A few weeks ago, new 42nd Ward alderman Brendan Reilly swore that plans to demolish the historic Lake Shore Center, at 850 N. Lake Shore, were not a "fait accompli," despite the wishes of a couple of his ward's power brokers, property owner Northwestern University and developer Fifield Companies.
Turns out Reilly wasn't just talking tough. After weeks of outcry from preservationists, Reilly announced today that he's not going to back the NU-Fifield plan. That makes it very unlikely the city will go ahead and approve it.
"Throughout this process, Northwestern and Fifield have argued there is absolutely no economically viable reuse option that could save the Lake Shore [Center] from demolition," Reilly was quoted as saying in a press release. "Frankly, I am not persuaded by that argument. After meeting with many experienced architects, zoning attorneys, developers, and urban planning consultants, I believe economically viable reuse options do, in fact, exist (or can be developed) for this property and that every effort should be made to preserve and re-use the historic Lake Shore [Center]."
Reilly thanked the big boys whose multimillion-dollar plans he just sank, saying "we simply do not agree on what is the most responsible use for this property."
Responsible? That word wasn't invoked very often under the "Why not?" approach to building destruction and high-rise development under Mayor Daley's former downtown aldermen, Burton Natarus and Madeline Haithcock. While Reilly has taken pains to announce that his upset of Natarus this spring doesn't mean he's anti-Daley or anti-business, he used today's announcement to vow that developers will actually have to justify their plans before he signs off on them.
"As I continue to review development proposals for the 42nd Ward, I will do so in an open, objective and transparent manner," Reilly said in his statement. "Each project that I review will receive careful consideration and I will work hard to carefully weigh each decision by balancing the needs of the business community with the needs of local residents and the best interests of the city of Chicago."
Whatever you think of Reilly and his bluster, it should be noted that this last comment is PR-speak for a middle finger directed at Natarus.