Friday, June 17, 2011

Sedgwick: Back To The Drawing Board?

Blair Kamin, the architecture columnist for the Tribune, has written an article in today's paper about how the uncertain economy has led to a "boomlet" in the construction of large apartment complexes.  And he's not liking what he's seeing.  Here's an excerpt:

"The biggest of the apartment proposals, the Lake View Station complex envisioned for the intersection of Montrose and Clarendon Avenues in Uptown, would repeat the worst mistakes of the last building boom, stacking graceless concrete towers atop faceless parking garages.  [...]

Consider Sedgwick Properties Development Corp.’s proposal for a $350 million, three-towered apartment, hotel and retail complex that would replace the low-rise Maryville Academy in Uptown.  With two chunky high-rises plopped onto a parking garage base, the plan is River North Redux, reprising the discredited development model that turned streets north of the Chicago River’s main branch into charmless concrete canyons.

Worse, it would violate the spirit of Chicago’s open lakefront, with a third tower (conspicuously absent from renderings) that would squeeze adjoining Clarendon Park and throw shadows on its playground.  The developers didn’t even have the smarts to hire from Chicago’s stable of renowned architects.  They went with in-house designers who achieved predictably desultory results.

When Ald. James Cappleman, 46th, ran an advisory vote on the hyper-dense plan this month, nearly 90 percent of neighboring residents rejected it outright.  That left the developers to scramble for an alternative that they are expected to unveil in the next week or two.Read the entire article here.


  1. I am outraged! 90% voted No. Not Yes with revisions. This should have stopped Sedgwick in their tracks. Why is Sedgwick being allowed to come back with revisions? The message to the alderman is clear. NO NO NO.If this moves forward, I think a flash mob in front of the alderman's office is called for.

    But the big question is this:
    Will there be another neighborhood vote on the revision we voted against in the first place?

  2. Not sure why they shouldn't be able to go back to the drawing board and try again, doesn't mean they'll succeed.

    Anways, the article was spot on. The architecture and design was a joke....hulky, ugly and cheap.

    This location deserves a single quality high rise, not some three headed concrete monstrosity that has the charm of a Soviet Era apartment block or a sprawling strip mall suitable for Schaumburg. I have no concerns of the former but fear the latter.

  3. FWIW I love the Harper Court development going on in Hyde Park right now, properly dense, urban, modern and elegant.

  4. "Just asking," you need to calm down.

    Remember this information is coming from a newspaper columnist, and not the alderman, who is really the only person who can make the call on what happens on the site.

    How about calling or writing Cappleman to find out what his plans are for Sedgwick before you put out the call for a riot in front of his office?

    The days of Shiller are over, thank God, and with them went the knee-jerk histrionics. Act like a responsible citizen instead of throwing a cyber-tantrum and calling for civil unrest.

  5. So after two years of repeatedly offering the same plan with minor tweaks, and trying to cram that horrific plan down the community’s throat using both lies and threats, now Sedgwick wants to come back again and make plan changes for what the 6% of voters who said they might be open to a revised plan? How about the 89% that just said ‘no’ and want them to go away?

    Sedgwick said, “Approve this plan or the deal is dead.” Now it’s time for the captain to say, “Mr. Crusher, make it so.”

  6. Here's some advice for the developer.

    1. Forget getting any TIF money. Ain't gonna happen.

    2. See number one.

    3. Hire an architect like Jeanne Gang and design something dramatic. If you do that you might be able to get the 900 units you want built.

    There will be a portion of the community who will fight that, but the main reason the vote went 9 to 1 against was the use of TIF money.

    4. Start reaching out to the community and forget the threat of taking away the public use of the parking lot. Threats only piss people off.

    6. Number four is so important that I skipped five. Consider it said twice.

    7. Be prepared for a tough fight because there are portions of this community who either want nothing built there or want something no taller than a few stories.

    Those folks will whine and organize, but in the end, after I open up my can of internet whoopass on them, they will likely lose.

    That site is appropriate for high density and if we as a community are going to give it to you we will want something dramatic built. Not some concrete box on top of a parking structure.

  7. gg,

    The information came from a letter from the alderman, not the reporter.

    Why would I write or call when an overwhelming vote by his constituents does not make the alderman stand his ground on our behalf?

    J-dog is right, They threaten us with an ultimatum, lie to us, and then are somehow able to come back. They are spineless as well.

    They do not have a market survey. This was brought up by a community member at the meeting. They want to build this WITHOUT a study as to how it will effect the businesses and the public. They do not care about us. And it seems the alderman is with them; as is shown by his recent actions AND where he stood the whole night of the meeting, at their table. Hmmmm.

    IP, while I agree with most of your points, You threaten the citizens as much as Sedgwick does, just to get your way. Unleash your worst can of whoopass.

  8. Just Asking,

    take a deep breath. Maybe you are this overwrought all the time or maybe you're just having a bad day.

    Calling for a flash mob.

    Suggesting the Capplemaniac is in the bag for the developer.

    To use a line from the documentary "Stripes":


  9. This is Cappleman's response from the 46th Ward Service Office FaceBook page to a question about why was Sedgwick Properties requesting a meeting with him. I wonder if you knew about this?

    "Sedgwick Properties has put in $3 million to prepare this proposal, and although there is no requirement to follow up with this developer, I made the decision to meet with them because they requested it. If they can come up with a plan that is enthusiastically supported by Uptown United and the area block clubs, it becomes a win-win for everyone. However, a very clear message was sent to Sedgwick Properties about the feelings of the community."

    Cappleman was playing poker with Sedgwick Properties and the sisters, and he just showed them a royal straight flush. What would he have to gain by screwing the community?

  10. They had a chance to come up with that plan when they met with all of us.

    My question is this: if the community voted no to Sedgwick and Cappleman says he's not going through with the project, why would he honor a request from someone that is not welcome in the community and who is not even a member if the community? Just because they spent money to be two faced is not a good reason to allow them back. So, again, why wasn't no really a no? That's what really makes me suspicious. A tiger can't change his stripes, neither will Sedgwick and neither will Cappleman

  11. IP,

    1-2. I agree, see Ben Joravsky

    3-a Yes, good design by Studio Gang. No to 900 units.

    3-b TIF was only one factor, so was (really) bad design, 900 units, an 85’high parking garage, a high-rise in the park, traffic, don’t need another grocery store/health club or a bunch more empty retail spaces. Finally we don’t need some ‘well connected’ developer purchasing park land from the water department, so they can average empty park land into the building FAR calculations thus allowing them to dramatically increase how much they’re allowed to cram in.

    4-5 Forget it. No more reaching out to the community. They’ve reached out enough for the past two years…hired PR firms, have Senator Cullerton’s efforts (his law firm does work with Sedgwick but not on this project) etc. It seems they’ve tried everything to sell us else ‘except’ hold actual open community meetings. Their threat forced a vote and the vote was NO.

    As to the rest of what you said IP, unless among all your other talents you’re also an urban planner, architect or architectural critic, I’d suggest you lay off the more and bigger is better b.s. Let Blair Kamin be the critic and as for the community, again the vote was NO.

  12. To the 6% who voted for back to the drawing board, is it even worth the effort? I'll re-post this question.

    Can you judge a book by its cover? Or any page of a PowerPoint handout? You are surely aware that Sedgwick hired professional marketers to prepare these materials, which emphasize the beauty of computer renderings. Unfortunately there’s no fabrication machine which will put what they render on the corner of Montrose and Clarendon.

    The developer’s Plan Application elevation drawing is still the most accurate and only way to get a full understanding of what they want to build. It’s how we found out the first time around (a year ago) that what Sedgwick was showing in its renderings was not what they had applied to the city to build. That led to then-Alderman Shiller putting the brakes on the project. The plan application drawings are very accurate as to what Sedgwick is proposing to build.

    On the other hand, the Sedgwick perspective drawing and renderings are idealized. For instance, the pretty rendering on the cover of their power point hand outs and pictured in Blair's post is done from an aerial perspective, conveniently hiding the true massive size of the eight-story garage at the base of the complex, making it seem much shorter and less imposing. The high rises also seem more separated and less crowded from this angled view. And also conveniently, the high-rise in the park is missing… ooops.

    At a meeting several weeks earlier Sedgwick was asked to bring updated elevations to the June 7th community meeting. Sedgwick said they had done updated detailed elevation drawings and would bring them to the meeting. But they didn’t.

    If you want to see what an actual built Sedgwick high-rise looks like, I suggest you look at the Marquee Michigan at 1464 S. Michigan. Be sure to note the concrete fa├žade the numerous vacant retail spaces, years after the building was completed.

  13. I thought that the land had to be purchased from the good sisters of Maryville by the end of June. How do they have time to go back to the drawing board?

  14. Well unless the vote was NO for perpetuity then we can still revisit this issue.

    Now the question really is not if something will be built at that location, but when and what.

    Personally, given the way they've handled this I would prefer Sedgwick disappear from the picture. I suspect once Shiller created the TIF, Sedgwick saw it as a "done deal" and didn't realize that the TIF landscape had changed. Shiller may have had dreams of stuffing a few hundred units of low income housing into the development.

    As for urban planners almost the last people I would ask about good urban design would be urban planners. The last people would be the people who live immediately adjacent to a proposed development.

    Now Cappleman faces a quandary here. If he allows any development there a significant chunk of people will be pissed off. You have the turn it into a park people, the I like the present buildings people, the tall buildings cast shadows people, the it will bring more condos to the market people and the I'm just angry and against any change people.

    Those are a whole lot of people. I suspect though that with the right architect and design the majority of other people in the neighborhood would support a good sized development there.

    My gut feeling is that the market is right for a large rental building with a small hotel component and that without the TIF money the grocer and gym are a no go.

    Also the name has to be changed from the "lakeview" reference.

    UU should have a topic on a better name for the development.

    Uptown Point.

    UpPoint Tower.

    Ze MonClare.


  15. I think Cappleman has proven trustworthy and open enough so far that there isn't much harm in letting Sedgewick go back to the drawing board. Whatever they come up with will again be cheap and uninspired and will again be rejected.

    And I really agree with IP on the density of the site. 900 units is probably high and i don't think the market will be ready for any units here for quite some time, but some sleek/thin 12-20 story towers with forward thinking architecture would really be a shot in the arm.

    I really do urge people to check out the Harper Court development in Hyde Park.

  16. How about another Walgreens!? One story, strip mall-ish retail just like Sheridan and Irving Park.

    Nobody's views are blocked.

    It really wont hinder traffic because people already have other Walgreens to shop at

    Provides a parking lot for people to loiter and deal drugs

    The benefits are endless...

  17. Just Asking--I suggest that you read up on the "takings clause" of the 5th Amendment of the Constitution...THAT is the reason why they can keep coming back with revisions. You (and most of the rest of us) may not like Sedgwick, but if they (and The Sisters) can't do something on that land because the City of Chicago says "NO" to every proposal, then WE as taxpayers will literally pay for the loss of use when they sue the City for a takings claim. Every proposal will get judged on its merits or lack thereof--the City can't tell Sedgwick to take a hike without a reason on a case-by-case basis.

  18. IP if they build what they're proposing, how about Upchuck Tower?

  19. I'm glad Irish Pirate prefers Sedgwick disappear from the picture, that's the most sensible thing he's said on this issue.

    "Almost the last people I would ask about good urban design would be urban planners" smacks of glibness. Who better to ask, people who have little information and half-assed education on the matter? (Like saying: the last person you should ask how to build a bridge is an engineer...)

    Several times IP says things like: "If he [Cappleman] allows any development there a significant chunk of people will be pissed off," and, "Be prepared for a tough fight because there are portions of this community who either want nothing built there or want something no taller than a few stories." What's your evidence for this? Who is proposing that the current structures be razed and that an empty lot take their place? On the size issue, see the next paragraph.

    "The tall buildings cast shadows people"... rude, meaningless name-calling. Has IP attended any of the community meetings where alternative ideas were discussed? The ideas were not at all what's implied by IP's statements, so IP, please don't buy into the ill-informed NIMBY-branding hysteria. That was Sedgwick's Tactic Number 1. Sedwgick's Tactics Numbers 2 and 3 were: misstating the opposition's position; and misleading the community about matters of fact (i.e., lying blatantly and assuming they would get away with it), so don't be tempted to those engage in those either...

    Also, is IP aware that through some sort of behind-closed-doors, shrouded-in-secrecy dealmaking, Sedgwick was going to buy a strip of land a block away in Clarendon Park that's owned by the water district, and use that to count as if it were actually phyically under the Sedgwick development (there's a legal fiction for you!) so that they could build something twice as dense as what is allowed even by the most developer-friendly zoning category? IP, are you saying you support that?

  20. Bear, thanks for the legal lesson. I did not know about the "talkings clause". That clears a lot up for me. I take ownership of my own sh*t, so I'll back off the alderman for talking to them. And yes, IP I was having a bad day.

    I want to say this again in defense of the misperceived NIMBY-ism. I live across the street from Maryville. I am IN FAVOR, I'll say it again, IN FAVOR of development of this land. I believe a lot of adjacent neighbors are IN FAVOR of development of the Maryville property. Hell, we bought here because we thought that the gentrification wave was just waiting to roll in to Uptown.

    We are just NOT IN FAVOR of Sedgwick, their monstrosity, and their easily pocketed $44,000,000 of our money.

    So when the next poster brings up NIMBYism


    Good now that that is out of the way.

    I think virtually everyone agrees that NO TIF money be given to the developer.

    As for the complaints I mentioned look up earlier threads. I didn't pull them out of my lower region. There are NIMBY's who will oppose anything there. Even my good buddy Jon Trott mentioned he likes the current buildings. Then some wag suggested Jon and JPUSA worry about their own buildings.

    I'm sure Jon's love for that brutal modernist architecture has nothing to do with the idea of keeping 1000 or more market rate people out of the neighborhood. In fact, if 1000 units of low income housing were going to be built there, I'm sure he would also want to keep that lovely brutalist architecture intact. NOT!

    My desire is that some good looking, dense, development be built there. Something similar to AQUA would be good. Calling Jeanne Gang. Hell, just rebuild AQUA. The engineering and construction issues have been worked out.

    As for urban planning I stand by my comment. Glib though it was.

    Good urban planning resembles more of an art than a hard science like engineering. Particularly in an infill parcel of that size and location.

    There's an opportunity here to see something built that will contribute to the city, to the neighborhood and to the future. Something that will exist long after my ashes have been poured into the drinking water system so people can partake of my sugary goodness and raise their IQ scores.

    I suspect we're lucky to have the Capplemaniac in office right now. He seems equipped by experience and personality to try to bring most parties together so we can have something good built there.

    My biggest concern isn't the NIMBYs. I suspect there are more people out there who want something dense built there than those who do not. That question will be how dense and of what quality.

    My real concern is whether Sedgwick has the capability of realizing what the true situation is here. Do they think they can tweak the plan and come back and get community approval and TIF money? If so they are wasting their time and money.

    They need to bring in a different architect. They need to be open and forthright about what they want to build. I truly question whether they are capable of those things.

    The creation of the TIF and dreams of tens of millions of dollars in subsidies may have polluted their thinking to the point that they need to walk away and another developer needs to come in.

  22. First off, zoning and FAR (Floor Area Ratios) go off the books when ever you have a building more than six stories tall in Chicago. They all become PUDs (Planned Unit Developments) which is a zoning category all on its own.

    PUDs can be almost any size, any shape, any form. Do not believe that what you see in the informational meetings held by developers will be anything close to what you will get. Once the "community process" is complete the developers take their plan down to the city and that's where the horse trading begins.

    Favorite promises developers make to community groups is that the garage parking will be put under ground. Well, because of the sandy area they suddenly discover that it costs way too much and get the planning commission to agree to a plan change. Some traffic manager says they garage entrance needs to go here instead of here. Suddenly more floors need to be added to accomodate the cost of the changes.

    And oh, they have to make a contribution to the city's affordable housing by either allowing 10% of the units be low income or a cash contribution to the city. So, they need more units. In the midst of going over plans with the city, they will tell the plan commission that they can't get financing for the hotel component. So before you know it they get more housing. And so on and so on.

    What I'm trying to say is, plans are never what the developers offer because once it goes downtown all bets are off.

    Further, the city needs property tax dollars, and they will approve lots of units because that's how they make the TIF shell game work.

    It would be hard to make the argument that by not allowing a gigantic building to be built that somehow this is a case of "takings". Something large is going to eventually be built here. But how large it will be will be dependent upon lots of factors.

    And don't think because the area falls within the boundaries of the Lake Front Protection Ordinance that you can use it to prevent a large development.

  23. IP, given that the TIF funds for development on the site were approved last year, how can we say no TIF funds? Is there a way to repeal that decision, and allocate the TIF money somewhere else? It seems as if the $50mil is going to that site, to some developer to use. We just don't have to use Sedgwick, or have any kind of high rise at all. Is it possible to get a charter school in that site? That is what the TIF funds should go to, education, and making to community better for the people who live here. I don't know if there is a way to repeal the TIF fund decision, or how to get a charter school built on that site.

  24. J-Dog---

    Mr. Crusher, make it so.


    "Cyber-tantrum" Love it.


    Takings Clause.... interesting and complex area of law.

    My general thought is that the plan is too dense. I don't think it is a big deal that James is still talking to them. Maybe they will come back with something acceptable.

  25. Wow once again all of you against this property being developed make no sense. I heard at the meeting that there was a lot of other devlopers who wanted to do something with this property. However still no mention of who are the developers.

    As for the TIF it is allocated for this project/ property. Maybe the best thing is to find another developer for something else and just give them the money all up front.
    This property will be developed, so plan on that happening. I am sure Sedgwick has deeper pockets than Alderman or anyone else.

    I personally didnt think there was anyting wrong with their proposal, but it was voted " No" All the people have to be open minded and see what the proposals are when the come back.

  26. Chambo, TIFs aren't carved in stone. They can be repealed at any time and the money that has been collected in the account goes back to where it was originally headed, city services. Last month Rahm formed a task force to look into Chicago's TIF districts. Look for a ton of TIF early retirements as a result. My hope is that the Montrose/Clarendon TIF is among them.

  27. Wow, Chambo, once again, someone that posts without really reading what everyone else has to say, EVEN IN CAPS! You must work for Sedgwick. Nuff said

  28. I am totally against using TIF money, unless of course, I can get in on the scam!

    TIF's are very lucrative if you have big money.