Wednesday, July 21, 2021

4600 N. Marine Passes City Council, Slated to Become Uptown's Gateway to Wilson Avenue

Ald. Cappleman on Twitter: "Earlier today, two 46th Ward zoning proposals passed through City Council. I'll keep you updated as construction begins." (click to enlarge)

With the City Council voting approval at its meeting today, the lightly-used Weiss Hospital parking lot at Wilson and Marine will become the site of a new residential development. 

The profits from the sale of the large lot will enable the hospital to continue its necessary and innovative services to the residents of Uptown and the surrounding communities, as well as finance and ensure permanent housing for homeless women with a $3.1 million contribution to Sarah's Circle. 

Sarah's Circle, whose motto is "Ending Homelessness For Women," is currently planning a third facility just a few blocks away from the hospital at Lakeside and Sheridan, in the same block club area as Weiss Hospital (Lakeside Area Neighbors Association). That is where the $3.1 million contribution will go.

Weiss prepared for the loss of the parking lot by recently upgrading its parking structure on Clarendon, expanding parking capacity, making the structure operate more efficiently, and creating higher profits for the hospital.

As regular readers know, the development of the parking lot was supported by many in the neighborhood, but opposed by some of Uptown's loudest and most persistent voices, who oppose new market-rate housing at any cost. Critics cited a nonexistent threat to the future of Weiss Hospital and "gentrification" as reasons to oppose the development.

Scaremongering about Weiss's supposed closure flies in the face of its stated commitment to the community, and the large sums of money that its owner has invested into the hospital in the past couple years to make its services more unique and more cutting edge. As Weiss's CEO, Irene Dumanis, stated in an open letter to the community last month:

"Weiss Memorial Hospital has a proud history in this North Side community, and we’re committed to building on that legacy in the years to come. [...]

Our parent company Pipeline has made over $40 million in investments over the last two years, including

That doesn’t count the millions invested in system upgrades for telemetry, new imaging and radiology equipment and other facility upgrades.  

Weiss is also continuing to bring on more physicians and staff, including a new Women's Health Program that opened in 2020, and a breast surgeon who joined the new program just this month. 

We are already the largest employer in the Uptown area, with over 700 employees, and we anticipate we will continue to hire more physicians and staff to support our growth."

You can read the full letter here.

Despite personally lobbying local residents, block clubs, and aldermen across the city, opponents failed to stop the development at any of the critical stages. After a controversial run through the local 46th Ward Zoning and Development Committee, the development comfortably cleared the City's Plan Committee, the Zoning Committee, and today, the full City Council. 

In committee hearings, aldermen in surrounding communities confirmed Weiss's value to their constituents and probed deeply into the hospital's continued viability. Ald. Osterman voted in favor of the development, joining Ald. Cappleman.

Now that this new 12-story gateway to Uptown's center is greenlit and will be built, we will see capital improvements to Weiss Hospital and a third Sarah's Circle building serving its clientele by providing residences for numerous at-risk women who would otherwise have nowhere else to go.

Another great day for Uptown's future.


  1. The tone of this announcement seems oddly meanspirited against people who have concerns about the things being added to their neighborhood. I like this blog and have been following it for years, but this is just a little much in the way of "neener neener neener, I win" in attitude.

  2. "Stated commitments to the community"...are not worth the breath it takes to say it..

  3. It's worth noting that the sole "upgrade" to the parking garage was the result of abruptly ceasing a community outreach program. Pipeline increased the number of parking spaces by removing the community garden, apiary, and chicken coop on the roof level.

    Otherwise the parking layout remains unchanged (you can't redesign a garage already built, unless the wheelbase and turning radius of all the cars also changes. The scope of that project was to
    1) Remove the "debris" from the roof level, and restripe the parking spaces
    2) routing shotcrete structural repairs. (That's maintenance, not an upgrade.)
    I was in my second year of gardening there, and Weiss had been generous
    I gardened up there when it was opened to the community. (Several of the larger beds were maintained by Heartland Alliance, and initially availability was limited to social service groups. That's when there was a Farmer's Market as well.)

    Let's not revise history. Pipeline Health LLC saw the ability to profit from the surface lot, a savvy move for their corporation. The parking garage was never full, and could accept the surface lot capacity.
    It's likely that the structural repairs were enacted primarily to evict the freeloading gardeners that fed off the previous owners generosity. In fact, communication with the gardeners was subpar, as they were abruptly informed in July 2019 that the garden would cease for the season. Artfully, nothing was explicitly said about the permanent status of the garden.

    In summation, Pipeline Health LLC did what was entirely in their rights, and once they needed a zoning change, and the amalgam of block clubs they needed to approve it narrowly did so by informing the Alderman of their decision, U.U. is here to cheerlead it in a very dishonest manner.

  4. $13M dollars was spent in rehabbing Weiss Hospital's parking garage, and some of that cost was due to the damage done by having a community garden on its rooftop. Weiss did not have to volunteer the use of their parking garage for a community garden, but they did until it was evident it was causing damage. My concern is that when a gift to the community turns into a requirement, it sends a message to other property owners to be very reluctant to offer their properties for community gardens for fear the same expectation could be thrust on them.

    As for the sale of the parking lot, 100% of the proceeds go to the hospital's programming. Pipeline has already spent $40M in upgrades to this hospital. I've worked 20+ years in hospitals (including one that changed ownership 3 times while I was there) and my own observation is that no hospital invests many millions of dollars into a hospital only to turn around and immediately sell it.

    The added bonus is that the development going there will contribute over $3M to Sarah's Circle to help finance their 100% affordable apartment building that will be located a few blocks away. Better yet, rather than be for people earning 60% of the AMI, these apartment units will be for women who earn between 0 - 30% of the AMI. This helps women whose only other alternative would be to live on the streets or in a shelter. It's a win for Weiss Memorial Hospital's programming and a win for women who get the chance to live in nice affordable housing.... perhaps for the very first time in their lives.

    1. Remember when you let the developer of Stewart Lofts tear down a great community park and then leave it undeveloped with a fence around it for years?

      Why should we trust you to negotiate deals when you never seem to put the community first?

    2. No alderman has the legal authority to require any property owner to keep up a play lot that no longer belongs to CPS, nor can aldermen require property owners to develop their property. Due to liability issues, Morningstar will not open up this property up to the community for their enjoyment.... most property owners rarely allow the public free use of their property for that very same reason. When the new property owner submitted building plans for that vacant piece of property, the Dept. of Planning and Development placed a requirement on the new property owner to pay the City back on the TIF funds that were used to make the CPS playground. Morningstar complained that the City should have informed them of their requirement before they purchased the property because they would have figured that into the purchase price of the property. That former play lot will remain fenced off and unused until Morningstar and DPD can come to an agreement about the past use of TIF funds for that site. I've asked both parties to negotiate an agreement and to be fair with one another.

      I did have legal authority to create a use for the community garden in front of Stewart School Lofts only because that property belongs to CDOT. CDOT owns it because it was once Kenmore Avenue.

    3. I never said that you had the legal authority to require them to keep a public playlot. But you are responsible to review the plans. It is clear from your response that you did not review the plans of what Morningstar intended to do with that piece of the property and that you are now allowing them to create a blight on our neighborhood to use as leverage to not repay the Department of Planning.

      A fenced off undeveloped area in a major area of Uptown is completely unacceptable. It was entirely your responsibility to not give your blessing on this project until Morningstar and DPD had resolved their differences. As someone who has represented developers in other Wards, it is inconceivable that an Alderman would have let such an issue remain unresolved prior to the development.

      Even your response is wholly inadequate. Instead of saying "it is a major problem that a developer has allowed this area to remain undeveloped for 3 years and I am doing everything in my power to find a way to resolve this." You merely say "Im trying to get them to negotiate in good faith.”

      What good faith? Morningstar owes DPD money, which is in turn owing us the taxpayers money. You should be looking into ways to force Morningstar to reimburse the DPD and develop the lot. I mean why not try and negotiate that if they donate the lot back to the City that the City would waive the repayment? Or many of the other tactics that other Alderman use on developers to protect valuable community assets.

      You are the Alderman, you are supposed to be our advocate. Every major developer has their eye on Uptown now, don’t let us get taken advantage of.

    4. John, here’s some additional information about this TIF that you might find helpful.

      1) No TIF was ever used on the former Stewart School building itself, so the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) did not request any TIF repayment for that project. Additionally, because no upzone was requested, the Affordable Requirements Ordinance could not come into play either, which would have required them to provide some affordable units.

      2) CPS used TIF to build the now abandoned playground located just south of the Stewart building.

      DPD has no legal right to demand Morningside pay back the TIF unless they build something on that abandoned playground that would require a zoning change. In essence, only building on that site can trigger a requirement to pay back the TIF.

      Here’s where it gets more complicated:
      Morningside may have a fairly legitimate claim that they should not be forced to pay back TIF that CPS used and is of no benefit to them, especially because they were never informed of DPD's requirement until after they purchased the property. Knowing that this is getting into very touchy legal territory, the best recourse is to have DPD and Morningside work this out in order to avoid a lawsuit that the City has some probability of losing.

      The best way I can be an advocate is to keep the pressure on DPD and Morningside to work this out amicably. I have already spent an immense amount of time on this via many emails, phone conversations, and face-to-face meetings with all parties to get them to work this out in a manner that is fair and one that would avoid litigation. To be clear, once they work it out, Morningside will likely put a large apartment building on that site.

      As it currently stands, Morningside has a constitutional right to leave that property as is and no advocacy on the part of any elected official can operate outside of that legal right.

  5. Thank you Alderman, for the reply.
    Former owners of Weiss did provide a service, yes. The manner in which new owners rescinded could not have been more clumsy. The Weiss liaison believed that access to the garden would be maintained throughout construction until weeks before the garden terminated. Not for the season, but permanently. Your supposition that gifts may become requirements? You have a point.

    As for the damage that 10" of well-drained soil causes on a concrete surface? Minimal, but sure, let's pretend it's significant. Skim-coat the entire surface and be done with it. Not for nothing, but you could demolish the existing structure (close and support the walkway over Clarendon, and REBUILD a new structure. All in? $18M. They didn't spend $15,000,000 on a rehab job, and to implicate soggy soil on some secret damage told only to you?)

    Sir, you have been led astray. $13M is also the figure for the ever-impending Clarendon Fieldhouse rehab. Compare the scope of work for both, and ask: Is this comparable?

    1. The damage caused by the container garden was discussed in public community meetings that were taped and they remain available on the 46th Ward website for anyone to view. A resident recently asked if Truman College would allow a rooftop garden on their parking garage, and they cited the very same concern. I'm not a building engineer, but if 2 different organizations cite the same concern, maybe they have a point.

      People are free to agree or disagree on the costs to rehab the Weiss parking garage. My belief is that the Weiss Hospital Board of Directors should retain their constitutional right to make a decision on whether or not they will volunteer the use of this property for a community garden. Yes, it's a wonderful thing to do for the community, but their core mission is to provide medical care to nearby residents, and 100% of the proceeds from the sale of an underutilized asphalt parking lot will go directly to the hospital's programming. That mission takes precedence over providing container gardening for the community. Weiss is also in the process of expanding their programming, so no one should assume they won't need more parking spaces within their parking garage at a later point in time.

      It's icing on the cake that in the process, over $3M was given to Sarah's Circle so that they were able to shore up their financing to build 28 units of affordable housing for women for whom the vast majority earn 15% or less of the AMI. For many of the women who will benefit from this housing, their next stop would have been the streets.

    2. When Weiss remodeled their garage several years ago, they were REQUIRED under zoning laws to have greenery to cover that butt ugly concrete mass in our neighborhood. Instead of adding appropriate landscaping, they skirted that requirement by putting in container pots for community use. What beauty does a dried up tomato or squash plant add to the building? NONE.
      When my friend died in Weiss's hospice unit I couldn't help but think how nasty it was for Weiss to make their dying patients look at a cement wall instead of green plants or the lake. Just saying.

      But "containers for the community" makes Weiss look like good guys when they aren't. Little slight of hand? You think???

      While I am on a roll, how about the parking space requirement for the City's Uptown medical center on Wilson that is supposedly met by use of the Weiss parking garage. That was done when Shiller gave extra parking that the medical center had across the street to the Jesus People (for nothing, of course. Well, actually for votes for her but nothing for the city or community) The lot behind the City's Wilson Medical clinic does not comply with it's parking space requirement because Weiss supposedly has spots for the medical center in it's garage. But Weiss counts them for use by their the Weiss medical building and hospital. Now that the Weiss ground lot is going bye-bye, how are the parking space requirements for all these facilities being met????? Have you ever wondered why you see all those medical and maintenance guy vehicles parked on Wilson Ave sidewalks in front of the adjoining lot and the Wilson Medical Center. This the reason.

    3. When Weiss Hospital pulled permits for their garage’s rehab, the Buildings Department never flagged any issue about the garage being out of compliance with any of the City’s zoning ordinances. I know the Building’s Department is rather thorough, so it would seem odd that they would be able to get away with this. However, if you believe the garage is out of compliance, please don’t hesitate to report it to 311 so that it can be further investigated.

      As a former hospice social worker who worked 20+ years in hospitals, I noticed that the vast majority of patients die in ICUs where there are no windows. However, when there is a belief that the patient has a risk of dying during an ambulance transport to their home or to a nursing facility, the patient would be transferred to a hospice unit instead. Often times, the patient would be going through an “active dying” stage where their primary focus is on pain control, comfort with breathing, and being with their loved ones. I had never observed a patient during this stage to be concerned about the views outside their window; if anything, they would report to me about seeing dead relatives outside their window speaking to them. I certainly can’t speak for all patients, but when I was once hospitalized for 4 days, it never dawned on me to ever look outside my hospital window….. I was more focused on pain control and managing my fever after surgery. My hunch is that most patients are more concerned about good hospital care rather than their view. The sale of the underutilized asphalt parking lot all helps with hospital programming, so I suspect most patients will appreciate that more than the view from their window... anyway, that’s my opinion based on my prior work in hospital settings and from being a patient.

      As for the City’s Uptown Medical Center, my understanding is that they are currently in full compliance with their parking ratio at the center. They will be getting some major upgrades next year and whenever that occurs, the City’s Building Department reviews all requirements before permits are ever granted. I know they recently resurfaced their entire parking lot, and nothing was flagged about being out of compliance with anything. From what I’ve noticed, the parking lot appears to be underutilized during its open hours.