Wrigley rooftops might build 8 feet higher

January 10, 2006

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter

Rooftop clubs overlooking Wrigley Field would be allowed to build up to preserve their bird's-eye view of the ballpark once a bleacher expansion is built, but only if they make costly safety improvements and contribute to a fund for "neighborhood protections," under an ordinance expected to be advanced today by a City Council committee.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) wants to raise the height limit to 69 feet -- an eight-foot increase -- in exchange for landscaping, emergency lighting and sprinkler systems. The upgrades must be completed by January 2008.

Residents fear the new height limit -- and an increase to 63 feet for rooftop clubs located in foul territory -- could lead to increased congestion. They've also expressed concern the expansion could dramatically alter the residential character of Waveland and Sheffield.

To ease those concerns, the rooftops will match the promise that helped the Cubs win City Council approval of a 1,790-seat bleacher expansion. They've agreed to contribute 8 percent to an $800,000-a-year fund that helps alleviate parking, traffic and sanitation problems caused by Cub fans.

"The rooftops bring people into the area, just like the Cubs bring in people. They create congestion. They have issues of clean-up. The rooftops have 8 percent of the attendance. They have to contribute 8 percent of the cost," Tunney said.

Preserving the view

As for community opposition to rooftop expansion, Tunney said, "There are people who didn't want the Cubs to expand, either. What we're trying to do is keep these businesses viable, make sure these businesses are safer and make certain rooftop owners accept responsibility to the community first and foremost."

Tunney's compromise ordinance also includes design standards to preserve the one-of-a-kind view of the neighborhood from inside the ballpark.

Three-story building heights along Waveland and Sheffield would be maintained, "as would the existing architectural and historical character of the front facades," according to a fact sheet made available by the alderman's office and distributed at a community meeting Monday night.

"Matching brick and stone masonry would be required for all additions, including on rear elevations facing the L tracks. Rooftop seating and decks could not overhang a building's walls and will have an open and more transparent character. Landscaping would be required in front yards and on rooftop decks. Enclosed structures on the roof would be limited to elevators, stairs and washrooms. No structures could stick up above rooftop seating," the summary states.


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