Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Zoning Change for Infamous Rezko Empty Lot?

Could something be in the works for an infamous and controversial gigantic empty space South of Roosevelt (between Clark and the Chicago River)?  A couple reader's received this notice from Alderman Danny Solis (25th Ward):
YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED that a public hearing on the requested Zoning Amendment listed below will be heard at 121 N. LaSalle Street; in Council Chambers, 2nd floor of City Hall, on TUESDAY FEBRUARY 26,2012 at 10:00 AM
YOU ARE RECEIVING THIS NOTICE for the proposed zoning change for an address or addresses within your Ward because your property is either in or within 250 feet of the proposed boundary. Please refer to the legal description and address if applicable and forward any questions to the Alderman who proposed this change.
APPLICANT: Alderman Daniel Solis
West Roosevelt Road; South Clark Street; West 15th Street and the centerline of said street if extended where no street exists; and the South Branch of the Chicago River
Residential Business Planned Development Ns. 904
M2-3 Light Industry District

Frankly this is pretty surprising.  While we don't claim to be zoning experts, changing from residential to industrial doesn't sound beneficial for our community.

So the million dollar question (or in the case of the value of this land -- billion dollar) is, why the change in zoning?  I assume we need to go to the public hearing for this information.

Image from Middle-East-Online
Anyway, the history and plans for this site are pretty epic.  The first thing we ever heard about this property was that it was eyed for an urban IKEA.  Then we heard it was tied to the infamous (and convicted) businessman Tony Rezko.  His plans were to convert the massive space into "Riverside Park" as seen in the picture to the right (think Central Station).

That plan was derailed for many reasons.  In 2009, the Chicago Journal did a great post looking at the land and how it's a weird untamed and unintentional urban park (with wild coyotes running rampant).  In 2010, reported that the site was up for sale.  Most recently, it's been discussed for the rumored Chicago Casino (even though that seems like a long shot).  Way back in 2008, we wondered if it could be utilized for the Olympic Stadium - obviously that won't be happening any time soon.

Needless to say, it's a huge piece of land and could be used for so many different things.  So the question remains...are there pending plans for this new land?

(Hat tip:  AA & CC!)


Anonymous said...

This is probably only due to the expiration of the old pd zoning. If nothing is built over a certain number of years, the zoning reverts back to the previous designation.

Anonymous said...

There's Danny Solis, taking over zoning decisions in part of the 2nd ward before 2015. Someone please explain to me how this is legal, because I don't remember seeing Danny Solis on the ballot when I last voted for alderman.

Mr Downtown said...

But you will see Solis's name on the ballot in 2015, and will base your vote in part on how he's handled development decisions in your neighborhood. There's a certain logic to the idea that the guy who's seeking your vote next time is more responsive to your wishes than the lame duck who received your vote two years ago.

joe said...

M2 is generally storage facilities and wholesalers like Costco/Ikea, but it can also be residential.

joe said...

M2 can be most anything, but generally is for storage and wholesalers.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Downtown -
That would all be well and good if the small part of the South Loop that will become part of the 25th ward would have any say in getting Danny Solis re-elected. But I think it's pretty safe to say he's going to get re-elected with or without us. And that is exactly the problem with the 2015 ward map... It separates the South Loop so that we are no longer a voting bloc, leaving us to deal largely with aldermen whose main focus is elsewhere (Burns/Hyde Park and Solis/Pilsen for example). A nice thank you to us for voting out the incumbent and electing Fioretti.

That said, I'm ready to be courted by Solis... but I haven't been impressed with what I've seen so far.

Jim in the Sloop said...

Here's a link to a city information page:

The definition of M2 there is:

M2, Light Industry District. The primary purpose of the M2, Light Industry district is to accommodate moderate-impact manufacturing, wholesaling, warehousing and distribution uses, including storage and work-related activities that occur outside of enclosed buildings. The M2 district is generally intended to accommodate more land-intensive industrial activities than the M1 district.

So, unless you categorize operations like Costo as a wholesaler that would be a stretch. IKEA is a retailer, and doesn't seem to qualify.

Anonymous said...

i hope whatever it is that they build bike lanes and have plenty of traffic lights so i can walk my babies in the streets and have picnics without any problems from the invasive cars

Anonymous said...

Well if we're going to be all sarcastic about it, then my wish is we get all cars off the streets in downtown Chicago and just rely on public transportation, taxis, and our own feet.

Jim in the Sloop said...

I suppose its a lost cause, but it would be nice if the anonymous off-topic posters would SHUT UP for once so we can return this conversation to the real issues related to what this proposed change would mean for the Sloop. Thank you for your understanding.

Anonymous said...

If any development went in I would hope that they would implement at least 5 coffee shops with nice pastries and yes I would love it to be "vehicle free" so that the 12 of us bikers can have free reign of the streets. I would also ask that nobody ever challenge us "anons" for we control this blog, if you damn us then that means you are an insensitive and prejudice fool. Your opinions do not matter

Anonymous said...

An inside source says they plan on creating a high speed rail station on the site due to its proximity to some of the rail junctions. Similar to the plan that had once been proposed for Harrison and Wells.

Anonymous said...

this is a strange area with all the coyotes running around and the random camp fires that the homeless build I would love for this to be cleaned up would be great for our hood isntead of it just sitting there smelling like the brown.

Not Impressed said...

What is it about this particular area of the south loop ( dearborn park I & II ) that will oppose just about every single project known to man in this area? Some of my younger friends have told me there are alot of old NIMBY-types in the area that have nothing better to do than stalk all of the permits that are applied for in their neighborhhod like they are some kind of makeshift "development vigilante". Some people just have to stay nerdy their whole lives I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, how dare people be concerned with what's going on in their neighborhood!

I agree that NIMBYs exist in the South Loop, just like everywhere else. But no one knows what this zoning change entails, if anything, and I don't really see anyone here throwing up opposition to something that is pretty vague at this point.

Anonymous said...

there is/will be opposition !!! The fact that there IS OPPOSITION WHEN NO ONE KNOWS WHATS GOING IN THERE YET shows how most people thin on here.

What a joke.... probably same peopel that disapprove amli builds

Anonymous said...

ANON @ 4:50

I am sick and tired of people justifying their neurotic opposition to ANY/ALL development in the south loop with statements like "oh excuse me for caring about my neighborhood"

Thats a cop out! There is a huge difference between inquiring about a project and condemning it before it starts. My home in dearborn park II already has opposition and were not even in the zoning stages yet at that property! Good lord please people get more demanding jobs, youre not busy enough!

Anonymous said...

There are a couple things about this that are curious although not yet concerning…

1. Why is the alderman the applicant? Typically, for this procedure you need to submit an Owner's Affadavit stating that you have the legal right to act on that property's behalf. I don't think that land is owned by the city and even if it was, I doubt an alderman would be listed on the applicant if the city had some development plans for it. Perhaps this is some city convention I haven't noticed before.

2. Why is someone trying to change the zoning away from a Planned Development? City Ordinance requires that any development of a parcel of this size and this close to a water way must be a planned development. (Check out 17-8-0500 "Mandatory planned development thresholds.") So essentially, zoning it M2-3 is worthless because there is not really a "by right" use of this land.

3. Even if the city's ordinance allowed this property to be developed without planned development approval, M2-3 is an odd choice. It's less dense that the previous M2-5 designation the property carried at the time PD-904 passed and it's uses are pretty limited. (See 17-5-0200 for allowed uses) I'd be very surprised if someone could make money on a project with this site's value with such a constricting zoning designation. A developmer can't think "light industrial" is the most profitable venture this site can support, can they?

4. If Ald. Solis is acting on behalf of the city, how is this not consider illegal spot zoning? I can't find another 'M' district anywhere near this site. A site that is surrounded by residential. business, and retail uses.

5. If there is some private party involved in this then, trust me, they have a pretty darn good idea as to what they want to put there. No one spends the time or attorney's fees to go through something like this "on-spec".

Responses to previous comments:
- To the first anonymous commenter - Unless there's something in the city's ordinance I'm not aware of (which is definitely possible) Planned developments do not expire. (TIF's expire and special use permits are personal to a specific user.)
- To the second anonymous commenter - Individual alderman do not have the authority to make zoning decisions. If you remember the article that was posted on Sloopin a little while back, a judge ruled against the city for a permit that Ald. Fioretti was holding up on the grounds that aldermanic priviledge was not "techinally law or written down anywhere." This is a good thing. Alderman are not city planners and make notoriously bad zoning decisions.

Anonymous said...

You said:
- To the second anonymous commenter - Individual alderman do not have the authority to make zoning decisions. If you remember the article that was posted on Sloopin a little while back, a judge ruled against the city for a permit that Ald. Fioretti was holding up on the grounds that aldermanic priviledge was not "techinally law or written down anywhere." This is a good thing. Alderman are not city planners and make notoriously bad zoning decisions.

I say:
But this city still operates under "alderman prerogative", meaning that the city council votes along with the wishes of the local alderman on zoning decisions. Curious that within a month of the 2015 ward map being adopted for zoning decisions (at the behest of Ald. Solis), 2 parcels in this area are up for zoning changes. This city's politics have left me far too cynical to believe that is just a coincidence.

Agreed that alderman are not city planners, and make notoriously bad decisions. That is part of the problem with Chicago (why do we need 50 alderman anyway, something even Fioretti brought up in his recent interview with Chicago Mag).

Also, I was under the impression that the 2 previous cases involving Fioretti (Congress Hotel and Felony Franks) were settled on different issues (namely, interference in labor relations and first amendment grounds). In these decisions, I believe the court recognized that aldermanic prerogative was how the city works, which is why Fioretti was singled out - it was HIS decision.

Anonymous said...

More on aldermanic privilege and Fioretti's court cases:,0,1364861.story

A judge's ruling in that case for the first time acknowledged the tradition and power of aldermanic privilege, which is neither mentioned nor defined in city code.

Although the city argued that one alderman did not control the process, Guzman concluded that aldermanic privilege had prevailed.

"The City Council had delegated its final policymaking authority to approve or deny these applications to the 2nd Ward alderman via the custom or policy of aldermanic privilege," Guzman wrote, becoming the first judge to acknowledge the privilege.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I am mistaken on that point. I think you are definitely in saying that the city council usually votes along with the local alderman's opinion but there is nothing that compels them to do so. Regardless, that's another discussion.

Anonymous said...

I love it when people look up "facts" on google just so they can look smart to anonymous people on the internet....

LOL please keep it up I need the laughs

Dennis McClendon said...

This is just a housekeeping amendment because the existing PD has sunsetted due to no activity within six years.

Anonymous said...

Just curious... if this is just a housekeeping thing, why the change in zoning?

Anonymous said...

All planned developments expire if construction does not commence within 6 years of passage. This deadline may be extended by one year at the request of the property owner. If the deadline is not extended and Planned Development expires, the site must be rezoned either back to its zoning prior to the Planned Development or to another zoning classification. Rezonings (zoning map amendments) do not have to be initiated by the property owner - they can be initiated by the Mayor, City Council, Zoning Administrator, property owner, or agent of the property owner. Contrary to popular belief, property owner permission is not required for rezonings initiated by the Mayor, City Council, or Zoning Administrator. All of this is in the City Code.

This property is being rezoned to M2-3 because the planned development is expiring. The Alderman can initiate rezoning without the permission of the property owner. Alderman Solis probably chose a restrictive zoning classification so that he can control what eventually gets developed there, to make sure that any future likely development (residential, commercial, mixed-use) will require a rezoning (probably to a planned development), which requires approval by the Alderman.

Anonymous said...

I heard from an architect friend a while back that this piece of land was dumped on by the railroads for decades... buried scrap metal, junk, chemicals, etc, etc. His take was that there would need to be a huge amount of work done just to make it usable for construction.

Dennis McClendon said...

Every piece of property has to have a zoning classification. With the PD going away, it's simply being put back to an M or DS classification. When a new owner prepares plans for the property, it will file for a new PD.

As for remediation, the top couple of inches of soil will need to be removed because of diesel fuel and oil that leaked through the years, but I don't think there's anything serious on the site.

Anonymous said...

I have seen surveyors on this property a lot lately. Let me just say this - Any developer who buys and builds on this property with no plans to utilize the most unrespected under-utilized part of this city (the chicago river) is an idiot.

Any plans to make it a warehouse, distribution center, supermarket, etc is MORONIC! There is little riverfront property left that can be utilized correctly. It could be an amazing marina with restaurant and hotel and riverwalk and riverpark. But to just junk up the riverfront more, that's a horrible idea.