By LINDSAY WELBERS
The Chicago Plan Commission passed the plan to build the 13-story Vue53 at the McMobil site on Thursday. The only vote against the plan was from George Migala, who questioned why the height for the building was necessary.
“Why so high?” Migala asked.
Mesa Development attorney Graham Grady said that to accommodate all the things the neighborhood supported during the 53rd Street Visioning Workshops a large building was needed.
“The community needs many things to be successful, as you are aware. There’s education, public safety, open space, retail, among other things you can name, “ Grady said. “There was a process in the community, which called for more retail, which called for more residences and called for a stronger presence in the community of people to make the shopping district vibrant. There was also called for an increase in affordable housing … in order to achieve those things a taller building was needed, a larger building was needed.”
Architect Joe Valerio said they had considered lowering the building but the z-shaped tower would need to become h-shaped to accommodate the same number of apartments. That would put neighbors facing each other only 16 feet apart.
“We really think the building is as low as it can go,” Valerio said.
More than 15 people came to Thursday’s meeting to speak in support of the project while only eight came to speak against it.
“I think there’s a lot more support in this community for this project than has appeared,” Burns said. “This is consistent with the values of the community as well. Many projects do not include affordable housing on site. This project includes not just the 10 percent that’s required by the ordinance but an additional 5 percent on site.” An additional 5 percent will be reserved in University of Chicago housing off site. The total number of affordable units created in Hyde Park as a result of Vue53’s construction is planned at more than 50.
Amanda Englert, who lives near the site, said the shadow study done by Mesa was incomplete. She said the times of day used to show that the building would not cast an overbearing shadow over neighboring homes was too short and hand-picked to show the project, 154 feet at its highest point, in a favorable light.
“We are not merely consumers and sources of revenue, but humans who … depend on sunlight,” Evans said.
Hyde Park resident Richard Gill spoke in support of the project and encouraged the commission not to allow fear of traffic congestion to deter their vote.
“One of the things that opponents of the project object to is fear that a neighborhood is going to suddenly be subject to gridlock because of the 200 and some cars that are going to be parking in this garage,” Gill said. “This project is too important to the neighborhood to be derailed by something like that.”