Planning issues to heat up in upcoming months

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A number of planning and development issues and projects affecting Sheffield should move forward significantly in the upcoming months.  First of all, it has been reported in the press that a nationally known developer, Sterling Bay, has shown considerable interest in the Lakin and Gutmann Tannery sites along the Chicago River.  Subsequently, it was reported that Sterling Bay was interested in the Finkl Steel site, as well.  Sterling is known for its commercial and tech industry developments and not for residential or retail development, thus indicating that the properties along the river may be developed without substantial changes to the Clybourn and Elston Planned Manufacturing Districts.  Thus far, nothing specific has been disclosed, but it can be expected that more information will become available in the upcoming weeks and months. 

Meanwhile, the “River Works” plan document being prepared by North Branch Works with USEPA funding for the redevelopment of the Finkl, Lakin and Gutmann sites in the PMDs is in draft stage and will be reviewed by interested parties, including the Sheffield Neighborhood Association.  The final report should be issued soon.  It is not known how the Sterling Bay interest may relate to this plan.

Demolition Ahead

In addition, it can be anticipated that demolition will be taking place along the eastern border of Sheffield.  DePaul University is planning to begin work on its new School of Music building on Halsted.  The first stage will include the demolition of the old music building, McGaw Hall.  The DePaul Neighborhood Advisory Committee will meet later this month, at which time more information may be disclosed regarding DePaul’s timetable for demolition and construction of the new building. 

Meanwhile, the long-awaited demolition of the old Children’s Memorial Hospital building is anticipated to be in the offing.  When it specifically will begin is not known, but it should occur later this year or early next year.

Residential Construction

With regard to residential construction, work has begun on one of the new homes being constructed on the 2100 block of Kenmore where the DePaul Theater School once stood.  The developer, Environs, is marketing this property for approximately five new homes, depending on the width of the lots that owners desire and can afford.  A number of old homes are being demolished and new homes constructed along Dayton, Fremont and other streets in the neighborhood.  Some of the older homes being demolished are of considerable architectural and historic interest, but, except for the few blocks designated as Chicago Landmark Districts, no homes in Sheffield are immune from such destruction.  With regard to new homes, some are being built without any need for zoning adjustments or variances.  For those where such variances or adjustments are sought, there is some need for review by the alderman or the Zoning Board of Appeals, and thus the possibility of neighborhood input.

Sidewalk Café

A unique issue relates to the desire of Range Restaurant at 1119 W. Webster to have a sidewalk café.  The restaurant is located on a block where there a Planned Development is in place which was enacted a number of years ago when the location at 1119 W. Webster first changed from a food store to a Mexican restaurant, La Canasta.  At the time, neighbors were interested in restricting this area so that this could be the only restaurant on this block of Webster.  Among the restrictions was one that precluded outdoor service.  This was prior to the enactment of the Chicago Sidewalk Café Ordinance, which has since permitted with regulation many sidewalk cafes throughout Chicago. 

The owner of Range would like the Planned Development amended to permit him to have a sidewalk café pursuant to the Chicago Sidewalk Café Ordinance.  There has been one community meeting to permit neighbors to express their opinions regarding any change.  There will be another meeting soon so that the SNA and Alderman Smith can hear again from Range’s representatives and the neighbors for those who may not have had an opportunity to be heard previously so that a decision can be made on this issue.

Aside from these developments, other issues are sure to come up in the ensuing months.  The SNA will strive to keep our members and all neighbors informed of issues of local importance that come to our attention.

Ted Wrobleski chairs SNA’s Planning Committee.