Dan McCaffrey of McCaffrey Interests explains his company's role in the redevelopment plan (Photo by Stephen Markley)
In a presentation at Children’s Memorial Hospital on Wednesday, Lincoln Park residents learned what kind of hole the hospital will leave when it moves downtown, and what a challenge it will be to fill. Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) and Dan McCaffery of real estate developer McCaffery Interests made it clear that they planned to tackle that challenge.
“I have one vision: that we create a beautiful new crossroads for the Lincoln Park community and win a national award for planning and design,” Smith said.
This kicked off the first of what will likely be many community meetings on the redevelopment, and all parties made it clear that they did not want a repeat of some of the development wars that have plagued Lincoln Park in the past, such as the contentious debate over the old Lincoln Park Hospital.
“It’s one heck of a challenge. This is a very learned group with strong opinions, and you’re not going to get pushed around by anybody and neither is your alderman,” said McCaffery, who began his part of the presentation by joking of the previous accolades showered on his firm, “Those are the nicest things that have ever been said about a developer in a public meeting.”
McCaffery and his partner, the architect Joe Antunovich of Antunovich Associates, for the most part were received warmly by the crowd eager to hear about the next steps in the process of reinventing the neighborhood.
“We’re going to do our best to not be like Congress,” quipped McCaffery. “We work with you, you work with me.”
Yet the task that lies before McCaffery and Antunovich is enormous and very serious to the business and residential communities in the area. According to Children Memorial Hospital representative Mary Kate Daley, the hospital has 1.5 million people on its campus per year, accounts for approximately 30 percent of the neighborhood’s traffic volume, and if nothing were to replace it, an economic impact study found that the 60614 area code could lose between $9.3 to $35.1 million in revenue per year.
Sam Sanchez, owner of John Barleycorn spoke passionately about the need to replace Children’s with something that would draw customers to the area’s struggling small businesses.
“I am concerned it might not be a development that can create jobs,” said Sanchez, “We don’t want to create more space that can sit vacant. Businesses are suffering, John Barleycorn is having a hard time. I fear that if something is not built in this beautiful corner that can create business, John Barleycorn will be gone.”
He suggested a hotel as a way to attract visitors to the area.
Chris Ramsey, owner of the Lincoln Park Massage Spa, estimated she would lose 7 percent of her gross revenue, and Qdoba representative said that the Mexican chain would be hard-pressed to maintain its Lincoln Park location, especially in the summer when DePaul traffic is slow and the hospital accounts for 70 percent of its business.
Many attendees voiced concern that with so many empty storefronts in the retail space along Lincoln, it would be difficult for McCaffery to attract more retailers in a tough economy.
“Vacancies are contagious. You get a couple of anchors,” he said. “Emptiness begets emptiness, occupancy begets occupancy.”
Smith added that the planning would include mix-use buildings with the “first affordable housing built in Lincoln Park in the last 25 years.”
Lincoln Park residents can follow the progress at Michelle Smith’s 43rd Ward website.