Wrigley hotel done shrinking

Planned complex across from ballpark downsized enough, developer says

October 12, 2009

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter fspielman@suntimes.com

Developers of a hotel, retail and residential complex across the street from Wrigley Field are apparently done compromising with area residents concerned about game-day congestion.

After shrinking the project considerably and lowering the height to below the Wrigley roofline, M&R Development has filed a zoning application that includes a 137-room Hyatt hotel, 135 residential units, 147,000 square feet of retail space and a 403-space underground parking garage at Addison and Clark.

“There are certain people in the neighborhood who think it hasn’t come down far enough and other people who are happy with it. There are some people you’re never gonna satisfy,” said managing partner Anthony Rossi.

“It’s probably about as far as we can go in reducing [the project] and still have it make economic sense. We’ve come down quite a bit with the size and mass. The height has been reduced dramatically. … With land and building costs, you can’t very well take a 137-room hotel and make it 50 rooms.”

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said the 137-room hotel “seems to be a winner.” He noted that the Cubs draw 3 million fans a year, and “most of the area hotels are small and running at very high occupancy.”

But Tunney said he is not yet ready to sign off on the entire project because of concerns about game-day congestion.

“Outside of game day, traffic congestion would not be as big of a concern. But what happens two hours before, during and after Cub games? How do you navigate around the field?” Tunney said.

“It’s become much more pedestrian-oriented. People are using mass-transit. But when you’re adding parking and a large amount of retail, it’s certainly gonna be a problem during game time.”

Rossi insisted that he has a traffic study that proves otherwise.

“When you’re putting 40,000 people in a building across the street, none of your numbers work. There are traffic delays all over. It’s already a bad situation. You’re not making it much worse. Most of the people who live there are gonna be at work. And most of the people staying at the hotel will be fans walking to the game,” he said.

The so-called “Addison Park on Clark” project is being closely watched by the Cubs, who plan to build their own mixed-use project on a triangular-shaped parcel adjacent to Wrigley. They also plan to turn the street in between into a Fenway Park-style pedestrian promenade bustling with shops and restaurants.

The five-story triangle building promised to Wrigleyville residents in exchange for a bleacher expansion was supposed to house a 400-space garage, upscale restaurants, retail stores and rooftop garden and below-ground batting cages, pitching mounds and player workout facilities.

The $100 million building has since been redesigned to include more retail and office space at the expense of parking, with a stadium club replacing the rooftop garden. A smaller garage could be built on less-valuable land away from Wrigley.

“I don’t think the Cubs are interested in big modifications to their planned development. Our only concern is whether they would like to add more density,” Tunney said.

Mike Lufrano, vice president of community relations for the Cubs, could not be reached for comment. New Cubs owner Tom Ricketts has yet to declare his plans for renovation of the landmark stadium and adjacent property.

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