August 23, 2013 – As reported by Steve Dahlman, Loop North News
The condo association that is suing the City of Chicago to stop development of Wolf Point came out swinging in its response to a motion by the city to dismiss the complaint.
Attorneys for The Residences at Riverbend say the city “effectively suspended its zoning standards and regulations in order to benefit a politically connected family.”
Riverbend’s attorneys, Richard Kessler and Joseph Jacobi of McDonald Hopkins LLC, say the city denied the condo association a fair hearing “by concealing information and precluding [them] from effectively presenting their objections.”
They say the city, in approving the zoning amendment that allows the project, ignored the requirements of its own zoning ordinance, the 2009 master plan for the Downtown Central Area, design standards and guidelines for building structures adjacent to the Chicago River, and a 2012 nature conservation plan.
“Despite these extraordinary events, the city seeks dismissal of the complaint,” writes Kessler and Jacobi incredulously in their response that was filed in U.S. District Court on August 13.
Even as neighbors, Riverbend condo owners, say their attorneys, do have property interests in Wolf Point that are protected by state and federal laws – and they have sufficiently argued that development of Wolf Point will cause “immediate and definite injury to their property interests.”
The city now has until August 27 to reply to the response. A status hearing is scheduled for November 5.
August 13, 2013
The Residents at Riverbend Condominium Association have filed their legal response to void the zoning of the proposed Wolf Point project.
In their response, they describe in detail “how the City of Chicago effectively suspended its zoning standards and regulations in order to benefit a politically connected family.”
This response goes on to state that “based upon a lapsed planned development ordinance, the City contravened or ignored the following in approving a massive, three building project on a small piece of property (“Wolf Point”) at the Confluence of the Chicago River:
(a) the requirements of its own zoning ordinance;
(b) the 2009 master plan for the Downtown Central Area;
(c) the design standards and guidelines for building structures adjacent to the Chicago River; and
(d) the City’s 2012 nature conservation plan.
In the process, the City denied Plaintiffs a fair hearing by concealing information and precluding Plaintiffs from effectively presenting their objections to the Wolf Point project.”
To view the complete filed legal response in detail CLICK HERE
July 31 Estimated Construction Start Date Passes
August 13, 2013 as reported by Loop North News
Attorneys for a condominium suing to stop the development of Wolf Point had until Tuesday to respond to a motion by the City of Chicago to dismiss their case.
The Residences at Riverbend Condominium Association is suing the city, trying to get the zoning amendment that allowed the project voided. On July 9, the city entered a motion to dismiss that lawsuit, filed on May 30, saying the plaintiffs do not own property on the actual planned development where three towers will be built and even if they did, the zoning amendment that allowed the project was approved properly.
Riverbend’s attorneys, Richard Kessler and Joseph Jacobi of McDonald Hopkins LLC, had until August 6 to respond but were unable to meet the deadline due to “commitments in other matters.”
Attorneys for the city agreed to a seven-day extension. U.S. District Court judge Amy J. St. Eve granted the extension on August 6. A reply is due on or before August 27. The next status hearing is scheduled for October 29.
The plan is to build the towers one at a time at Wolf Point near where the Chicago River splits into its north and south branches. In May, Thomas Kerwin of bKL Architecture, the building’s architects, said construction of the first tower would begin on July 31. More than two weeks past that date, construction does not appear to have started on the site. Reached on Tuesday, Kerwin did not know of the new schedule.
Kim Jagger, director of corporate communications for Hines, the project’s developer, said on Tuesday they “don’t have anything to share right now.”
When the city council amended the zoning ordinance for Wolf Point on March 13, to allow construction of one 525-foot 510-unit residential tower on the west side, the condo association at Riverbend claims they were “deprived of procedural and substantive due process of law as well as denied equal protection under the law.”
The project will eventually include a 950-foot south tower and a 750-foot east tower.
Related story: City moves to dismiss Wolf Point suit
June 10, 2013
Friends of Wolf Point support the Complaint filed recently against the City of Chicago in Federal Court by the Riverbend Condominium Association.
The Complaint lists the blatant irregularities in the Kennedy/Hines development plan for the Wolf Point property, approved by the City, in violation of its own rules and regulations.
Below is a brief description of the facts alleged in the complaint (which you can read in its entirety by CLICKING HERE).
1. “Planned Development for Wolf Point” was created in 1973 to encourage development in the Fulton River and River North areas.
2. For almost 40 years, the owner of Wolf Point (WP) Property performed no meaningful development on the site.
3. During that same period, extensive development in the River North and Fulton River Districts has rendered meaningless the original purpose of the Planned Development and demonstrated the lack of need by the community for the development legislated in the Planned Development.
4. After failing to develop the WP Property over a 39-year period, the owner filed an application on May 30, 2012 to amend the zoning ordinance, which no longer existed by reason of lapse.
5. This amended Plan Development is contrary to the comprehensive plan and development adopted by the City of Chicago Plan Commission.
6. The amended WP Plan Development violates the mandatory restrictions on the development of property within 100 feet of the Chicago River, including the mandatory 30-foot minimum setback from the top of the bank along all points of the waterway adjacent to the river (less a possible 10-foot encroachment permitted variance, allowed in some instances).
7. The WP Property’s hardship (barred from obstructing the view south of the Apparel Center in two places mid-site) was self-created as the result of having previously monetized that view by selling view rights to the buyers of the Apparel Mart as part of two different transactions, resulting in the “need” to build along the edges of the site.
8. The WP Plan Development fails to protect and conserve the existing natural resources.
9. The WP Developers’ traffic study, plus several revisions, have failed to disclose the full impact of increased traffic as a result of the construction on the property and the subsequent great increase in traffic in and out of the site on a daily basis.
10. Wolf Point Plaza Drive, the only entrance and exit from the peninsula, which abuts only one street, is inadequate to allow access for multiple emergency vehicles in the case of an emergency or disaster on the WP Property.
11. By designating Wolf Point Plaza Drive as part of the buildable square footage (calling it “private property”), the net site area of WP has been artificially increased in order to achieve the highest possible density for the site. This sole access road, whether or not it has been formally dedicated to public use, is not able to be built upon and, therefore, has been incorrectly included in the buildable square footage and density allowed for the site.
12. The Wolf Point Development construction schedule is open-ended. The developers purport to create a multi-phase development, but no specific construction schedule has been provided for the completion of the project. A multi-phase development is required to proceed according to a specific schedule according to its development ordinance. Otherwise the planned development will lapse and become null and void.
13. The density of the development, almost 4,000,000 square feet, is inappropriate for the reasons stated above and because the proposed development is not compatible with the character of the area.
14. The process that led to the adoption of the amended Plan Development deprived the community of key information relating to traffic congestion and severely limited the community’s ability to develop and present relevant evidence during the formal approval process.
15. Federal and state procedural due process rights have been denied.
16. Federal and state substantive due process rights have been denied.
17. Federal and state equal protection has been denied by the creation of a special class of property which is treated differently from other property: The WP Property is exempt from compliance with the City of Chicago Central Area Action Plan, the various provisions of the Chicago Zoning Ordinance, the Nature Plan and the Nature Plan Update.
To read the Complaint in its entirety…CLICK HERE.
Crain’s Chicago Business
By Alby Gullun, May 31, 2013
After losing in City Hall, opponents of a massive development planned on Wolf Point have taken their fight to the federal courts, where they have sued to block the project.
A condominium association representing residents of a high-rise across the river has sued the city of Chicago, alleging that the process by which it approved the three-tower plan for Wolf Point was unconstitutional.
The 37-page lawsuit includes a litany of complaints, contending at one point that the project “will result in the significant diminution” in the value of the condos in Residences at RiverBend. that the project “will result in the significant diminution” in the value of the condos in Residences at RiverBend.
(Get the facts! You can read the specific complaint by CLICKING HERE.)
The high-rise stands across the Chicago River from Wolf Point, an undeveloped peninsula where the river’s north and south branches meet. Wolf Point’s developers want to build three towers that would block eastern views from RiverBend, some of the mos spectacular views of the Chicago River in the city.
The City Council approved the Wolf Point plan in March, and the developers, a joint venture of the Kennedy family and Hines Interests L.P., plan to break ground this summer on the first of three towers, an apartment building. A tie-up in court could delay that timetable. A court victory for the condo association could force the city to start the approval process all over again.
The city denied opponents of the project their due process rights by not allowing them to cross-examine witnesses at public hearings about the plan and not providing them requested information about the development’s impact on traffic, according to the lawsuit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Opponents of the development have said the streets around Wolf Point are too congested already.
In addition to the planned 507-unit, 525-foot-tall apartment building, the development would include two skyscrapers, possibly with office space, one stretching as high as 950 feet and the other one as tall as 750 feet.
The lawsuit alleges that the current development plan is invalid because it’s an amendment of an old plan that had lapsed. The plan also violates city guidelines regarding setbacks along the Chicago River, according to the complaint.
The city said in a statement that it “acted in accordance with all applicable laws and ordinances. The city is confident that the planned development is indeed constitutional, and are confident that we will prevail in this case.”
Hines declined to comment.
Three residents of RiverBend also have signed on as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including Ellen Barry, leader of the Friends of Wolf Point, a group formed last year to fight the proposed development.
The plan approved by the city “will cause (RiverBend property owners) to suffer a significant loss in value of their property and a loss in the quiet enjoyment of their property due to the increase in noise, traffic and light pollution caused by the development of Wolf Point,” the complaint says.
Vigore Magazine: “The Wolf Point Development Will Add To The City’s Congestion and Further Diminish Chicago’s Skyline”
May 10, 2013
Source: Vigore Magazine – May issue
According to the May issue of Vigore Magazine, the planned construction of three massive skyscrapers at Wolf Point will “add to the city’s congestion and further diminish Chicago’s skyline.”
They describe the need for Wolf Point to have a “better plan, one that will enhance the area with intelligent development, improved quality of life for it’s residence and preserve Chicago as the ‘jewel of the Midwest.’”
Their beautifully illustrated, two-page article, LOST FOREVER CHICAGO: City of Views is pictured below and can be read in its entirely by CLICKING HERE.
May 8, 2013
Source: Loop North News
Story by Steven Dahlman
The first of three towers at Chicago’s Wolf Point will start to take shape on July 31, according to the building’s architects.
Thomas Kerwin of bKL Architecture says plans for a groundbreaking ceremony have not been announced. bKL designed the 525-foot, 510-unit residential tower that will be the first building constructed – which should take about 22 months, according to Kerwin.
James McHugh Construction Company and Clark Construction Group, both of Chicago, will be working together as general contractors.
Pictured above is a photograph of an architectural model of the 525-foot residential tower that will be the first of three buildings constructed at Wolf Point near Merchandise Mart. Photo obtained from bKL Architecture, the Chicago firm commissioned to design the tower.
On February 26, the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards approved a zoning reclassification that will let developers build the tower on the west side of Wolf Point. The tower will cost $175 million and create 400 construction jobs, according to Jack George, an attorney for Houston-based Hines Interests L.P., developer of the 3.85-acre site on land owned by the Kennedy family.
The project will eventually include a 950-foot south tower and a 750-foot east tower that will both contain a mix of office, retail, and residential space.
Friends of Wolf Point, a vocal critic of the project that was concerned that the increase in traffic would overwhelm their neighborhood, appears to have moved on. The group’s website was recently taken down although the domain name they registered last year does not expire until 2015. (Note from Friends of Wolf Point: This last statement is inaccurate. There were some technical difficulties requiring the website to go down for a few days. The website is now up and running and will continue as before).
The City Council’s Zoning Committee Likes the Wolf Point Development So Much, They Approved it Twice!
by Ben Joravsky
From The Chicago Reader
February 27, 2013
The City Council’s zoning committee likes the Wolf Point development so much, they approved it twice!
On Tuesday, the City Council’s zoning committee unanimously recommended approval of the zoning change needed to begin construction on the massive Wolf Point project.
No big surprise there. Mayor Emanuel wanted the deal done, so everybody fell in line, as they usually do in Chicago.
Guess we’re just a fall-in-line kind of town.
The only curiosity is why it keeps taking so long, as once again the approval process was delayed.
If you recall, the plan commission—an advisory board appointed by the mayor—was all set to OK the project at its meeting on November 27, 2012.
But then, on November 26—as in, the day before the meeting—residents happened to discover, while sifting through legal documents, that the developers were seeking approval to construct up to 1,800 hotel units on the site, which sits on the banks of the Chicago River near the Kinzie Street bridge.
That’s 1,800 more hotel units than the developers said they wanted to build there. Somehow the developers managed to go through months of meeting with the locals—many of whom didn’t want the project—without mentioning that the project would have any hotel units.
Must have slipped their minds.
The locals rose up angry. Alderman Brendan Reilly—who looked foolish for having passionately endorsed the project without apparently knowing anything about the 1,800 hotel units—asked the plan commission to take the project off its agenda.
Thus giving the developers time for another community meeting.
When all was said and done, the developers agreed to build only up to 450 units. Which is exactly 450 more than they’d originally called for. So you could say they compromised or you could say they got away with bloody murder.
You make the call.
On January 24, the plan commission approved the project, sending it to the zoning committee, which approved it on Monday, February 11.
Surprisingly, no residents showed up for that February 11 meeting even though dozens of them vociferously oppose the project for all the usual reasons having to do with density and traffic.
And why didn’t they show up to the zoning meeting?
“Because we didn’t know the project was on the agenda,” says Ellen Barry, a member of Friends of Wolf Point, which opposes the project. “I got a call from someone asking, ‘Where were you?’ I said, ‘What do you mean, where was I?’ And they say, ‘The zoning committee just approved Wolf Point.’”
Barry says that she and her neighbors looked on the committee’s agenda two days before the meeting and Wolf Point wasn’t there. Even though City Council rules say items must be on the agenda a full 48 hours before they’re voted on.
We know about this 48-hour rule because it was a big issue last July in the elected-school-board battle.
That’s when ten aldermen wanted the council’s human relations committee to have a referendum in their wards, asking voters if they want to move from a mayor-appointed school board to an elected one.
But in that case, Alderman Joe Moore, chairman of that committee, wouldn’t allow the matter to be heard because its aldermanic sponsors fell a few minutes short of meeting the 48-hour agenda-posting deadline. Thus Moore managed to piss off pretty much every school activist from Roseland to Rogers Park, while winning the everlasting appreciation of Mayor Emanuel.
Again proving that one mayor is worth more than at least 10,000 ordinary citizens.
But back to Wolf Point . . .
The city says they were late getting the item on the agenda because they had to fix a typo in one of its legal documents.
Barry and her allies filed a motion demanding that the zoning committee have another meeting on the matter on the grounds that they’d violated the sacred 48-hour rule.
The committee had no choice but to go along with Barry’s request, if only to avoid looking like total hypocrites.
And so it was that on Tuesday the zoning committee approved the Wolf Point project again. The only suspense was which alderman would praise Mayor Emanuel the most.
As always, there were many contenders.
Alderman James Cappleman lauded the “expert feedback from our city departments.”
Alderman Danny Solis declared that “in my tenure as being chairman of this committee, I’ve never seen a more comprehensive effort.”
And Alderman Reilly said, “It’s been a lengthy process that really worked.”
Just so you know, the aldermanic suck-up competition over Wolf Point is not over. The zoning change now moves to the full council, where such heavyweight mayoral apple polishers as aldermen Ed Burke and Patrick O’Connor will get to do their thing.
They ought to sell tickets to that one.
February 13, 2013 — Source: Chicago Real Estate Daily
The Wolf Point project has hit another bump in the road.
Chicago’s City Council was unable to vote today on a plan to allow a three-tower development on the riverside property because its zoning committee’s public notice gave the incorrect date to consider the controversial proposal.
The committee mistakenly listed March 11 instead of Feb. 11 as the date it would convene following a late-January Plan Commission vote approving the Wolf Point plans, a city spokesman said.
The mistake wasn’t corrected within 48 hours of Monday’s meeting, the minimum amount of time required to provide notice about public hearings, the spokesman said. That rendered void the zoning committee’s unanimous vote on Monday to approve the Wolf Point plan.
A final City Council vote on Wolf Point was expected today. Ald. Daniel Solis (25th), the chairman of the committee, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
For Wolf Point’s developers, a venture between Houston-based Hines Interests L.P. and the Kennedy family, it’s another delay in an approval process that stretches back at least to last May, when the group unveiled plans for the site, a property southwest of the Merchandise Mart that juts out into the Chicago River.
The project was on track for approval by November, but then Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) twice delayed a plan commission vote on the deal, criticizing what he said were changes to the project that weren’t vetted by the public. He later swung to full support of Wolf Point after the developers revised their proposal.
The zoning committee is expected to re-hear the Wolf Point plan at its meeting on Feb. 26, the city spokesman said.
The full City Council isn’t scheduled to meet again until March 13.
A Hines executive declined to comment.
Wolf Point neighbors ask city council to delay approval
February 13, 2012 – Source: Marina City Online
Dozens of neighbors living near Wolf Point signed a petition asking the City Council to defer consideration of the development plan. Residents “have been denied due process” because of the lack of public notice, the petition said.
The project is divided into three phases, the first being a 525-foot, 510-unit residential tower on the west side of the 3.85-acre site near Merchandise Mart. On land owned by the Kennedy family, Houston-based Hines Interests L.P. wants to eventually build a 950-foot south tower and a 750-foot east tower that would both contain a mix of office, retail, and residential space.
According to a motion submitted to the council on Wednesday by Friends of Wolf Point, “many citizens of Chicago” are opposed to the plan.
After being approved by the Chicago Plan Commission on January 24, the project passed the city council’s committee on zoning, landmarks, and building standards on February 11 – but says the group, the project was not on any official agenda.
They say it is “a clear violation” of city rules concerning public meetings.
“Many persons affected by the proposed amendment have been denied due process in connection with this proposed legislation,” reads the motion, “in violation of their rights under the United States and State of Illinois constitutions and Illinois statutes.”
Friends of Wolf Point wants the council to defer its decision until “correct and valid public notice” is given.
January 26, 2012 — Chicago Tribune
It’s official! Despite some push-back and criticism from area residents, the Chicago Plan Commission voted unanimously to approve Phase 1 of the three-tower Wolf Point project.
Ald. Brendan Reilly, whose stance was uncertain leading up the vote, ultimately came out in support of the $1 billion proposal.
But before any ground can be broken, developer Hines Interests still needs to secure additional approvals from the Zoning Committee and City Council.
The commission’s decision paves the way for construction of the 525-foot West Tower, a 510-unit rental building designed by BKL Architecture, and installation of the first 400 feet of new riverwalk.