Locals pan high-rise

Staff Writer

Hyde Parkers gathered to debate the merits and faults of the proposed 13-story apartment and retail building expected to be constructed on 53rd Street.

Nearly 100 people came to Augustana Lutheran Church on Monday, March 18, many to voice concern that the building is too tall and out of proportion for the surrounding neighborhood or to support a development that could connect east and west 53rd Street.
The most vocal opponents to the building, which will have 30,000 square feet of retail space, 267 apartments and 218 parking spaces, is that it will increase traffic and parking problems in an already congested area and its size is out of scale with the rest of the neighborhood.

Fifteen percent of the housing in the building will be designated as affordable housing, and another five percent will be created in University of Chicago-owned apartments in Hyde Park.

Affordable housing would mean that a family of four with an income up to $44,200 would be eligible for reduced rent in this building, based on income limits calculated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Whichever project we arrive at these needs will be met,” said Dave White, speaking for the Citizens for Appropriate Retail and Residential Development (CARRD).

White went on to say that a big box retailer would be likely to attract shoppers from other parts of the city and the cars they would take to get here. The 109 parking spaces set aside for retail shoppers wouldn’t be sufficient and most people would park elsewhere on Hyde Park streets.

“This is just going to be another stressor on traffic patterns already that are keeping us kind of tight on the street,” White said. He also said putting a 13-story building that may increase traffic patterns directly across the street from Nichols Park and Murray School is tempting fate. “Throwing this large traffic-generating development across the street from that is an unwise use of this unique location. … this is my view: Having kids dodging cars in Hyde Park for years is a prescription for disaster.”
A handful of people found the dialogue unconstructive. Jason Duba lives at 54th Street and Woodlawn Avenue and said he was frustrated to see his neighbors complain without offering constructive criticism.

“Frankly I’m somewhat disappointed by some of the views I’m hearing expressed tonight. Many of them seem reactionary rather than progressive. Many of them seem fearful rather than thoughtful and many of them seem monocultured rather than diverse. I have not heard anyone express thoughts about what they would like to see here instead of a 13-story building,” said Jason Duba, who has lived in Hyde Park for two-and-a-half years. “I tend to think that if this building is constructed as it is, the people that move there will be the people that may not have a car. The Metra station is only six blocks away, the number two bus is only two blocks away … people are not automatically going to move into the building and have two cars.”

CARRD is asking Ald. Will Burns (4th) not to approve the zoning change that would allow the construction of a building up to 150 feet high on those lots. Burns did arrive at the meeting but declined to comment. CARRD is asking neighbors to sign a petition or write letters to his office.