As pre-reported in this week’s podcast, the Chicago Planning Commission voted today to approve some minor changes to the Wrigley Field/hotel renovation plan. With the backing of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the changes were approved easily despite the opposition of some neighborhood residents. Now the revised plan goes back to City Council for a final vote. With the support of Mayor Emanuel and local Alderman Tom Tunney, the City Council vote appears to be a mere formality.
The updated plan moves the hotel entrance to Clark Street due to concerns about having the entrance on Patterson Avenue (the residential east-west street north of Addison Street). Added to the renovation plan is an archway that extends over Clark Street and offers plenty of opportunities for sponsored advertising. The Planning Commission also approved moving back the left field and right field outfield walls, thereby erasing one lane of traffic on both Sheffield Street and Waveland Avenue. As previously described in the media, the changes to the outfield wall will increase the ball park’s footprint, allow for more amenities inside the bleacher area, and alter traffic patterns. The later change has left many area residents upset as Sheffield will lose its east side street parking as the street shrinks from 33 feet to 23 feet. Additionally, Waveland Avenue will become a one-way street adjacent to the stadium from Sheffield Avenue to Clark Street. In all, the neighborhood will lose 56 parking spaces.
With final City Council approval, I would not be shocked to see some initial construction this winter – earlier than many pessimistic predictions. Remember that the Cubs cancelled the seasonal ice skating rink this winter in anticipation of beginning construction. Moreover, the Wrigley Field renovation projects to be a multi-year endeavor. Clearly, the Cubs are motivated renovators as the sooner they begin the project, the sooner that they can monetize the changes by developing new revenue streams. Also, despite media reports to the contrary, do not be surprised to see a quick conclusion to the rooftop controversy as the renovation plan reaches its final resolution. This $500 million dollar proposal now appears to have the momentum necessary to come to fruition.