Thursday, January 14, 2010

Alderman Daley's Opening Statement

Good evening, thank you for coming out tonight for this important meeting. It’s important to have a wide-range of voices and participation in discussions that determine how our neighborhood grows. I appreciate the assistance of everyone who helped deliver notices about this meeting, especially from volunteers with the Mid-North and Lincoln Central Associations.

I have talked to a lot of people about this project, and I know there has been even more talk in the neighborhood. Unfortunately not everything that’s been said is correct. For example my husband is not associated with this project or its owners. In case anyone is concerned, for full disclosure, my daughters were born at the hospital some 30 years ago, and I’ve been to the emergency room on several occasions. I also served for a time on the LP Hospital Board but removed myself years ago.

I have established a blogsite about this project that is linked to my website - similar to what was done with the start of planning for the Children’s Memorial site. The developers’ proposal, notes from meetings, and comments that I have received about the proposal are already posted. You can submit your comments if you have additional thoughts after tonight and to follow future meetings if you are not able to attend. Minutes from tonight’s meeting will be posted.

While the discussion about this proposal has been going on for several months, we are only at the initial stages of consideration. No building or zoning applications have been submitted and certainly no approvals, preliminary or otherwise have been granted.

Our first community meeting was in October. I think it’s fair to say that the proposal was loosely conceptual then and lacking a lot of details and definition. The meeting was well attended. The opinions, while similar on some points, were diverse on what should become of the property. There have been other, smaller meetings with the neighborhood associations, Walpole Point, and individual neighbors. I also established a working committee made up of neighborhood representatives and adjacent neighbors around the perimeter of the hospital property to work on identifying key elements and issues with the proposal.

We, the community and I, have full leverage in the future of this property. Currently the only allowed use on the property is medical. This site has been a hospital since 1906 and a planned development since the early 70’s. Any other use requires a zoning change. I will not support any zoning change that does not have a consensus of support from the community and the most affected neighbors. This is how I have addressed and will continue to address, every development decision.

Once a community consensus has been developed about the project, we will move to the business of refining details, setting parameters, and memorializing agreements in a Planned Development document and community agreement. These documents should be as detailed as possible so that the community will be assured of what the site will entail. That is what I did with the former Columbus Hospital. Working together, we set height limits, a maximum number of units, parking requirements, neighborhood parking and detailed construction timeframes.

When the owners of Lincoln Park Hospital first approached me with their concept, I told them that any retail use was going to run into resistance from neighbors. Some community members have told me that it is a change for the better. Many others have disagreed. This single point is the one that has generated the most heated discussions. Please keep in mind that commercial use can be medical, educational or any number of other non-retail uses. I hope that we will resolve this one single point before we leave tonight and that we can then focus on all of the other issues involving this development.

For those who don’t know, I was president of the Mid-North Association for several years before I was elected alderman. Some of the discussions about the hospital site took place in my home. There’s a long history of litigation resulting in consent decrees and community agreements between the former Grant Hospital and its neighbors. These legal documents have passed their sunset dates and there are no deed restrictions.

However, I agree with Mid-North and neighbors who state that agreements like designating the open space on the east side of the hospital and restricting parking on the roof of the garage were granted in exchange for the structures that the hospital was allowed to build. If the new owners are seeking to use these grandfathered structures they must maintain the concessions the community won. I will continue to honor these agreements as long as the community wishes to do so.

Finally, I do believe that we, the owners, the neighbors and my office, have a responsibility to work together respectfully, thoughtfully and productively. A vacant hospital does not benefit the community, and it should not be allowed to become a blight on this neighborhood. I ask everyone to take into consideration how this matter will affect the entire area, take a broad approach. There’s no doubt that we need to bring this property back to life. Successful negotiations require a common goal.

The developers have refined their proposal and have made changes based on feedback from the previous meetings. They will present their latest proposal tonight for our consideration. I ask you to allow them to complete their presentation. After they are done we will open this up for questions and comments from the community.

I am looking forward to hearing your opinion on aspects like the reuse of the buildings, potential uses and about the appropriate density. Again, this is the initial discussion about general concepts. We will not reach a full resolution tonight, but I hope that we will be able to set a direction with some definite guidelines, and some possibilities that will still be open for discussion.

And, again, thank you for your participation tonight.