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Zoning committee approves Wolf Point complex

Photo courtesy of The Chicago Architecture Blog

A city council committee met last week and voted to approve a three-tower complex at Wolf Point along the Chicago River, taking the project one step closer to becoming a reality.

Attorney John J. George representing the owners of  Wolf Point  LLC, presented the amended development plan for the 42nd ward. The project will add 1,140 new residential units in River North.

The Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards was the last stop before this Wednesday’s city council meeting, where aldermen will decide whether to move forward with the project.

The original 2011 proposal underwent many revisions and was amended along the way to the current alteration, which includes a river walk and public restrooms. The 42nd ward alderman, Brendan Reilly, also called for Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) engineers to conduct a total of six traffic studies to ensure safety. During the meeting on Monday, Reilly pointed to the location’s “unique site in the central business district.”

“I believe this will become a very popular tourist location in River North,” Reilly said. He said the plan has dramatically improved because of added outdoor seating, a café and below-grade parking.

Ald. Daniel Solis (25th) said, “This is the kind of development a city like ours needs.”

Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) called it a “gorgeous looking project.” He added, “What I like about this project is that it puts people to work. It will help Chicago a lot.”

One activist spoke against the plan. Allan Mellis, a former member of the Chicago River Task Force, said the developers should have added affordable housing to the project.

Mellis said the developers should contribute money to the Affordable Housing Fund so teachers, officers and similar professionals can live in River North. He also said the plan should include bicycle storage facilities for citizens, both indoor and out, to support Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goal of making Chicago the most bike-friendly city in the nation.

Mellis also commended Reilly on his effort to add positive amendments to the plan to make it more people friendly.

The neighborhood’s residents complained that the new complex would cut off their view of the city, according to an article on The Chicago Architecture Blog. Reilly responded to the objections by saying he couldn’t make everybody happy and wants to focus on the positive.

“This is a major economic development and an ambitious project,” he said. “It will create thousands of new jobs and contribute to the betterment of Riverwalk.”

Reilly also said further amendments will be made to traffic conditions if needed.

The Chicago Tribune noted that the project is the largest in the city since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008.

Wolf Point — the confluence of the North, South and Main Branches of the Chicago River — was the site of Chicago’s first tavern, general store, hotel, drugstore and ferry crossing. Currently, the area is a parking lot.

Bought in the 1940s by Joseph Kennedy Sr., who also acquired the adjacent Merchandise Mart, one section of Wolf Point was subsequently developed as the site of the Apparel Mart and a Holiday Inn.

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