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Developer faces higher bar at old Children’s Memorial site

The plans for old Children’s Memorial Hospital site called for two high-rises. Now Daniel McCaffery is working new plans.

The plans for the old Children’s Memorial Hospital site called for two high-rises. Now Daniel McCaffery is working on new plans. | Artist’s rendering

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Updated: September 23, 2012 6:20AM

After more than 50 community meetings that featured generous helpings of criticism and praise, developer Daniel McCaffery finds himself with more to do before he can redevelop the old Children’s Memorial Hospital site in Lincoln Park.

Last week, Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) rejected McCaffery’s plan to build on the old hospital’s six acres. She had earlier spoken favorably of the proposal’s incorporation of open space in what she termed as a “new neighborhood crossroads.”

But that open space — about an acre — concentrated the moneymaking density elsewhere on the site near the Lincoln-Fullerton-Halsted intersection. Groups such as the Park West Community Association and the Mid-North Association didn’t like the introduction of two residential high-rises. They were 25 and 21 stories, and McCaffery also proposed a 14-story hotel.

Smith cited density and the burden on local schools in explaining her opposition and promised to work with the developer on an improved approach.

McCaffery, chairman of McCaffery Interests Inc., said he’s got his architects working on new ideas but doesn’t know when they’ll be ready. “It’s very easy to say it’s too dense, it’s too high, but if you take that out, maybe some of the community benefits we included have got to go,” he said.

Features that developers include as design sweeteners can be costly. For the Children’s property, McCaffery said they include off-street, underground loading for the retail and residential complex, retention of some old buildings most in the neighborhood like and two “pocket parks” that were in his site plan. But he said he’s not inclined to want to demolish the older buildings, saying that to take that approach “would be an emotional response.”

APARTMENT UPTICK: Suburban real estate has taken a few beatings lately, some of them administered in this column. So it’s only fair to mention that if you are a landlord, the suburban rental market looks great, based on the reckoning of Appraisal Research Counselors. If you’re a renter, don’t expect concessions.

In its report covering the second quarter, Appraisal Research said the average occupancy rate, now 95.2 percent, continues to rise. Rents are rising in the year-over-year comparisons and investor interest is acute because buyers sense yields that are higher than they can get elsewhere.

Typical “cap rates,” a measure of expected yields, are about 6.29 percent in suburban deals, the largest of which this year has been John Hancock’s $87.25 million purchase of the 409-unit Avalon Arlington Heights complex.

More properties could be headed to market. CBRE Group Inc. said Greenwood Capital enlisted it to market the Autumn Chase Apartments, a 550-unit building in Hoffman Estates. CBRE said it expects bids around $60 million, translating into about a 6 percent cap rate.

PRENTICE FOLLIES: It has been more than a month since I wrote about the campaign to convince Northwestern University that it should save its former Prentice Women’s Hospital at 333 E. Superior. Since then, preservationists have stepped up their pressure on City Hall to save the building via landmark designation, and Northwestern has started a public relations campaign over the supposed benefits of condemning it. The campaign is an embarrassment for a school of Northwestern’s caliber.

Called “Finding Tomorrow’s Cures,” it alleges that only by tearing down the Bertrand Goldberg-designed building can it add to its medical research and save lives. Nobody will buy that argument if they know that the school’s allied institution, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, controls almost two square blocks immediately south of Prentice that are vacant. These institutions share real estate all the time. All that bars them from doing it again and selling Prentice is bullheadedness.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel hasn’t let the school raze the building because it has no immediate plans to build a replacement, despite the life-saving urgency its campaign implies. He needs to get a few key board members from the university and the hospital in the same room to hash out a deal. A little effort will make everyone look good and give university administrators the kick they need.

DOING THE DEALS: Meijer has opened one of its smaller-format “marketplace” stores in the Cermak Plaza, 7111 W. Cermak in Berwyn. But it’s still quite substantial, totaling more than 91,000 square feet and promising 180 jobs. Berwyn Development Corp. worked to get Meijer. . . . The Oakbrook Center mall in Oak Brook has started a renovation of its common areas, work that is not expected to affect store or restaurant operations. . . . Ground was broken last week for an 80-apartment building at 1700 Central St., Evanston. Developers Anthony Rossi Sr., Tom Moran and Robert Horne expect occupancies next July. . . . McShane Construction Co. is handling the renovation of 75 apartments under contract with the Housing Authority of Cook County. The buildings are in Chicago Heights and Ford Heights.

David Roeder reports on real estate at 6:22 p.m. Thursdays on WBBM-AM (780) and WBBM-FM (105.9). The reports are repeated at 10:22 p.m. Thursday and 7:22 a.m. Sunday.

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