IRVING PARK — Northwestern Medicine’s plan to build a $150 million medical facility at the site of the former Sabatino’s restaurant has won the support of Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th).
Northwestern announced the alderman’s backing for the project in a Feb. 16 joint statement.
Gardiner’s support comes after nearly a year of discussions Northwestern had with neighbors and the alderman about the project’s design to find a compromise that will “best suit the residents of the 45th Ward,” according to the statement.
“I continue to hear the need and desire to bring quality developments to our Six Corners and surrounding areas including Old Irving Park. The residents of Old Irving want quality businesses that will be an anchor for other developments,” Gardiner said at a Feb. 10 meeting on the project.
Northwestern began meeting with Gardiner in April about the project and discussed it with Old Irving Park Association and other neighbors at least eight times, according to a timeline provided by Northwestern.
Adrienne Chan, Old Irving Park Association’s president, said her group supports the project because of the concessions Northwestern made to its original plan.
The initial plan proposed a five-story medical building with retail space. But after those discussions, Northwestern went back to the drawing board in the fall to scale back the project. It returned with a four-story building with a 350-space underground parking lot.
The parking design will add $7 million to the project’s price tag, the developer said.
“These [concessions] are some of the best solutions here on the issues that really impact the community such as traffic flow, noise and sound,” Chan said at the Feb. 10 meeting.
The project will still need city approval for a zoning change, but representatives for Northwestern previously said they expect to break ground on the development by the fall.
But at least 27 neighbors calling themselves Advancing Old Irving Park say the revisions Northwestern made still won’t do enough to address potential traffic congestion on nearby side streets that already clog during rush hours, especially on Cubs game days.
Those neighbors signed a Feb. 12 open letter to Gardiner, Old Irving Park Association and city officials acknowledging there is wide support for the “project in spirit” but more meaningful discussion about its scope and impact to traffic, among other things, should be made before the city approves it.
“We strongly disagree with the statement that a number of changes were addressed that we, as neighbors, requested,” the letter said. “We feel that this pause is necessary so that the decision makers and concerned residents can have an open and free discussion of the factors that concern us.”
People who live near the proposed facility previously told Block Club more revisions need to be made to the parking lot design, which is slated to be accessed from Kilbourn Avenue.
The developers plan to widen Kilbourn Avenue to allow for more traffic flow. Signs will direct drivers coming in and out of the building’s parking lot to not cut through the neighborhood to enter and exit the property, Northwestern said.
Additionally, a streetlight will be added to Irving Park Road and Kilbourn to reduce congestion, speed bumps are being proposed on the streets around the building to reduce speeding and drivers will be able to exit the parking lot via the alley behind the building.
But neighbors worry even with these revisions, traffic headaches on their side streets will get worse because Northwestern estimates 2,600 car trips will happen per day from building staff and patients once the project is built.
“I absolutely plan to voice my concerns about this project when it goes before the city’s zoning department,” said Scott McDonald, who lives near the project and who signed the letter.
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