Home of the 43rd Ward Democrats - Michele Smith Committeeman

featuring political news and community information for 43rd ward residents and businesses -
2527 N. Lincoln Avenue - 773-661-2133

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

We Were A Hit!

The 43rd Ward Democrats marched well at this year's Pride Parade. We even got coverage on the Channel 7 News Report on the parade. You can check us out at minute 43 (how lucky!) and again just a little bit later.

Our Pride Flag!

Perhaps it was our incredible enthusiasm and perhaps it was our new "Living Pride Flag" that so charmed the crowds and the cameras! If you'd like to be a part of our "flag" next year, just sign up at michele43rd@gmail.com.

The Pride Parade is a wonderful expression of community togetherness and a celebration of equality for all.

Michele Led the Way.

Thanks to all the volunteers who marched along with us and thanks for all the good wishes we encountered along the route. It was great fun!

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Recap of our Forum on Retail Development in Lincoln Park

Here are more details about our panel discussion "The Future of Development in the 43rd Ward."

I called the meeting because I believe the we all need to understand the issues underlying the development problems in the ward. Specific topics of concern:

What about those vacant stores? I counted them. Right now, there are 182 vacant stores in the Lincoln Park area, encompassing 785,000 square feet of space. Here is a list. You can see my 5 minute presentation on those vacancies here.

At the forum, our panel of experts explained why we have all these vacancies and together, we began to get the community involved in finding a solution to the problem. What we learned is, that while some of the problems in retail are of course a results of the economy, the overall picture is far more complex. Here are the key findings:

- Lincoln Park in general is overbuilt in terms of retail. According to our panelists, there is today more existing shopping space than can be supported.

- Most retailers look for proximity to other similar retailers, be it restaurants, clothing stores or other space. Retailers also love density, be it of people or cars. But Lincoln Park has 4,000 fewer families than it had in 1970. We all know many blocks in the neighborhood where traditional three flats were demolished in favor of single family homes. Those fewer families provide a much smaller base for neighborhood shopping. The closing of employers such as the hospitals will further reduce the number of customers for local merchants. We need to bear this in mind as we plan for the future.

- Clark Street has the most retail vacancies around, 32 in a five block area. While there are many property owners on Clark Street, one Dr. Jerry Winkler, formerly of Chicago and now of Los Angeles, is the dominant landlord, owning over 40 storefronts. Our panelists were in agreement that this landlord is a cause of the emptiness of Clark Street. I've concluded that the number of vacancies in his properties has had a cascading effect on our community, discouraging other retailers because of the lack of other businesses. Further, as population in the ward has shifted west, Clark Street may be less attractive for major businesses, but is still important for neighborhood shopping.

- The vacancies on Armitage Avenue are the result of the boom in real estate in the last decade, not the current bust. Speculators bought up the existing successful storefronts, doubled the rents and forced out the local merchants in hopes of bringing in national tenants. These shouldn't be the focus on Armitage, given the competiton from Clybourn, and frankly, suburban shopping. Panelist Diana Epstein explained that there needs to be a balance between local retailers and large chains - but that the community really must support its local retail.

Having said this, all our panelists agreed that Lincoln Park is the most desirable part of the city for retail, and is sought after. In that case, what needs to be done to get the retailers back? Don't we need a plan?

Here's what we proposed:

Community involvement. Panelist Larry Bennett of DePaul stated that research has shown that development in which the community is deeply involved leads to better decisions for that site.

Community action. I am forming a Task Force on Development, focusing first on Clark Street - we'll come up with plans for community action to restore our street. Our 43rd Ward community includes many talented citizens, with ideas from legislation to alliances. Some of the ideas that came up in the forum included: allying with DePaul to provide "incubator" space for new business on Clark Street, creating tax penalties for leaving space vacant, pushing for incentives to help small businesses vs. large city incentives for national chains, and creating temporary uses for vacant space. Sign up to join or get information on the task force at http:///.

Our neighborhood is poised on the brink of its greatest change since gentrification began - and I want you to be educated as to the issues so you can participate in making Lincoln Park the best urban neighborhood in the country.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Neighbors Write Letter to the Plan Commission

A group of Lincoln Park neighbors have drafted a letter to the Plan Commission stating their strong opposition to the developer's plan for Lincoln Park Hospital. The letter is presented here below:

May 24, 2010

Chicago Plan Commission
Planning and Policy Division
Zoning and Land Use Planning
121 N. LaSalle St. #703
Chicago, IL 60602

Attn: Ms. Linda Searl, Chairman

Dear City of Chicago Planning Department,

We understand that the owners of the former Lincoln Park Hospital site will be meeting or have met with your department to seek approval of a plan for development that has already been roundly rejected by both the community and our alderman, Vi Daley. They are proceeding with their application to the City of Chicago in spite of the following:

• A dozen or so meetings between the developers and neighbors (and our Alderman) where the opposition has been overwhelming--especially from the most affected neighbors and those neighbors in the Mid-North Historic District.

• A petition signed by over 500 neighbors (form of petition attached)

• A strong letter of opposition by the Mid-North Association (attached)

• A January 12 community meeting attended by 300 community members, and overwhelming in opposition to the plan, even with some modifications. Representatives of the Planning Commission present at the meeting heard the objections very clearly to the developer’s proposal.

• Our alderman’s letter to neighbors (attached) and statements at the January 12 meeting voicing support for the neighbors’ position--including three previous legal agreements that restricted development at the site.

We believe the attached letter from the Mid-North Association neatly describes the community’s objections to the plan.

The site is surrounded on three sides by the Mid-North Historic District and a park. It is a residential oasis and Landmark area characterized by three and four story buildings, walkable streets and of course, historic facades. The size of the Lincoln Park Hospital is out of place in the community, and several lawsuits were necessary to restrict its development.

In short:

• The site is completely inappropriate for retail development, and abundant property exists in Lincoln Park to accommodate the proposed stores, even if desirable

• The proposed development is much too dense for the neighborhood, putting 330 units in an area that would support, for example, 42 single family homes or 84 townhouses

• The proposed development would increase traffic and congestion in an already crowded area. The developer’s claimed assertions about traffic at the hospital are inaccurate; the hospital has not been in full operation for 25 years.

• The proposed development robs the neighborhood of open space promised under prior community agreements and is not consistent with the residential zoning of the surrounding neighborhood.

Finally, the developers have also proven themselves to be bad neighbors. Since the community rejected their original proposal, they have fenced off a service driveway long used by the community and City of Chicago garbage and emergency vehicles. They have fenced off a lot dedicated as open space by a prior community agreement, and have closed the garage that they claim would be open for public parking rental even as part of their current proposal.

We request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss our concerns and express our vehement opposition to the developer’s plans.

Thank you for your support.

Very truly yours,

See attached list of neighbors

Cc: Heather Gleason
Sara Sheehan
Alderman Vi Daley
Hon. Richard M. Daley

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Vacant Retail Space in Lincoln Park

I have researched vacant retail space in Lincoln Park and have found 783,533 square feet of vacant already standing space, plus 1,218,458 square feet of available land for development, for a total of almost 2 million square feet of available ground floor retail.

To see see all the data, please go: here

You should see along the top tabs that say Development Opportunities, All Vacancies, Clark Street Vacancies and All Clark St. Retail Properties. Simply click on the tab for the information you would like to see.