Controversial Ravenswood Station Development Axes Condo Tower

By Hunter Clauss | Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ald. Eugene Schulter would like to develop the parking lot between Sears and the Metra tracks into a new commercial complex. Photo by Hunter Clauss.

The new developers working on the controversial Ravenswood Station project have tabled previously announced plans to include an 11-story condominium tower. During last night’s community meeting at McPherson Elementary School, Lincoln Square Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th) said he asked the site’s new developer, Magellan Development Group LLC, to hold off on plans for the residential portion of the project after community residents last year expressed concerns about the effect the condos would have on an already abysmal real-estate market.

“As far as I’m concerned, there is no residential component,” Schulter told residents.

The proposed 140,000-square-foot project would be built in the Sears parking lot near the corner of Lawrence and Ravenswood avenues, and it calls for a 50-foot-tall parking garage and a three-story commercial building. Retailers for the project include a Sears Auto Center, a health center that has yet to be determined, and a Mariano’s Fresh Market, which is owned by Roundy’s Supermarket Inc. Schulter told residents that projects like Ravenswood Station rarely take off thanks to these dire economic times.

[Click here to view photos of the slides from last night's meeting.]

“This is the only commercial project of its kind in the entire city of Chicago,” he said. “That goes to tell you the condition that our country is in.”

The development also calls for the creation of a new two-lane street called Ravenswood Station Drive, which would run parallel to the Metra tracks and only be accessible through Lawrence Avenue. Members of the Ravenswood Station development team said they were still working with the Chicago Department of Transportation to iron out details on how to control the flow of traffic coming in and out of Ravenswood Station Drive.

Pat Thompson, who’s with the law firm DLA Piper and is the lead attorney for the development, said the commercial end of the project is estimated to create nearly 300 full-time jobs and 150 part-time jobs.

Loewenberg Architects has also been brought on as the new architects for the proposed project. Todd Wendell is a project manager with the group. He told residents that he’s aiming to achieve LEED certification for the development, which will include a green rooftop. Wendell also said he hopes a café with outdoor seating along Lawrence will be included with the projects final designs. Wendell also said that 180 spots in the parking garage will be reserved for Metra parking.

Both Loewenberg Architects and Magellan Development Group LLC worked on the Lakeshore East, a massive mixed residential and commercial development located north of East Randolph Street. Brian Gordon, who is the vice president of Magellan, said his development company is working on a similar project located in Lakeshore East. Wilmette-based Crossroads Development Partners was formerly attached to the Ravenswood Station project.

Schulter said residents will get to vote on the proposed project during a meeting scheduled for May 27. If the plan gets the thumbs up from residents, then it’ll be sent to the Chicago Plan Commission. Once the commission signs off on the plan, then it’ll go to the City Council. Depending on when the City Council approves the planned development, the project could take 18 months to build. Schulter said the development would receive tax increment finance district money, but he did not have final cost estimates last night. He also said images of the proposed development will be up on his website sometime this week.

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  • Brendan

    I see that this project is referred to as “controversial” but I’m not sure who is opposing it? If the condo piece of the plan is removed, what are the objections to the development?

  • Jeff

    Yeah, I’d love to have a grocery store nearby for a change.

  • http://sbloomarchitect.com Scott

    I agree. This should not be controversial at all. The only controversial element I see is moving the Metra Station to the North side of Lawrence where there is more residential property rather than industrial parcels. I also think Schulter could be handling the communication process more smoothly as the audience seemed excessively agitated last night. He released very little information about the project since our last meeting 13 1/2 moths ago. I get weekly emails from him and it would not have been hard to add a paragraph about the project’s process sometime during the past 13 1/2 months.

    I liked everything I saw at the meeting last night and will vote for this project.

  • Steve

    I was at the meeting last night. The audience seemed very hostile towards both the alderman and the team of developers. I don?t understand what everyone?s problem is. Some people were concerned with an ?ugly parking garage?. If you want to see ugly, take a look at what?s there now.
    Other people seemed to have concerns with the potential traffic jams. I understand the concern but people need to realize that this is valuable real estate and there WILL be a development there one day.
    I thought the Alderman did a good job of listening to the community from the first meeting and redesigning the project. I mean, the 11-story tower is completely gone. I was expecting the tower to be reduced to 5 or 6 stories.

    I feel like many people in the audience last night showed up to the meeting in a fighting mood. Some people complained that the next meeting (when the vote will be held) is during the week before Memorial Day weekend. Come on, cut the Alderman a break. The meeting will be on the Thursday before the weekend. This is a legitimate business day.

  • Mike

    According to the article, the only controversial proposal was the residential portion, which has been dropped. Thus what is left seems like a good plan to spruce up a corner that is in serious need.

    That said, sometimes these issues are being considered not in a vacuum, but rather in the context of other ward development. I wish we could hear from someone who is opposed rather then trying to guess.

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  • http://www.medillnewsservice.com Brendan

    I am a graduate student at Northwestern University and a reporter with the Medill News Service. I’m working a broadcast-style story about the Ravenswood station project, if anyone would be free for quick interview email me at fortwilkerson2010@u.northwestern.edu I’m just looking for a resident to give some comments similar to the ones above. Thanks!

  • Bob

    Glad to see students at Medill are going out in the field to talk to sources. Oh wait, they’re just finding sources on comment pages of websites? Good lord, what are you paying all that money for?

  • Shawn

    The plan is a good plan for the majority of us who at worst will have to deal with a little more traffic. The minority for who this is a bad plan are those people who live the nearest to the project and to the new Metra station. If you live on Ravenswood and suddenly you have a train station right across the street from you this is a bad deal.

    If you are for this project and live within the voting boundaries be sure to be at the next meeting on May 27th – your vote is needed.

  • Al

    Steve’s right: “…people need to realize that this is valuable real estate and there WILL be a development there one day.” Should we be paying, even partially, for this development with TIF funds?

  • Jim

    Glad to see that most appear to be in favor of this development. I was a little concerned after the meeting the other night. It did seem like people just came already in the mood to complain. Come February (a few years down the line), if I have a grocery, gym, and bank all within a couple blocks after a big snowstorm I’ll be quite happy (or even in the summer).

    I live across the street from the current train station and don’t really see what the big deal is about living near it either. It sounds like the new location is going to be an actual station and look very nice.

  • Rob Gillis

    The fighting mood of the crowd was most likely partially due to the framework that was set up by Schulter by taking the important Metra aspects out of discussion and not being as clear as he should have been about the residential portion. In an effort to be accurate he sounded vague. It would have been easier to say, if the Metra station moves here- we’ll plan this, if it stays, we plan that.

    I don’t think the traffic issue has been adequately addressed. I spoke with hired KLOA consultant Luay Aboona after the meeting and he wasn’t aware of the traffic pattern around the current station of people dropping riders off (and also using the alleys when Ravenswood gets back up) so I suggested a turning circle at the end of Ravenswood Station Drive or an easy trip through the parking garage.

    The projections for increased sales tax revenue were misleading (will we have many customers coming from outside the city?) but local job creation is probably largely accurate although I expect we’ll lose some other local businesses.

    Overall my impression is that this will be very very good for the area and I welcome it. I just want to know more details about the TIF and that they’ve thoroughly thought out the traffic flow.

  • Chris Kaz

    This Project is situated halfway along the Lawrence Avenue Corridor in which the Alderman has proposed to complete. Completing streets such as Lawrence would be cornerstone toward a more engaging neighborhood aesthetic. I have already mentioned how incredible it would be if Lincoln Square and Andersonville were to organically merge along this route…

    I take pride in this neighborhood. It’s not quite the city and it’s certainly not the suburbs. It has it’s problems like any other neighborhood; crime, poverty, violence, traffic, and even trolls. Projects like this are not about making everyone happy all the time, it’s about making the right people happy.

    Take a walk around the hood and you will find many areas that could use some improvements. A streetlight, a curb, a waste-basket or bike-rack. All of those things cost money. If we don’t make any money, we cannot expect improvements to miraculously arrive in the environment. Quicker than you can imagine; an area can be blighted and forgotten. There has been significant improvements to Montrose between Damen and Ravensood lately… meanwhile; Industry is leaving the corridor!

    Sometimes paying taxes is not enough. Everyone pays taxes and not everywhere is nice to live.

    This entire area is already home to many families and transplants who prefer to live here over any suburb or neighborhood in Chicago. We love this area for what it represents and what it can become. The Ravenswood Corridor is getting better every year… a new Metra Station is an extension of the pride we should really have for how discrete and protected Ravenswood is. With every industrial business that leaves Ravenswood, a new opportunity arrives to personalize the neighborhood with a beautiful and engaging local business or attraction. (Those commercial rents need to come down by the way, you can’t tell me those old factories aren’t paid off by now!?)

    Renovating an old parking lot into a thriving locus for the neighborhood is never a bad idea.

    No one is getting gentrified or injured by this development… I cannot wait to see how our neighborhood will improve!

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    The development also calls for the creation of a new two-lane street called Ravenswood Station Drive.

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