I invite you to attend a community meeting to review a proposal for “Howard Yards,” a mixed-use residential and entertainment complex on the southeast corner of Howard St. and Ashland Ave. The community meeting will be held TONIGHT (Monday), 7:00 p.m., at the Willye White Park Fieldhouse, 1610 W. Howard.
Howard Yards is the brainchild of Russian developer Boris Badenov. The proposal calls for a 20-story residential tower with 330 rental dwelling units, consisting of a mix of studios and one, two and three-bedroom units. If approved by the Chicago Plan Commission and the City Council, the tower will become Rogers Park’s first super tall skyscraper.
The developer is partnering with Live Nation to create a year-round entertainment complex on the first two floors of the development.
This represents a scaled-down version of the entertainment complex Live Nation proposed in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Instead of a 20,000-seat soccer stadium, Badenov and Live Nation are proposing for the first floor of the development a 2,000-seat indoor roller derby rink. The rink will serve as the new home of the Chicago Outfit, Chicago’s all-female flat track roller derby league.
The Howard Yards proposal also calls for an indoor, 400-seat music venue on the second floor of the development that will serve as the new home for a reborn Biddy Mulligan’s.
Longtime Rogers Park residents will recall the popular blues club once was located on Sheridan Road just north of Howard. Biddy’s closed its doors nearly 30 years ago, but in its heyday back in the 1970s and 80s, the club hosted all the top Chicago blues players, such as Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor, and Buddy Guy. And it drew other famous blues musicians from out-of-town, such as B.B. King, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Albert Collins, and Luther Allison.
The Rolling Stones once stopped by Biddy’s and played an impromptu concert while they were on tour in Chicago. Rumor has it Live Nation is negotiating with the Stones to perform at Biddy’s Mulligan’s grand reopening.
Hello Howard Community Garden, a garden maintained and operated by the Peterson Garden Project currently occupies this city-owned property. The use of the property as a community garden was intended to be only temporary until the property could be developed for commercial and/or residential use. But as a part of the negotiation process, I prevailed upon the developer to preserve Hello Howard by transforming it into a beautiful rooftop garden.
To underwrite the cost of maintaining the garden, the developer and Live Nation will take advantage of the breathtaking views of downtown Chicago and the lake afforded on the rooftop and rent Hello Howard in warm weather months for corporate events, as well as weddings, bar mitzvahs and funerals. Of course, they will host political fundraisers for free.
As an additional revenue generator, the developer plans to set aside a portion of the rooftop garden for a cannabis farm in anticipation of the State of Illinois legalizing the production and sale of marijuana.
The developer will invoke the City’s Transit Oriented Development Ordinance and provide no onsite parking. Instead, to encourage residents and patrons of the entertainment complex to use public transportation, the developer plans to enter into a joint venture with technology entrepreneur Elon Musk to provide a scaled-down version of Musk’s hyperloop. The high-speed transit system will whisk passengers from the development to the Howard Red Line Station in less than three seconds through a tunnel bored under the Howard Theater building.
The developer is requesting approval of the Howard Yards proposal as a Planned Development. The City Council also must vote to approve transferring the land, which is City-owned, to the developer. After a series of hard-fought negotiations, City Planning and Law Department officials agreed to sell the property to the developer for one dollar.
The developer will comply with the 20 percent affordable housing set aside requirement under the under the City’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance by building 10 percent of the units on site and the other 10 percent on Astor Street in Chicago’s “Gold Coast” neighborhood.
Significantly, the developer is NOT requesting Tax Increment Financing (TIF) assistance. Instead, he plans to finance the approximately $60 million development through a tried-and-true financing method–a 50/50 raffle. Tickets will be sold at $100 a piece to would-be investors, with the winner of the raffle receiving 50 percent of the proceeds and the remaining 50 percent used to finance the development.
As I want this amazing development to be a part of my enduring legacy, I have placed the development proposal on a fast track to lock it in before the end of my term as alderman.
The 49th Ward Zoning and Land Use Advisory Committee voted sight unseen to recommend I support the development proposal. It will be heard by the Plan Commission tomorrow morning, the City Council Committee on Zoning tomorrow afternoon, and voted on by the City Council Wednesday at its final meeting before the new council and mayor take over in May.
Developer Badenov will present his plans at tonight’s community meeting, together with his architect, Howard Roark, and zoning attorney, Lionel Hutz of the law firm Dewey Chetham and Howe.
I encourage you to attend the meeting to offer your opinions and suggestions regarding the new development. If you are unable to attend the meeting, please share your thoughts with me by replying to this email.
As I’ve already decided to support the proposed development. I will respond only to accolades and “attaboys.”
In the meantime, enjoy this first day of April.