New residential, retail coming to Greektown amid worries about parking and congestionMarch 4, 2017
By Eva Hoffman
Years after the City approved the project, officials have granted a building permit for the One South Halsted St. tower, also referred to as 727 W. Madison St.
While many in the community will welcome new neighbors and new retail, they also are concerned about parking and traffic issues that may result from the new development. FitzGerald Associates is designing the project with co-developers F&F Realty and Fifield Companies.
F&F Realty owns the property along with a partner, an affiliate of Ares Management LP. Workers are preparing the site for construction, with completion expected by fourth quarter 2018 and leasing to begin in early 2019, according to Steve Fifield, chair and CEO of the Fifield Companies.
The project will replace the Crowne Plaza hotel’s surface parking lot with a 472-foot circular tower and bring 492 new apartments and 10,200 square feet of retail space to the Greektown neighborhood. That part of the plan led neighbors to be concerned about a possible lack of parking, and increased traffic as well.
The development includes a six-level parking garage with 375 parking spaces, which includes 100 parking spaces dedicated for use by the Crowne Plaza hotel. Additional parking spaces have been added exclusively for the hotel staff to do valet parking.
“Like all projects of this scope, this project was evaluated by the developer, third-party consultants, and the City to ensure that it adequately addresses neighborhood demand and all municipal requirements in regards to parking and traffic,” said Fifield.
The tower will offer 44 stories of pet-friendly rental units, ranging from 490 to 1,550 square feet, as well as a secured access resident parking garage. It will include a tall lobby and penthouse. “It offers the biggest amenity options of all the buildings in the West Loop,” said Fifield. Those amenities include an outdoor pool and spa; party room; fitness club with a yoga room, barre and pilates studio; and 24-hour concierge.
There is no inclusionary Section 8 housing at this project, according to Fifield. However, as part of the project approvals, over $3.5 million in payments will be made for the density bonus and to support affordable housing. A density bonus is a zoning tool that permits developers to build more housing units, taller buildings, or more floor space than normally allowed, in exchange for provision of a defined public benefit, such as a specified number or percentage of affordable units included in the development.
Vetting added retail
The project went through a multi-year vetting process, with planners taking input from Greektown merchants and other business owners, who wanted to see retail spaces on Halsted Street incorporated into the design. “We don’t know which retailers will be in the building, as we won’t be negotiating leases for another year,” said Fifield. “But with Mariano’s at one end and Whole Foods on the other, there will be plenty of retailers who will want to get in on the action. We want a good mix of quality retailers.
“The West Loop is not meant to have a lot of tall buildings, but this development was carefully designed,” he said. “It bridges the gap between downtown upscale and the West Loop.”
Fifield said the tower’s completion date will be timely, coinciding with McDonald’s moving its headquarters to the West Loop. McDonald’s, along with tech companies such as Google, Motorola and CDW, are attracting the 22- to 38-year-old college graduates who want to live in the city.
Greektown merchants are embracing the fact that more residents are coming to the area, according to Frank Caputo of the Greektown Merchants Association. “The project was reviewed and re-reviewed a number of times,” he said. “So far residents as a whole have not objected to the project because all of the necessary reviews were done appropriately.”
According to Caputo, the only problem he foresees with the project is its impact on traffic. “That is probably the biggest concern every time we go to a meeting,” he said. “The City is doing its best to ensure traffic flows as easily as possible.”
Among those opposed to the development is Melissa G. Wilson, a long-time neighborhood resident. “There’s the side of economic development and growth and the side of community thoughtfulness and planning,” she said. “We’re now going from an area that had ten stories at the top to something that’s more than three times higher,” she said. “It’s devastating because it changes the whole fabric of this area. We’re going from a community that knows its neighbors to a neighborhood of transient apartment dwellers.”
Wilson fears that this is just the beginning, and that this development is setting a precedent for an “anything goes” style of urban planning in the West Loop. “Our views don’t matter,” she said. “Basically, ‘we don’t care’ is the new mantra.
Wilson says she thought the Greektown neighborhood was “the best place ever” when she moved in so much so that she bought two condominiums in her building. “This was a painful surprise,” she said. “They pulled the rug out from under us.”
Wilson argues that the community is already economically viable. “So now what we have is an impending overflow,” she said. “There will be more density, more crowds, more noise, more congestion… more everything.
“We’re overbuilding,” she continued. “I don’t call this smart economic development. Our interests and needs were not taken into consideration. This was very cleverly pushed through. We were told about it and the next day the cranes were there.”
Armando Chacon, president of the West Central Association, said many residents have been surprised to learn this project would begin construction. “The sheer size and lack of any recent communication or vetting have contributed to a high degree of anxiety for some,” he said. He added, however, that the development received minimal opposition at community meetings. Chacon encourages dialogue with general contractors to minimize issues with parking, vibration, truck staging, traffic, and noise that go with developing a project of this size.
“We have ongoing construction issues on a few projects currently underway,” Chacon said. Based on recent experience, Chacon foresees potential issues with traffic flow, citing the abundance of trucks and heavy machinery coming into the site. “The other concern is adequately accommodating parking for the construction workers,” he said.
Chacon said he is less concerned about parking post-construction and upon completion due to a steady decline in parking utilization rates in apartment buildings. As an example, he cited the Arkadia Tower just a few blocks away at 765 W. Adams St., which, Chacon says, is well below its parking capacity.
The project is in the 42nd Ward. Alderman Brendan Reilly did not respond to requests for comment. For more information, contact Fifield Companies at (312) 855-1600.