Vi Daley’s approval of New Webster Square upsets residents
On Tuesday, March 1, 43rd Ward Alderman Vi Daley announced in an email that she would no longer delay the development project on the site of the Lincoln Park Hospital, in spite of the opposition from local residents during a meeting the night before.
The project, dubbed New Webster Square, includes a 47-feet-high apartment building on Grant Place, a 120-units residence building called Webster Building, office and retail building for professional and medical services, and a 255-space parking lot, on the site of the now-closed Lincoln Park Hospital on 550 W Webster Ave.
At a meeting that took place on Monday, February 28, in Lincoln Park High School auditorium, developers presented changes made to the project, including the reduction of the height of the buildings and the redesign of a loading dock.
But for the majority of the almost 200 people who gathered in the auditorium, these changes were not enough.
Words such as “this big box,” “elephant,” and “nightmare scenario” were used by a handful of residents to describe the project, with proposed concessions being called “inadequate” and “minimal at best.”
Retail component of the project remained the biggest concern. Residents expressed fear that Lincoln Park would loose its historical value and local grocery stores would be forced bankrupt.
“This is the wrong thing for this congested 19th century neighborhood. Go away. Take it somewhere to the suburbs, where it belongs,” said Ruth McDowell, resident of 2238 North Geneva Terrace.
But after more than a year of continuous debates, the developers were getting tired as well.
“It’s the same people raising the same concerns every time. No matter how many changes we make, they’re still not happy,” said Marilyn Katz, President of MK Communications, public strategy firm responsible for community outreach as well as strategic counsel and planning for the main developer of the project, Sandz Development.
As the debate heated up, Kim Schilf, president and CEO of the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce was booed, after saying she supports the redevelopment. After Alderman Daley intervened, Schilf said the project would bring jobs and security in these tense economic times.
One resident suggested that Alderman Daley should not make any binding decisions, but leave it to her successor, who will be determined in the run-off elections on April 5, between Michele Smith and Tim Egan.
However, on March 1, Alderman Daley sent out at an email in which she announced that based on the results of a referendum in which 56.5% residents voted against and 43.5% for the project, she has reached final decision.
“Based on this small difference, which mirrors the division in the immediate area, I will not delay this project any longer and I will vote to approve this project at City Council,” she said in the email, adding, “There are many attributes to this project and it is time for us to come together and move forward.”