Wednesday, September 3, 2008

McJunkin Building Wants Zoning For 'Commercial Housing'

A reader got this in today's mail and sent it to us. It's an application from the 46th Ward's pet attorney, Brendan Shiller (whose law practice has apparently traded in the high-falutin' downtown address for offices in the same building as his mother's).

The letter proposes that the McJunkin Building be rezoned so that it can accomodate "commercial housing."

Gee, wonder what "commercial housing" means? Fancy term. Hotels? Youth hostels? or could it be ... more shelters?



  1. Brendan was a little late getting this notice in the mail if it is dated Aug. 20 and the zoning application could have already been made (on or about Sept 1). Could that be part of their tactic?

  2. It says that the applicant lives at 4170 Marine Drive, which is the Waterford Condominium tower. Does this mean that the owner of the McJunkin buildings lives at the Waterford?

  3. I got one of these, too, and the envelope is postmarked September 2nd. Sneaky, Brendan, and I wonder how legal?

  4. This is a barely-legal tactic used by LOTS of developers and their lawyers, all over town. They comply with the letter, not the spirit, of the law, so that "community protest" to a project can be kept to a minimum. They also try to "pack" the meetings with their own flaks. As a Realtor who once worked for a devloper-friendly agency I was frequently recruited to show up at these meetings as a supporter, even when (unlike the actual neighbors who'd be impacted by this activity) I didn't even live in the district. Suffice to say I no longer work for that kind of business.

  5. Yes, D'Agostino lives in the Waterford. I'll see if they'll tell as what they have in mind.

  6. PLEASE SAVE THE POSTMARKED ENVELOPES! If this is going to go to court as well, we need proof of deceptive practice!

  7. Helen's "scorched earth policy" towards the 46th ward continues.

    No wonder she can't find the time to comment on the murders on our streets. Too busy with other destructive matters.

  8. Can she not be removed from office somehow before 2011? I don't feel like hanging around to see how long I last without a vest in this hood when she clearly has no desire to improve the area.

  9. Please read to be entertained by "Alderman" Shiller's office and their heart-warming sensitivity to what is happening in uptown... It begins with my response to their incendiary e-mail to me.
    Dear nameless respondent to my e-mail,

    First, I really would encourage you to speak with the neighborhood block presidents in your ward, specifically within uptown. Most of them know or have met me and know that I am very active in the neighborhood. I also met one of your representatives at a meeting attended by many of the block club presidents at the 20th precinct in which we discussed the apparent erosion of our neighborhood about two months ago. I have been out in the neighborhood nightly with my dog meeting people and "being present" as the police have recommended - despite the apparent fact that our safety appears to be more in jeopardy now than ever (shootings becoming more prevalent).

    We were also told that a camera was approved for Lawrence and Sheridan OVER a year ago and has not yet been erected. Well, now several shootings and MUCH crime has taken place at that corner, much of which may have been avoided all together or perhaps just moved away from the Boys and Girls club and school that are both located just north of where this camera should have been.

    Net net, the ward and neighborhood are NOT going in a good direction. We need Alderman Shiller's guidance, participation and leadership more now than ever. The usual course of aldermanic business within the 46th will not suffice if the neighborhood is not to regress.

    Alderman Shiller is not "responsible for everything wrong in our area" - and your insinuating that these are my thoughts or words is utterly insulting and condescending. My note is merely a very solid and insistent plea for your office to participate in the betterment of our neighborhood, and not to turn a blind eye or placate the ward's inhabitants as appears to have been the case for so long - at great cost to the people living amidst the more dangerous parts of the ward- not in Andersonville amidst the several hundred thousand dollar condos (Alderman Shiller). We are in the trenches. Our children could be injured or killed by these bullets.

    We are worried, scared and angry, and your insistence that I should " them your support. Join your block club, attend CAPS meetings, talk to your beat cops, get involved mentoring or helping youth through one of the amazing orgnaizations in our ward, or just be the neighbor who WILL call the police when they see something happening" is INFURIATING! I have called 9-1-1 over 40 times so far this year because of drug deals or crime I have witnessed, some times at risk to my own personal safety. I AM INVOLVED and I am insulted that you assume I am one of the peopel who sits back and allows others to do the dirty work. We just want to see people from the community not roll their eyes when approaching Alderman Shiller is brought up as a potential solution for any problem in her ward.

    Again, I ask- plea... I am frustrated. We are frustrated, and scared. Please, please do SOMETHING.

    ----- Original Message ----
    From: Ward46@cityofchicago
    Sent: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 6:12:29 PM
    Subject: Re: Ald. Helen Shiller: Shooting in your ward, the ward continues to crumble.


    Our office has been in contact with the Commander's Offices of the 20th and 23rd Police Districts regarding the shooting on Friday. Both districts with the help of Area 3 detectives are conducting a very thorough investigation. This shooting has been unsettling to everyone and we appreciate and share your concern about this uptick in violence in the 46th Ward as well as throughout the city.

    Many residents and reps from both Aldermen's offices are marching tonight throughout the Buttercup park area, so please join in and show them your support. Join your block club, attend CAPS meetings, talk to your beat cops, get involved mentoring or helping youth through one of the amazing orgnaizations in our ward, or just be the neighbor who WILL call the police when they see something happening.

    I am sorry you feel that Alderman Shiller is reponsible for everything wrong in your area. Uptown has changed tremendously over the years of Alderman Shiller's tenure. In just the last five years crime was down every year, until this summer when violence has erupted throughout the city. Any violence is too much and that is how the police and our office look at it, so we are working on it, and we encourage you to get involved as well.

    8/30/2008 2:18 PM >>>
    This is an enquiry e-mail via from:

    Will you please do something to better your ward? Please do something to make it safer. Please do something to ensure that inhabitants of your, and surrounding, wards do not erupt in laughter when your name and office is brought up by police as a potential tool to combat crime and gang activity in your and surrounding, wards.

    I have nothing against you or your office, I do find it incredibly offensive that an elected public official like yourself and those within your office can permit your ward to deteriorate. The shooting at Gunnison and Sheridan was a new low for your ward and our community. This took place RIGHT ACROSS FROM the Boys and Girls Club at 3PM IN THE AFTERNOON. I know the B&G club is not in your ward, hence it does not concern you or your office- but kids could have been killed, not to mention any of us who live within ONE block of this incident who pay taxes to keep our elected officials in office and working "for the betterment of the community."

    I am frustrated. We are frustrated. Please, please do SOMETHING.

    Anything you need from me, please do not hesitate to ask. I am not hesitating to ask you for your help. We do not feel safe anymore and blame you and your office largely for this unfortunate circumstance.


    Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxx

    Michilla Blaise
    City Services Coordinator
    46th Ward Service Office of Alderman Helen Shiller
    4544 N. Broadway
    Chicago , IL 60640
    fax - 773/878-4920

  10. Chris - this is the typical response from Michilla - she loves to turn the tables and twist your words. She loves email wars. I had the same experience when asking if they would unclog the drains on my street. She was a nightmare to deal with. Just my opinion though... Thanks anyway for trying to get through to them.

    Now, back to the McJunkin Building. What is commercial housing? Sounds scary....

  11. Notice how they did't use a postage meter so it would have a date on it as well.

  12. Can someone please tell me what commercial housing is?

  13. I believe it is basically a residential hotel...think Wilson Men's Hotel.

  14. I don't know what "commercial housing" means, but I can tell you going from B1 to B3 is going from our most restrictive to our most permissive B zoning. Anything you can to in a B you can do in B3. B is retail/commercial/residential.

  15. thanks for posting the letter

    notice how the letter is NOT a notification of a public hearing

    notice how the letter does not offer the citizen ANY kind of possible response except calling the applicant's lawyer's office

    no City Hall contact, although every appl for a zoning change is assigned to someone in the zoning dept

    no number for your alderman

    no number for the Zoning committee

    this is what passes for soliciting public participation in Our Fair City

  16. OK, fairly dumb question. How much shelter space is needed in the neighborhood vs how much is available? Same goes for lower income residents. I think that would help determine what needs to be constructed. The trick is to determine the needs of the neighborhood.


    some things you can do in B3 you can't do in B1

    tattoo parlor
    day labor agency
    restaurant w/ booze
    medium & large entertainment venues
    payday loans
    pawn shop
    liquor store
    dry cleaning plant

  18. The letter (notice) is step 1. They are required to post a separate Notice on the property regarding the time, date and location of the next meeting of the Zoning Board. Ald Shiller is NOT on the Board. The next Board meeting is in September (possibly the 3rd week, however, I am not sure).

    We need a HIGH NUMBER of people and Community Organizations to come to the meeting to express concern over this issue. They need to answer questions regarding the specific intended uses.

    Also, we need to push the Zoning Board to either (1) reject the application (if the plans are unclear) or (2) Record a restrictive covenant against the property to ensure that the use will be limited to what they have told the Zoning Board. The applicants should have no issue with this if they are seeking a legitimate, reasonable use.

  19. "One written notice for all other applications requiring written notice must be provided by the applicant no more than 30 days before filing the application."

    it sort reads like it's trying to protect us against sending out the notice TOO LONG BEFORE filing the app, not too short,

    and it reads like AFTER would be fine, too

  20. You know it's bad when a dry cleaning plant would be a welcomed relief.

  21. "Zoning Board"

    B1 to B3 is a zoning map amendment AKA map change

    the City Council's Committee on Zoning will host the perfunctory public hearing, not the Zoning Board of Appeals (which many neighbors are familiar with from the Labor Ready debacle)

  22. Is there something specific that suggests that this building will be an SRO rather than simply a commercially developed building?

  23. SRO is allowed as a special use under both B1 and B3

  24. Is there something specific that suggests that this building will be an SRO rather than simply a commercially developed building?

    The very ambiguous phrase "commercial housing" has us a bit nervous. One sniffs another Shiller snow job.

  25. "Is there something specific that suggests that this building will be an SRO rather than simply a commercially developed building?"

    Helen and Helen Jr's Names are attached? Just sayin'

  26. I did not mean to imply that it was the zoning board of appeals. Also, it is not merely a perfunctory meeting. I know that Alderman Rey Colon sits on the review committee and that they will, indeed, reject applications if enough questions go unanswered.

    The notice was purposely vague to leave open a wide window for those who are seeking the change.

  27. Well, if this was 6 months before the election, we would have had a zoning committee and then we would have had at least a vague inkling of the reason for the zoning change.

    Any recent campaign donations? That would give a clue.

  28. Jeez.....the very thought of more 'commercial housing', whatever that ends up being, raises my dinner more than Sarah Palan's speech.

    WHAT is going on here?

  29. We suggest that our reader's contact the Alderman's office tomorrow morning and get their spin on this latest Uptown development.

  30. JUST sent a short but sweet email to Helen's office...

    May I ask what the somewhat murky, sneaky future is of this building, in terms of housing?
    I think all Uptown residents should know what 'behind the scenes' developments are in place.
    Any information would be greatly appreciated.


  31. Good Luck with that Starck Mad.
    We are sure you will get a prompt and informative response from the wonderful folks at the alderman's office.

  32. I won't hold my breath......I guess the bottom line is 'this ain't our college campus sweeties'!

    It's all so murky and sneaky......

  33. haha. Someone already lives there on the 3rd floor. It's a little sketchy. Actually, just weird because there's not a bathroom in any of those offices or anything...

  34. Initial conversations about zoning should not be occurring at a zoning hearing. There needs to be a process that allows for a community process much earlier on.

    As a community, we need a greater understanding why this proposal is being sought and an overview how this proposal is supportive of the overall plan to improve the retail within this corridor.

    The lack of transparency and community participation continues in the 46th Ward.

  35. To "Roof" - office buildings of that vintage usually have public restrooms on each floor.

  36. Who owns the building and what is known about the owner?

  37. Hugh,

    That is interesting that B3 zoning allows a day labor agency. Not to be too much of a conspiracy theorist, but did our alderman really give up the Labor Ready idea completely?

    It would be interesting to find out just what is meant by "commercial housing." If it is an SRO, that would be incredibly irresponsible given that 178 low-income units are being constructed a block away...

  38. Not only would this be next to 178 units of extremely low income housing, it would also be directly across the street from Stewart Elementary School, and close to the Salavation Army shelter at the corner of Sunnyside and Braodway. This area already has more than enough loitering, public drinking, drug use, urination, etc. Just my opinion though. Some seem to think our neighborhood can handle more of that type of behavior.

  39. " ... Alderman Rey Colon sits on the review committee and that they will, indeed, reject applications if enough questions go unanswered."


    the City Council's Zoning Committee is a rubber stamp, they have not rejected an application for a zoning change in many decades

    Colon is a member, but his voting record in committee and in the full city Council does not bare out your claim

    one thing matters: the local alderman

    Colon will have no impact on the fate of a zoning change proposed for the 46th ward

  40. It would be interesting to find out just what is meant by "commercial housing."

    no doubt Shiller Mark II is enjoying the tizzy kicked up by the ambiguity of this word choice

  41. "Someone already lives there on the 3rd floor."

    this is possible under B zoning

  42. "Any recent campaign donations?"

    a Vince D'Agostino of Spike Trading is a MAJOR Giannoulias contributor

    does anyone know anything about Vincent D'Agostino and the ownership of the McJunkin?


  43. Hugh, I have two questions. First, have you participated in opposing any zoning changes? Second, what do you propose we do to get more answers.

    Feel free to e-mail me separately if you would like.

  44. "Who owns the building ... ?"

    4520-4570 N BROADWAY

    PIN 14-17-217-024

    Vincenzo and Angela D'Agostino purchased this bldg for $1,815,000 on 7/31/1989.

    Same day they moved it into a trust with a cash-out of $600,233! Sweet!

    Conspicuously absent in & around the time of the purchase is a recorded mortgage. The D'Agostinos apparently paid cash.

    On 4/5/99 Inspiration Corp owners of the Inspiration Cafe borrowed $139,000 secured by the bldg suggesting the D'Agostinos guaranteed the loan, it's still unreleased.

    The bldg has a history of City housing dept. inspection violations.

    More recently on 3/31/08 4554 N Broadway LLC was formed, and the next day 4/1/08 the D'Agostinos moved the property over to the LLC. A move like this is often to obsure ownership in prep for redevelopment.

    You can look it up

    Cook County Recorder of Deeds


    IL SOS

  45. Wonder how many buildings Helen and Helen Jr. actually own in Uptown or have limited interest in?

  46. " ... what do you propose we do to get more answers."

    obviously start w Brendan or his mommy

    next maybe take a look at the appl for the zoning change, it might have all of a sentence in writing on the reason

  47. Hugh, I think we are on the same side of the issue here, however, I am interested to hear your background on proceedings before the zoning committee. Have you participated in opposing any zoning changes?

    You have indicated that you believe it would be futile to have a large number of residents/groups appear before the committee, however, you have proposed no viable alternative. I am not naive enough to believe that the system is perfect (it is far from it). Yet, why forgo attacking the application at the hearing because it is a "rubber stamp"?

    If 90% of life is about showing up and the remainder is about following up, why do neither? We can certainly start with Shiller et al, but if that fails, then what?

    Cynicism only gets you so far. I believe we need action. The Shillers will not decide the zoning issue. Do you have a viable proposal?

  48. "You have indicated that you believe it would be futile to have a large number of residents/groups appear before the committee ... "

    i never said that

    i would never say that

    and I almost never post to say "I didn't say that" when people put words in my mouth online, which happens a lot

    what i said was the zoning committee is a rubber stamp, which is true but is not the same as a call for non-participation

    i ALWAYS encourage my neighbors to show up and be heard

  49. 1st of all, it's not clear to me there is anything here to oppose

    my best advice to anyone trying to oppose a zoning change is to try to figure out a way to make it uncomfortable for the local alderman to support it

  50. I understand why people are automatically suspicious of the Schiller gang right now, I am also. But I can't fight the feeling that this rezoning is likely (certainly not definitely) a precursor to some positive commercial development.

  51. So, Hugh, you are suggesting that we need to to figure out a way to make it uncomfortable for the local alderman, Ald Shiller, to support the application that her son has submitted? Fair enough.

    Also, I realize this is the third time I have made the same request, but please let us know if you have been involved in opposing (or merely questioning) an application for rezoning at a hearing (i.e. provide some basis for your statements). If you do not feel comfortable providing this information, just let us know.

  52. nickname unavailable - don't you think if this were a precusor to something positive, Shiller would have info about it on her website? Lord knows she needs some positive development to put on there.

    I would bet everything that this will be a bad move for the area and will have a lasting effect on Uptown. After all, her son is involved. I mean Shiller's ward and "housing" in the same sentence usually means stock-piling the poor. All part of her scorched earth policy....

    4400 - 4600 Broadway will be a true blight if WY gets built and this new zoning change takes place.

  53. Hugh: I'm not having much luck digging up anything on Vince(Vincent, Vincenzo) D'Agostino.

    I haven't cross referenced the marine drive address though.

  54. We are receiving word that several residents have attempted to contact the honorable Mr. Shiller at the number listed on the letter and the constant reply is "all circuits are busy." Curious. If anyone can get through and get info, please let us know.

  55. "all circuits are busy."

    our zoning law, recently re-written by our developers and the aldermen they sponsor, specifies that a "source for additional info" be provided but does not require a phone number let alone a working phone number

    Written notices must contain:

    (a) the common street address of the subject property,

    (b) a description of the nature, scope and purpose of the application or proposal;

    (c) the name and address of the applicant;

    (d) the date that the applicant intends to file the application; and

    (e) a source for additional information on the application or proposal.