Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Brendan Reilly, Downtown's new alderman, flexes his muscles

It did not take long for Brendan Reilly, the new 42nd Ward alderman, to show that he does not want to be seen as another Burt Natarus. Natarus (who, BTW, I really like because I think he calls everything the way he sees it -- unlike just about any politician in 2007), was criticized by some for being too pro-developer.

Reilly came out today against the proposed demolition of the Lake Shore Athletic Club and its conversion into yet another high rise condo building. The current owner, Northwestern University, and the developer, Fifield Cos., have been contending that the existing building cannot be reused in any economically feasible way. Reilly's opposition spells trouble for the proposed project.

Fifield intends to fight. It apparently contends that “Once the actual legal and construction-related issues are debated, we feel confident that the concept of re-use will prove to be the lowest-and-worst use for the property.” (Is it me or does this statement come off a little bad?)

I'm torn because I don't know who is right. The building is beautiful and I'd like to see it preserved, but I also understand that the challenges of redeveloping such a building may be too much to overcome. On the other hand, I've also seen some pretty "tough" re-use deals turn into moneymakers.


Yellow Dog Democrat said...

Dave, if it helps you out, the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Northwestern received 20 competing bids in the $35 - $38 million range.

Now, I'm the first to admit that $35 million isn't $41 million, but I also don't think its anything to sneeze at. And since the property isn't generating any income for the university right now, and in fact is probably costing them a pretty penny just for minimal upkeep, I'm guessing they'll turn a fair profit. Just not at the neighborhood's expense.

David Stejkowski said...

Thanks for the comment.

I agree that the competing bids are decent. The story was unclear about whether any of the competing bidders would preserve the building.

That neighborhood has a lot going on now, and, especially after seeing a story on it that I did not post, I'm curious to see how much the Children's Memorial Expansion will affect the area. That is a lot of density.