LINCOLN PARK — Construction fencing surrounds what used to be the privately owned Julia Porter Park, prompting some Lincoln Park neighbors to take to social media to ask what’s happening to the open space at a prominent corner.
The park — at the three-way intersection of Fullerton Avenue, Halsted Street and Lincoln Avenue — was once part of the site of Children’s Memorial Hospital before the land was sold to Sterling Bay development firm in 2019. Now, it’s set to become a five-story apartment building at a location steeped in history.
The park is named after Julia Porter, a woman who founded the city’s first children’s hospital in 1882 after the death of her 13-year-old son, according to a Chicago Tribune report. It was named Maurice Porter Memorial Hospital, and it was a predecessor to Children’s Memorial Hospital and Lurie Children’s Hospital.
The park named in her honor has long been privately owned but open to the public. It was built as a placeholder for an expected expansion of the hospital’s research center that never happened, according to a hospital spokesperson.
Before the park existed, the intersection housed an apartment building where notorious bank robber John Dillinger once lived, according to the Tribune. He was gunned down by federal agents in an alley just north of the intersection on July 22, 1934, after seeing a movie up the street at the Biograph Theater.
When Children’s Memorial moved to Streeterville and became Lurie Children’s Hospital, it sold its Lincoln Park land to Sterling Bay. That firm held onto the land for a few years before selling the parcel that includes Julia Porter Park to developer Mike Breheny around November.
Breheny plans to transform the lot into a five-story apartment building with room for a restaurant on its first floor. The first floor of the building has 4,200 square feet of retail space with another 1,500 square feet of covered exterior space, Breheny said.
“We’re looking for a restaurant, which would be a great use for the space,” Breheny said.
Breheny’s plans for the lot fall within its existing zoning code, so the property is being built “as of right,” meaning it doesn’t require any aldermanic approval.
The building started construction in February and will feature 36 apartment units, with about 60 percent being three-bedroom, 25 percent two-bedroom and the remaining 15 percent four-bedroom units. Their pricing is still being determined.
The building is a transit-oriented development with 27 on-site parking spaces on the ground floor, Breheny said. Transit-oriented developments are allowed to have a reduced number of parking spots if they are close to a train stop or bus route.
“I think this building will be a good addition to the neighborhood with some bigger units for the area and hopefully some really nice retail there on the corner,” Breheny said.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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