By Lorraine Swanson
Pioneer Press News-Star
More than 100 residents crammed into the Aragon Ballroom lobby on a hot muggy night to hear plans for a proposed development slated for the properties at 4738-50 N. Winthrop Ave. and the southeast corner of Lawrence and Winthrop.
Uptown resident and developer Jim Gouskos, who owns the Kinetic Playground, wants to build a 21-story, mid-rise condominium building on the 4700 block of North Winthrop, and a seven-level parking structure with retail and movie theaters across the street on Lawrence Avenue. Gouskos has already completed a historic building rehab at 1101-1113 W. Lawrence Ave., that houses a Chase Bank.
Plans for the development were first presented two years ago, when Gouskos was granted a zoning change to allow for increased density at the Winthrop property. At that time, plans for the Lawrence Avenue property included a parking structure and one floor of retail, not to exceed 110 feet. With the loss of the movie theaters at the Wilson Yard development, plans have expanded to include a nine-screen movie theater on the fifth, sixth and seventh levels, along with parking for 499 cars. The height of the building will not change.
Gouskos said he wanted the community's input into the type of retail that will be offered at the Lawrence Avenue property. He is shopping for a grocer to lease the ground floor, and a restaurant to lease part of the roof level, overlooking a "green" roof.
"This is my way of making my mark in the world, right here in this area," Gouskos told residents on Aug. 9. "I don't want this to have anything to do with politics, no matter who is alderman, mayor or ward committeeman."
But the evening did take on a political tone, as some residents questioned the logistics of the parking structure, wondering if it were enough to accommodate shoppers and movie-goers, as well as those attending shows at the Aragon, which will reserve 300 parking spaces will be reserved on concert nights.
"Traffic studies have been done and people aren't driving as much. This isn't a destination spot. People will walk or take mass transportation. We know from pre-sales of the condos how many people have bought parking," Gouskos said.
Residents also questioned the viability of the movie theater, since the Kerasotes Theaters planned for Wilson Yard fell through.
"The movie theater will help create critical mass for the retail," said Alderman Helen Shiller, 46th. "What happened to the movie theaters at Wilson Yard, we found a theater company that is comfortable creating theaters in the 1,800 to 2,000 seat range. I completely understand and it was one of the reasons we came to the conclusion that it wasn't viable there."
Gouskos said he has already been approached by the Meadow Theater Group and has a letter of intent.
"They said the numbers work out with the mass transit and density, more than any other theater that they've done," Gouskos said.
Gouskos does not yet own the Lawrence Avenue property, which has been held in escrow to determine if it is eligible for TIF money from the Lawrence-Broadway TIF District. Once the sale is finalized, the proposed planned development will go before the city's Community Development Commission. The commission will review the plans and recommend action to the City Council, including TIF financing for the Lawrence Avenue property.
Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in Spring 2008, and will take about 18 months to complete both structures, Gouskos said.