MAC requests zoning change for 53rd and Cornell

Staff Writer

A recently proposed development at 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue, 1600 E. Hyde Park, has applied for a zoning change in order to move the project forward.

Most of Hyde Park is in a RM zoning district, meaning a residential multi-unit district. This usually allows for medium to high-density apartment buildings such as two-flats, townhouses and single-family homes.

The other common zonings of Hyde Park are business districts, most being designated shopping districts like B1 (neighborhood shopping district) or B3 (community shopping district), which permits apartments above the ground floor.

The proposed 1600 E. 53rd St. sits in four different zones: RM-6, B1-3, B3-2 and B3-5. The proposed development calls for retail space on the ground floor, a four-floor parking garage above the retail, and then apartment units sitting on top for a total of 27-stories.

The developer, MAC Properties, has requested a zoning change and the notice was sent out to residents that live within 250 feet of the property. According to the letter sent to the neighbors, the zoning change calls for the zoning to switch to a Residential-Business Planned Development, which is defined as allowing “all buildings, campuses, and other large developments that must be negotiated with city planners. Developers gain freedom in building design, but must work with city planners to ensure that the project serves and integrates with surrounding neighborhood,” according to the 2nd City Zoning website.

The change in zoning would allow for a higher height at a maximum of 295 feet to the building, rather than the maximum of 80 feet that is currently allowed within the business district zoning.

According to the letter, the building at 1600 E. 53rd St. will provide one replacement parking space for each space in the current surface parking lot, which has 78 reserved parking spaces that are rented by residents surrounding the lot. A total of 173 spaces are expected for the four-story garage.

Peter Cassel, the director of community development at MAC Properties, explained how they got the number of 173.

“The way we arrived at that number was to start with the code requirement for the building, which is 95,” he said. “Once we established that number, we went to the second step of replacing all of the parking currently on that site.”

According to Cassel, MAC Properties has no legal obligation by the City of Chicago to keep the 78 spaces, but that they are applying for it regardless to make sure the current leasers are able to park at the new development. MAC Properties has owned the parking lot since 2010 and began leasing out spaces in 2011.

If the project is approved, construction would begin in early 2018, and community members currently parking in that lot will be assigned other areas to park.

“We currently have a whole number of Windermere parkers who are displaced from the Solstice construction to a variety of parking lots around the neighborhood,” Cassel said. “Once we bring back the Windermere lot at the Solstice building, we expect to have excess parking there as well as fill up the variant of other parking spots. We will make due with what’s possible during the construction period.”

While the developer applied for 173 parking spaces, Danielle Meltzer Cassel of Vedder Price and the zoning counsel for the project, said that their application has no guarantee from the City of Chicago.

“We asked in our application that the city permit the parking spaces throughout the whole planned development but we have no guarantee that they are going to allow that,” she said.

Parking will also be added to development Subarea B, which is the building that sits on the northeast corner of 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue at 1644 E. 53rd St., and Subarea C, a vacant six-flat that has been demolished at 5232 S. Hyde Park Blvd.

Subarea B will include 16 parking spaces and Subarea C will include six parking spaces for a total of 195 parking spaces.

“We are committed to providing code-compliment parking on the other two sites for whatever their uses are in the future,” Peter Cassel said.

The letter was sent out to neighbors on Jan. 17. The application was filed to the Chicago Plan Commission. The next step requires public hearings before the Chicago Plan Commission and the City Council Committee on Zoning prior to a vote by the full City Council.

The project is in Ald. Leslie Hairston’s (5th) ward and requires her approval of the project to move forward.

At a community meeting hosted by Hairston, Dec. 20, MAC Properties told those who attended to expect another open community meeting sometime in the spring.