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Mayor Emanuel must be Cubs MVP, says neighbor angry over revised Wrigley development

Then-Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel Wrigley Field February 2011.  |  Sun-Times files

Then-Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel at Wrigley Field in February 2011. | Sun-Times files

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Updated: December 23, 2013 3:04PM

The Cubs got the go-ahead Thursday to take another ten feet of street and sidewalk — and sell advertising on a “branding arch” over Clark Street — over the objections of residents who live around 99-year-old Wrigley Field.

Area residents were so angry about the Chicago Plan Commission’s decision to enlarge the stadium footprint at their expense to accommodate wider aisles, more concessions and a larger Budweiser deck, they branded Mayor Rahm Emanuel the team’s “most valuable player” for 2013.

Jim Spencer, who lives a block away from Wrigley, said the total amount of land now “given” to the billionaire Ricketts family that owns the Cubs now totals 41,397 square feet on Waveland and on Sheffield. Fifty-six parking spaces will be lost.

“The mayor has proven to be the Cubs’ most valuable player for 2013 as he has trampled our rights, trampled our neighborhood — all for the good of the Cubs,” Spencer said.

“It is shocking to know the mayor is so willing to give billionaire owners of the Cubs public land so they can increase their profit margins while the residents of the 19th District are told there isn’t enough money to hire more police to replace the nearly 70 officers we’ve lost in the last 18 months. . . . Narrower streets and sidewalks and eliminating all of the parking so the Cubs can make money from what is essentially a beer and event deck is unacceptable to us.”

Area resident David Dalka urged the Plan Commission to take a stand against what he called the Cubs’ “ever-evolving, not-ending change in plans.” It now includes an unprecedented, revenue-generating gateway arch.

“It’s going to destroy traffic flow in a neighborhood that already has dysfunctional traffic,” Dalka said.

Local resident Robert Roberts said he, too, would like to build a deck over Sheffield to increase the property value of his home.

“I wouldn’t ask the city for any money. Only that you don’t charge me for the land. You don’t charge me for the air space. And, oh by the way, I’m also going to need the street to be shut down. And you’ve got to get rid of parking for me,” he said.

“If I was seriously asking for that, you’d laugh me out of the room. Yet, this is what we’re discussing today,” Roberts said.

Local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) acknowledged that the “Sheffield experience will be different,” thanks to the revised stadium renovation plan approved Thursday. But, he said, the Cubs are prepared to offer parking in team lots on non-game days to residents whose street spaces will be lost.

Cubs Vice-President and General Counsel Mike Lufrano argued that the ad-bearing branding arch over Clark is a fair trade-off for the pedestrian bridge scrapped at Tunney’s behest. There’s a similar bridge bearing the White Sox logo over 35th Street near U.S. Cellular Field.

As for the claim that Emanuel has been the Cubs’ 2013 MVP, Lufrano said, “Remember, this is $300 million of private investment in the ballpark — $500 million overall in the community. It’s really unprecedented in our industry to have a project like this entirely privately funded.”

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts has said repeatedly he won’t begin construction on his $500 million plan to renovate Wrigley and develop the land around it until rooftop club owners agree not to sue to block two massive outfield signs needed to bankroll the project.

Asked Thursday when the team would finally begin construction, Lufrano would only say, “We’re getting very close…Stay tuned.”


Twitter: @fspielman

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