To the Editor:
It has been interesting, and somewhat disheartening, to read and hear the resistance to the proposed redevelopment on the McMobil site. To be clear, I am in full support of what has been proposed. I thank and applaud Ald. Will Burns for giving his support for this transformative project, especially in the face of unreasonable opposition that is based on uneducated opinions, misinformation and a series of uninformed “theories” from a vocal few that are being passed of as facts.
The first is what I call the “Shadow Theory,” which was addressed in the “Shadow Across 53rd street” editorial on February 20 where it stated that a “long shadow cast across 53rd Street covering Nichols Park’s northern end in darkness.” The proposed building will not cast ANY shadow on the park. Chicago is in the Northern Hemisphere where all buildings casts their shadows to the north, east, and west … not south. One only needs to go to the long, twin residential buildings at 55th Street & Blackstone to see the “shadow” impact it has on its neighbors to the south, which is none.
The editor’s assessment would indeed be true, if we lived south of the equator. I challenge the developers and their architect to develop a series of shadow studies and present them at the next public meeting. It will be the only way to do away with the “Shadow Theory.”
Second, is the “Big Box Retail Theory.” According to the International Council of Shopping Center, an organization that sets the standard of retail size, “big box retail” is defined as a single tenant of 150,000 to 350,000 square feet or more. Think Target, Best Buy or most of the “big box” stores you would see on Roosevelt Road or on North Avenue. The proposed 30,000 square feet of retail occupied by several tenants hardly qualifies as “big-box,” as some opponents have strongly claimed. It is clear that the scale of the retail will be neighborhood serving retail, not regional, “big-box” retail that is auto oriented, which causes potential traffic issues. Although the program has yet to be defined, based on the developer’s track record I am optimistic that they will deliver.
This leads us to the third theory, the “Traffic Congestion Theory.” I am not a traffic engineer, but can safely assume that the number of cars that go to and from the current Mobil Station will be equal or more than the number of trips that the new residents (coupled with future shoppers) take. The proposed development, I argue, may actually REDUCE the amount of traffic, not increase it. Besides, which of the two has less of an impact from an environmental standpoint? Which would you rather have as your neighbor, or a neighbor to Nichols Park? I ask that the developer, if they have not already done so, hire a traffic/parking consultant to conduct a traffic study and present their findings to the community.
Regarding the proposed parking, typical residential rental buildings are parked at 50 percent or a half a parking space per unit. The current proposal is parked at 40 percent, well below the average.
Given the net population loss that Hyde Park has been experiencing over the last 13 years (a net loss of 5,000 since 2000); this neighborhood needs density, especially if we want to attract and retain the local amenities that make our community unique and special.
The developer and their architect have done a good job of eroding the size of the building by essentially splitting it in half and stepping it back off of 53rd Street. It is a clever design trick. I could go on about the architecture, which is clearly going in the right direction, but at this point I am more concerned how public opinion is being shaped against this development. And it is being shaped by misinformation and outright lies. As a proud resident of Hyde Park, I find this recent trend disturbing and extremely disappointing. To borrow from a title from a recent community flier against the proposed building, “We Can Do Better” as Hyde Park residents. Opposition to this development should be based on facts, not uninformed untruths that distort what is actually being proposed.