University to consolidate facilities management

By LINDSAY WELBERS
Staff Writer

The University of Chicago Facilities Services will be moving out of three separate buildings and into one modern facility at the end of next year.

The university recently announced its plans to build an 86,000 square foot, two-story building on the vacant lot at 5201 S. Cottage Grove Ave. The new building will replace three buildings that the department currently uses to house all of the equipment needed to maintain its 249 Hyde Park properties.

One building that currently sits on the site, the former State Farm Insurance building, will be adapted for reuse by the Court Theater. Currently the theater uses the second story of Facilities’ Services shops and office inventory building at 56th Street and Stony Island Avenue as a rehearsal space. Court Theater executive director Stephen Albert said the new building would better suit the theater’s needs.

The other two Facilities Services buildings, the residential shop at 61st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue and the landscape services building at 57th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, have no planned reuse at this time.

Residents at the meeting on Monday, Feb. 4., were more concerned that the construction and added traffic from panel vans could create headaches for the neighbors. The university’s 48 fleet vehicles will load and unload from an indoor bay, U. of C. campus planning executive director Alicia Murasaki said. The indoor loading bay should keep noise to a minimum.

Residents shouldn’t be able to hear trucks loading or unloading before 6:30 a.m., when the earliest employees report for work. During winter, when weather is slick, workers may arrive earlier to prepare salt trucks and plows. Trucks should not drive through the alley behind the property or along 52nd Street.

Some residents were concerned that the added traffic along Cottage Grove Avenue would create congestion where currently traffic flows smoothly.

“It’s a small amount of traffic that this is going to generate. It’s not going to add a noticeable delay to any of these intersections,” said Mark de la Vergne, of Sam Schwartz Engineering, who conducted a traffic study for this project.

The university intends to submit a planned development application before the end of the month. Construction will begin in the first quarter of 2014.

l.welbers@hpherald.com