Kennedy-Hines team unveils changes to plans for Wolf Point
The developers that want to build three towers on Wolf Point unveiled a host of changes Monday to the $1 billion-plus riverside project but have left its overall scope intact.
Five months after the first community meeting held by Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), the venture of the Kennedy family and Houston-based Hines Interests L.P. returned to the nearby Holiday Inn to unveil new designs for the residential and office towers. The buildings still would rise 950, 750 and 525 feet but would taper at the bottom, creating more open ground-level space on the 3.9-acre parcel.
Like the first meeting in May, developers spent much of the night fielding questions and complaints from neighbors concerned about traffic congestion and high density created by project at Orleans Street and the Chicago River.
Developers outlined changes designed to address traffic concerns, including revised access routes, new traffic signals, turn arrows and medians and a reduction of parking spaces to 1,285 from their originally proposed 1,800. New traffic routes would eliminate access to Kinzie Street, an area neighbors said already becomes especially snarled during rush hour.
“Some tweaks and changes may be required after tonight's meeting,” said Mr. Reilly, who told the audience he sent the developers back four times to redo their traffic studies. Mr. Reilly opened the meeting by reading a five-page list of alterations his office had required the developers to make.
“I think the project has gotten much, much better in the process,” Fred Clarke, senior principal at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, the project's lead designer, told the crowd.
The revised design also includes about 1,000 feet of paved riverwalk, cantilevered over the river's shoreline, along with the addition of a cafe, public restrooms and a water taxi dock along the south structure, an office building that will be the highest of the towers. Many “hardscape” areas will be replaced with landscaping.
Existing zoning for the former industrial property remains in place from 1973. Opponents argued that Mr. Reilly should sunset the planned development, leading him to reopen the public review process.
Christopher Kennedy, son of the late Robert F. Kennedy and former president of Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., whose family acquired most of the site in 1945, said in the spring that he would like to begin construction as early as this October.
To move forward, the Hines-Kennedy venture still needs the final blessing of Mr. Reilly, and eventually the city Plan Commission and City Council.
The developers said they are ready to begin the first phase of the project — a 525-foot, 510-unit west tower that would be built by Magellan Development Group — as soon as they gain approval.
Gregory Van Schaack, a senior vice president at Hines, said funding to launch the project is fully in place, with investors including Hines, Kennedy, Magellan and the AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust. Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America Corp. has agreed to provide the construction loan, he said.
The numbers of proposed parking spots has been corrected.
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