To the Editor:
The University of Chicago is well on its way to realizing its goal of revitalizing 53rd Street. We have a new movie theater, an all-night diner, several new restaurants and a high-end clothing store.
Coming soon will be a music venue, five more new restaurants, a health club, a 130-plus room hotel, a large office building and a yoga studio.
In addition, there are two major projects already approved: City Hyde Park at 51st Street and Lake Park Avenue, with stores and 180 residential units, and Harper Court Phase 2, with 425 residential units approved.
There are several vacant storefronts on 53rd, 51st, and 55th streets waiting for tenants. There are large stores slated on our periphery, Ross Dress for Less at 47th Street and Lake Park Avenue, and a Walmart grocery at 47th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.
We will have more life and foot traffic on 53rd Street, and lots more retail options. The larger stores that serve a wider area would be on the major streets, with bus routes, and the potential for adding more.
The issue at hand is whether the University of Chicago and Mesa Development should be granted a zoning change to allow the proposed 14-story building with 267 apartments and both a large and a small retail store in a place where only much smaller buildings exist and are allowed.
Traditionally in Chicago, approval of a zoning change or Planned Development rests with the alderman. If Ald. Will Burns (4th) recommends this zoning change so the high rise can be built, other developers can cite this as precedent when asking for more zoning changes, and just as one domino knocks down the next, one high rise sets the stage for the next and the next and the next. One by one, more buildings could go up as developers seek out places to maximize their profits and the University of Chicago seeks to expand and dominate the neighborhood.
The U. of C. should build a smaller building or buildings that fit within the current zoning classification and the low-rise character of the surrounding area to bridge the gap with stores, housing and parking, as is done on the North Side and as proposed at the visioning workshops and by CARRD some years ago. Thus we could have a continuous strip of stores and more pedestrians without threatening the ambience of the area and setting a precedent that will set forces in motion we won’t be able to stop.