Fighting development: Lawsuit considered against Children’s Memorial Hospital redevelopment plan

Neighbors remain up in arms following a unanimous vote in favor of the Children’s Memorial Hospital site redevelopment plan on Feb. 20, at the city’s Plan Commission.

Concerned community members, both Republican and Democrat, met at the 43rd Ward Republicans’ office Saturday, Feb. 22 to discuss concerns and the next steps in a meeting led by Republican Committeeman Chris Cleveland.

“As Republicans we need to make a decision – are we going to get involved?” he said.

The main issues with the plan still include traffic and density concerns as well as building heights and zoning issues. However, since the plan is supported by Alderman Michele Smith, it is expected to get pushed through city council without a problem.

“Michele has put this on the path. There won’t be any changes or intelligent discussion. It’s over,” Ed Burnes said, an opponent of the project.

The two 21-story glass residential buildings are one aspect that many oppose because of their abnormal height and look for the neighborhood. The tall towers are permitted due to zoning at the Children’s Memorial site, which allows for denser construction for hospital use.

“They shouldn’t get the benefits of what the hospital got,” Burnes said.

Concerned community members are now looking to file a lawsuit as an action against the development plan.

“The only thing that will get McCaffery to the table is a lawsuit because there needs to be a zoning change,” Burnes said. “It’s our only chance to stop this and get the developer to renegotiate.” The lawsuit claim would focus on changing the underlying zoning of this site but could cost thousands of dollars, Burnes said.

However, some neighbors have stepped forward, showing their support.

“On my block I got pledges for about $55,000 from about 15 people in 24 hours.” Lincoln Park resident Ben Kadish said.

Allan Mellis, a Lincoln Park resident, expressed concerns over the lawsuit.

“Say you have a lawsuit and then they stop the project, then what’s going to happen?” Mellis said. I’m afraid the lot will sit empty again and why would another developer want to come in?”

Admitting that the process of the project was flawed, Mellis supported the plan as others in the crowd shook their heads in disagreement.

“The business community on Lincoln Avenue has died,” Mellis said. “So now we’re getting retail on both sides that will revitalize the area.” Other highlights of the project include several open, green spaces that have received more approval.

Both the Wrightwood Neighbors Association and Lincoln Central Association are two groups that support the plan. However, the Mid-North Association does not support the plan and would probably be the plaintiff on the proposed lawsuit.

Alderman Michele Smith and The Mid-North Association were not present at the Saturday meeting and could not be reached for comment. The plan will continue to the Committee on Zoning for a vote before it goes to the full Chicago City Council.