have your experts weighed in on this?

    • Patrick Boylan on May 12, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      I’ve confirmed Ald. Cappleman is the person responding to the comments. Please be respectful if you wish to keep the communication open. I’m not pointing at anyone, I’m just saying you have a good, if heated, conversation going with the alderman. I’ll watch for trolls for you.



  13. Ald. James Cappleman on May 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Kevin, all public meetings scheduled by this office were given a week’s notice, and this included providing a rendering of the project being considered. Other neighborhood organizations that have scheduled their own public meetings may have not given as much notice, but as alderman, I have no control over the way they provide notice to their membership. No one has ever been asked to put away any cameras or video equipment at any meeting arranged by my office.

    Committee members have told me they find the process to involve community in decision-making, along with its transparency, as rare. If you are aware of another alderman who has a more inclusive and transparent process for making zoning decisions, please let me know so that I can review their process on their website.

    The Z&D Committee voted on a number of occasions to have non-committee members leave the room as they deliberate because of some neighbors who were disruptive of the process. Committee members have repeatedly complained of disruptive behavior that distracted them from focusing on their task at hand.

    From the very beginning, non-committee members have been asked to go through their community representative to ask questions. This was done to avoid a duplication of questions. Non-committee members could also write down their question if they preferred to not go through their representative.

    I left it to the committee to decide when to vote on this project. After it was moved and seconded to call for a vote, the motion passed to select a sub-committee to hammer out the details. I made the decision to respect their process.

    At the last Z&D Committee meeting, a motion was made and seconded to reconvene the subcommittee for another vote. That motion failed with the committee reinforcing to stand behind their first vote.

  14. Scott on May 14, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Alderman, have you read this story that appeared January 11, 2009 in the Chicago Sun Times?

    This the same developer behind the 3750 N. Halsted mega development. They hoodwinked Alderman Burnett (27th) with loopeholes–can they do the same thing to you?

    City razed homeless shelter for Marchese, Cellini luxury condos

    Chicago taxpayers spent $1 million to tear down a vacant homeless shelter in Greektown so Mayor Daley’s friend Michael Marchese could build luxury condos there.

    Normally when the city provides such financial assistance for a development, there are strings attached: The developers must set aside one of every five condos as affordable housing. Or else they have to pay a hefty fee — about $4.2 million in the case of the Greektown project.

    But Marchese and his partners — indicted (and now convicted) Republican power broker William F. Cellini and developer William Senne — didn’t have to do either one.

    Why? Because City Hall didn’t give the money to Marchese. Instead, the city paid the Chicago Christian Industrial League to demolish the charity’s former homeless shelter using contractors chosen and supervised by Marchese’s team, city records show. After the work was done, Marchese’s team took title to the property in the 100 block of South Green Street, a block west of Halsted.

    Marchese and his partners “got around the affordable-housing piece because they said the Christian Industrial League got the money,’’ said Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), a longtime supporter of affordable housing who represents Greektown.

    “They were saying the money didn’t go to them,” he said. “It was like a loophole. These guys are smart. They know loopholes.’’

    Marchese’s group says it did nothing wrong.

    “We paid extra money to have the property demolished,” said Rick Filler, vice president of Marchese’s Harlem Irving Companies. “I paid the Christian Industrial League $6 million to give the property demolished. The Christian Industrial League went to the city and got paid by the city” for the demolition work, which began after the charity moved in to its new home in August 2006.

    If the city hadn’t paid for the demolition with money from the Near West tax-increment financing district, Marchese would have paid only $5 million for the land, according to the sales contract.

    When TIF money is used in a residential development, the developer is required to set aside 20 percent of the units as affordable housing or to pay the city $100,000 for each affordable-housing unit they decline to build. City Hall didn’t enforce that rule against against the Christian Industrial League or Marchese’s group, which built twin 12-story with 212 condos selling for as much as $560,000.

    Under a different program, the city gave the developers permission to build larger condos in exchange for a $510,000 donation to the city’s Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund.

    Half the 212 condos at Emerald have been sold for a total of $39.1 million. But the economy has slowed sales.

    Burnett jokes he may end getting the affordable housing he wanted from Marchese’s group.

    “At the rate they’re going right now, I think half of their property is going to be affordable because they can’t sell it.’’

    The Funders

    Michael Marchese — A frequent dinner companion of Mayor Daley, Marchese, 61, of Chicago, has been involved in several high-profile deals with the city. In one, he built a West Side shopping center on land he bought from the CTA for a dollar. He has developed every Home Depot in Chicago, at times with city subsidies. He owns Harlem Irving Companies, which his father started in the late 1950s. His wife Debbie is a board member of After School Matters, a charity Maggie Daley started. Marchese’s company has donated $30,000 to the charity since 2006.

    William F. Cellini — A Republican power broker, Cellini, 73, of Springfield, is charged (now convicted) with trying to extort campaign contributions from a company seeking state pension business under Gov. Blagojevich.

  15. Scott on May 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Alderman- Listed below are other Aldermen’s Zoning Process, per your request:

    Pawar – 47th Ward – June ’11)

    Fulfilling one of his campaign promises, Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) introduced a new rezoning process for the 47th Ward that requires developers to detail proposed changes in detail. The new process, detailed on Pawar’s website, is centered around a six-page “Zoning Information Form” and the creation of a new Zoning Advisory Committee which reviews the proposal and makes a recommendation to Ald. Pawar.

    “We’ve designed the form so people can get an understanding of the potential outcomes, the scope of the project, the architect and the potential cost,” said Ald. Pawar yesterday afternoon.

    The form is based on one used by Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) and was modified by members of Pawar’s transition committee and staff before he approved it.

    The process also requires larger developments to, “reach out to the neighborhood association” and send mailed notices to residents within 200 feet of the proposed development.

    41st Ward (Mary O’Conner) :

    Zoning and Development Guidelines for the 41st Ward
    To promote new investment that increases our City’s vitality and tax base, yet protects current residents, is compatible with existing land uses, fosters harmony and balance in our neighborhoods, celebrates our architectural heritage, and abides by the City of Chicago Zoning Ordinance, my administration will:

    • Encourage development that conforms to the existing zoning map. Beginning in 2000, the Mayor’s Zoning Reform Commission¬composed of neighborhood and civic groups, planners, architects, business executives and elected officials-conducted community meetings across the city, including the 41st Ward. Over four years, it held public workshops on specific zoning issues and examined the best practices of zoning
    regulations. In 2004, the new City of Chicago Zoning Ordinance became law. In support of which, this office will consider zoning changes only rarely and under extreme circumstances. Zoning changes, should they be needed, will be made consistent with the principles articulated in these guidelines. When alternatives exist to effect a desired change, this office will require the alternative with the least adverse impact.

    • Require strict compliance with public notice regulations. This office will expect compliance with the public notice requirements for all zoning applications, including map amendments, administrative adjustments, special uses, variations and “as of right” new construction. We will establish, in conjunction with residents, business owners and local community groups, an open, unbiased and predictable process concerning new
    construction and renovation. This office expects effective, transparent, and fair notice to all affected parties.

    Encourage complementary and compatible development. This office will encourage new development that seeks to reflect the character and context of the adjacent and other buildings in the surrounding area, comparable in quality, scale, density and building materials.

    Support private covenants. This office will encourage the use of private, recorded agreements and covenants with local community organizations that further the goals of these guidelines.

    From the 36th Ward:
    Alderman Puts School in Limbo

    by DAN MIHALOPOULOS | Dec 13, 2011

    Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th Ward) on Monday decided to delay a City Council vote on a zoning change request from the clout-heavy United Neighborhood Organization, which needs the legislation to proceed with its effort to build a charter school in Sposato’s ward.

    The freshman alderman’s move effectively killed UNO’s plan to construct and open the new school in time for the 2012-13 school year, said Juan Rangel, UNO’s CEO and a close ally of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

    The dispute in the far Northwest Side ward provided the latest flashpoint in the long-running battle over charter schools, with Sposato caught between the city’s most politically influential Latino group and the Chicago Teachers Union. UNO’s charter school network has grown rapidly in recent years, despite strong opposition from organized labor.

    On Monday evening, Sposato said he had not yet decided whether he would reject the project but he wanted to continue to gauge public opinion in the ward. He said he had received a lot of feedback for and against the proposal.

    “I need a little more time to sort out what the community really wants,” the alderman told the Chicago News Cooperative. “I can’t process it this fast.”

    The issue was the topic of a raucous community meeting last month. The crowd at the meeting “overwhelmingly shot it down,” Sposato said. “They didn’t want it.”

    In a letter sent Thursday to constituents, the alderman wrote that any school that would be approved must “serve the children in the neighborhood.” And on Monday, a top Chicago Public Schools official sent Sposato a letter promising that the new school would draw its students only from a limited area.

    Still, Sposato informed Zoning Committee Chairman Daniel Solis (25th) ¬ the former leader of UNO – on Monday afternoon that he would not be ready to proceed with a scheduled committee vote at Tuesday’s zoning meeting at City Hall.

    Planned Developments

    5.2 Applicants will be encouraged by the Alderman to make a preliminary presentation to the ZAC that includes a concept of the project and perhaps, but not necessarily a set of drawings and elevations.
    5.3 The Applicant should then make preliminary drawings and elevations that incorporate the suggestions of the ZAC. The Applicant will hold a meeting with the residents of the neighborhood adjacent to the site of the Proposal to describe the Project to the public and to get input from the public which may be incorporated into the Proposal. It is imperative that at the end of each meeting the community and the Applicant expressly state what understandings have been reached and what is expected to be done to move the project forward. These understandings and the expectations for moving forward shall then be reduced to writing by someone assigned to oversee the progress of the project by the ZAC chairman and sent to both the applicant and the ZAC Representative in whose area the Project is located.
    5.4 There is no limit on the number of meetings between the Applicant, the public, and the ZAC. The number of meetings may vary from Proposal to Proposal until the ZAC and the Applicant come to an agreement on the Proposal or an impasse. In either event, the ZAC shall draft and send a letter to the Planning Department via the alderman’s office that includes its recommendations for the Proposal.
    5.5 After the Proposal has completed the Planning Department review, but before the planned development document is executed by the Applicant and the City, the Applicant shall make a final presentation to the community to present the final planned development document. The purpose of this final meeting is to let the community know what is going to be built and a proposed time table for the construction. Provided the Proposal substantially includes the recommendations of the ZAC, the ZAC shall recommend the alderman approve the zoning change.

  16. Ald. James Cappleman on May 15, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks so much. I see the guidelines, but I didn’t see information about representatives voting.

    When I campaigned, I was very specific on representatives from the ward voting on major development issues to guide me in my final decision. Ward residents have been very vocal about continuing this practice and I feel obligated to keep my promise.

    Please keep trying and let me know if you come across anything that goes into greater detail about residents voting. Anything to help me improve the process would be appreciated.

  17. Ald. James Cappleman on May 15, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Scott, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that I sit on the Zoning Committee, so I have a fair idea about the different processes that many aldermen use when making zoning decisions. I’ve not come across any that use voting, but they may be out there.

    I’ve personally witnessed the panicked look in residents’ faces when a proposal near them is being explored because they don’t know whether or not their alderman will happen to agree with them or not. They’re rightfully scared. I get that.

    My process makes it very objective: either representatives voted yes or no and my ultimate decision either backs up or doesn’t back up their vote. This approach is more difficult and time consuming, but it holds me accountable on making a clear definition of “hearing” from the community… simply count up the votes and you have a fairly good idea about what my opinion will probably be. (I make it clear to the committee that I expect their decision to be grounded in best practices and it should be supportive of the Ward Master Plan. If it doesn’t do either, I could go against the committee’s vote.) I rely on experts to guide me about best practices, but I am less likely to trust an expert who is hired to persuade me to think a certain way.

    There are residents living closer to this development who believe their opinions should carry a heavier weight. I generally agree with that premise unless it’s a project that heavily affects the entire community. This is a $100,000,000+ development so I feel obligated to hear from representatives from the entire community rather than only neighbors living close by.

    This current proposal will have the least amount of traffic congestion than if a big box was to be built there. The unspoken real concern is about blocked views of downtown facing some of the residents living in 828 and 810 W. Grace. I understand that. When the 828 and 810 W. Grace buildings went up, they too blocked views. Any high-rise that goes up anywhere will block someone’s views. That’s the nature of an urban environment. The law states that people don’t own their views. If they did, we wouldn’t see any high-rises going up anywhere.

    Ultimately, the Z&D Committee weighed the positives with the negatives on this proposal, tweaked it many times, and voted with the belief that the good far outweighs the bad. I support their decision that took them many months to make.

  18. Justin Westcott on May 18, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Alderman Cappleman,

    In response to your May 15th post above – while I understand and appreciate that you intended to design an objective process, it seems clear to not only myself, but to many community residents that the process that was executed for this development has been certainly not been objective.

    At a November 2011 meeting of your zoning and development committee at Weiss Hospital, you stated that you had no opinion about the proposed development – that you were awaiting input and guidance from your committee. It was also stated that a development within current zoning had never been presented by JDL. It turns out that both statements turned out to be misleading half-truths.

    During a March 15th East Lake View Neighbors Meeting and a March 26th meeting including your zoning and development committee you admitted that JDL first came to your office with a proposal for a development within current zoning and that you asked him to come back with a planned development. You also showed very visible signs of support for JDL at both of these meetings (and at a private meeting of several of us held at the Center on Halsted): stating that you strongly supported this development, even answering questions on behalf of JDL during the discussion, clearly defending his position. All of this occurred before the committee voted on this development. How is this level of influencing at all objective?

    In your post above you also address building a process that provides a clear definition of hearing from the community. Again I agree with your intent -during a discussion of the Ward Master Plan with the community at a nearby synagogue you even admitted that the process for community feedback wasn’t working as well as you had hoped and you intended to tweak this. Many of us were hopeful that this would hold true, but over time it devolved back into your staff literally asking members of the community to “shush,” be quiet, refrain from comment, etc. during meetings. During a 4/30 meeting at Weiss Hospital you commented that the time for community input was over and it was too late, etc. — that our specific concerns about the impact to the 810 Gill Park Co Op project and remaining concerns about shadow, light and density should have been discussed earlier in the process “when we had our chance.” Seemingly, this also is your response to the letters of concern and opposition presented to you 2 of the community’s largetst orgainizations — East Lake View Neighbors and the North Halsted Business Alliance.

    The developer’s request for a zoning variance has not yet been granted. So, how is it that our time has run out? Has the community truly been “heard” from and their real concerns addressed?

    I also disagree strongly with classifying blocked views as the real concern, spoken or unspoken. We have raised several real concerns with this development — reference my 5/11 post above as well as other’s posts – property values (especially the Gill Park Co Op), congestion, infrastructure, precedent, etc., all brought along by the height and density of this development. We understand that we live in an urban environment. The reality is that this lot is zoned as it is for a reason. We do not live amongst the greater height and density of Lake Shore Drive or the Loop – or even Uptown for that matter.

    Stepping back, in the past few weeks the process you have your committee following for other developments has taken on a different flavor… invoking a charrette process and emailing recipients of your newsletter asking for unfiltered questions and input from the community. I can’t help but wonder if we’d be at a different spot if such a framework were used for the development at Bradley and Halsted.

    I respect that you and your zoning and development committee have worked hard on this process, but I think it’s time to admit that the process for the development at Bradley and Halsted is not working — and that there is still time to make it right.

  19. Laura on May 18, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Dear Alderman Cappleman,

    In my opinion, the good you refer to in this plan is not good enough. This is your chance to prove that you are willing to do what it takes to understand the larger question of urban planning without resorting to the excuse of a planned development. It is after all in your hands alone.

    Chicago’s urban plan is well known for the larger skeleton mapped out with the use of the boulevards, parks and the lake front as its hallmarks. However, the areas in between these broad brush strokes in each ward, as the system is currently set up, need the care, and are the ultimate responsibility of a single alderman.

    Chicago has a history of abysmal infra-urban planning where “property rights” are confused with the more civic question of what constitutes a successful urban fabric. If the first 3-4 stories of a planned development are taken up by loading docks, core elevator shafts, fire exit stairways and parking spaces, the street identity is killed as is the goal of a more economically productive building. Who says retail has to mean a big box organization by definition?

    Given Chicago’s dismal failures from this point of view, it is not saying much for an alderman to measure himself up against what has already proven to be a rather low standard. It is just not aiming for the top. Although important, there’s a lot more to a street-scape than being more transparent than another alderman, how many days in advance one’s constituency was notified of a hearing or how detailed were the meeting minutes released regarding the subject. Your committee, for whatever reason, has gotten it all wrong. There are a lot of people telling you this. By implementing the existing zoning, and not allowing the planned development, you would be aiming higher and getting it right.

    It is not without reason that it is a pleasure to stroll through many European cities. This is not an accident. It is the result of urban planning and zoning laws at work. One of the areas of Chicago you can walk, which have these same bits of this pleasure is the very portion of Halsted in question. Why not build on and extend this success in your ward, study what it takes to retain the basis of a small scale neighborhood, and invest in bettering this aspect of your ward, as it really rests in your hands alone.

    Mayor Daley loved the urban plan he saw while traveling in Europe and he translated it into the landscaping, gardens and flowers we now see throughout our city. Zoning and protecting the urban scale, however, plays the largest part of an urban plan. As alderman, you could implement a vision which has been largely ignored and which would distinguish you as an enlightened alderman. In the long run, this would bring in a lot more money that this single ugly monster of a project. You can set your standard in this to the highest level, rather than merely surpassing a low one.

    Why not make a decision to wipe the slate clean and consider the concerns of the many people objecting by investing in a better urban plan? To talk of air rights is to demean the issue. Do away with the empty brick walls, parking lot elevations, cold wind tunnels and keep the street identity, continuity, and liveliness, even daring to move it many blocks north on Broadway. Then, let’s all watch together as our ward flourishes.