McMobil high-rise in the wrong location

To the Editor:

The well-known real estate mantra, “Location, Location, Location!” clearly applies to the potential new high-rise on the McMobil site. The proposed building, three floors higher than the University Apartments on 55th Street and almost as wide, would engulf the buildings on either side — and loom over Nichols Park — without achieving the desired goal of transit-oriented development favored by the participants in the various 53rd Street “planning” workshops. It is inaccurate to claim, as some have, that the consensus of the participants favored high-rises on 53rd Street without qualification. Every participant I know consistently added that the acceptance of high-rise development depended on its location.

What this community seriously needs, before any more mistakes are made, is comprehensive, overall neighborhood planning, to ensure desirable density in appropriate locations. “Appropriate locations” is the key to successful development. The previous lack of adequate planning resulted in 53rd Street’s current woes: large amounts of retail crowded onto a street ten feet narrower than 55th Street with no alleys for garbage pickup or merchandise deliveries.

An essential part of intelligent planning is the determination of desirable limits for density. If density measurements studies were ever done for Hyde Park, where is the report? How much density do we actually need and want to have a thriving retail sector? Achieving the density we want is not just a matter of building apartments: Location, location, location is of paramount importance to a successful neighborhood plan.

Additionally, the intensity of land use should not be so great as to cause congestion. High-rises within two blocks of transportation encourage walking to the bus or train rather than driving. The proposed McMobil structure, out of scale with all its surroundings, would be more than six blocks from Lake Park bus lines or the Metra, and almost eight blocks to Hyde Park Boulevard — an uncomfortable walk in the winter. This fact alone is reason enough to pause and reconsider whether putting this building somewhere else is actually more beneficial to Hyde Park’s development goals. The university already owns the former taxi garage at 56th Street and Stony Island Avenue. Why not build the huge building there, and a four-story apartment/retail building on the McMobil site? We would get more retail, more density, all of it in scale and all in sync with transit oriented development.

Stephanie Franklin