WICKER PARK — Days after a developer asked neighbors to support a rooftop bar atop a former bank building in Wicker Park, city officials busted a 300-person party in the building’s basement.
Now, the neighborhood leaders responsible for approving the bar are leaning away from the idea.
During a Wednesday virtual meeting, neighborhood leader Ed Tamminga said the property owner, RDM Development & Investments, lost his trust.
“I think there’s been a real loss of good faith here,” he said.
Early Sunday, the city broke up an illegal 300-person party in the old Bedford basement, 1612 W. Division St.
The Vault/All Access, which organized the party, received five cease and desist orders; a closure order due to dangerous conditions such as not having smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors; and nine citations for violating coronavirus restrictions, not having proper business licenses, allowing smoking indoors and allowing fireworks (sparklers) indoors.
RDM Development and Investments asked the city for a zoning change to convert the building’s rooftop into a bar and restaurant last week. The future tenant would occupy the rooftop as well as the basement restaurant areas.
Before Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) takes the zoning change to City Council, the RDM team will need neighborhood approval.
The Wicker Park Committee met virtually on Wednesday to discuss the proposal. The group is an influential neighborhood association that routinely weighs in on matters of importance before the City Council, including zoning change requests.
Because The Bedford has been vacant for three years, Tamminga said he saw RDM as directly responsible for the weekend party.
“There is no new restaurant operator, so the only people who had control of the building was RDM,” he said. “I think [the neighborhood board] will end up being fairly critical of this. It was quite the insult, quite the violation of covid regulations.”
The committee will officially vote as a group in January after La Spata’s office has had time to “re-evaluate” the proposal, Tamminga said.
La Spata declined to comment on the connection between RDM’s zoning change request and the illegal party, however, he did say in a statement his office “reached out to the owner of the property in an effort to learn more details.”
“I’m incredibly frustrated that a business would choose to act in complete disregard of both [city rules] and the governor’s economic restrictions,” La Spata said earlier this week. “In a time when so many of our businesses are being disciplined and making painful sacrifices, selfish actions like this hurt both our public health and economic recovery.”
Led by developer Robert Mosky, the RDM group owns a 33-unit apartment building at 1624 W. Division St. next to the bank building.
The group also owns a vacant lot at 1628 W. Division St., where RDM is tied up in a series of legal fights regarding the proposed construction of a high-rise apartment tower.
The project in question, a 16-story, 168-unit building, was approved by City Council last year following years of fierce neighborhood opposition.
Neighbor John Foote told Block Club he believed the RDM team should not be considered for zoning, building and liquor license approvals in the near future.
“I’m not in charge of anything, but I think an illegal 300-person party by a developer’s agent or unlicensed lessee shows a reckless disregard for liquor law and for public safety,” he said
Neighbor Ian Adams disagreed.
While he thought the party was a “public health disaster,” he believed the coronavirus violations and the zoning change request are “largely separate issues.”
If a restaurant group wants to invest in the location — while also revitalizing a vacant restaurant space — that’s a good thing for the neighborhood, Adams said.
“I think it should be more of a question of, ‘Does it make sense for the neighborhood?'” he said. “I generally tend to be in favor of new development in the area. … The potential to bring in new tax revenues is really valuable at a time when a lot of restaurants are shutting down.”
Neither The Vault/All Access nor RDM have responded to requests for comment.
Future votes on the matter will be open to dues-paying members of the committee, they said. Learn more about the organization here.
In the meantime, all neighbors can share feedback with the La Spata’s office here.
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