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Emanuel opens door to Wrigley deck over Sheffield

An artist's rendering shows whone versideck over Sheffield Avenue could look like.

An artist's rendering shows what one version of a deck over Sheffield Avenue could look like.

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Updated: September 1, 2013 6:26AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday opened the door to resolving the dispute between the Cubs and rooftop club owners still standing in the way of renovating Wrigley Field by allowing a deck that would hover over and darken Sheffield Avenue.

“What I do know — which I thought was interesting given the usual rift that exists between the rooftops and the Ricketts [family] — here’s the one idea that the two of ’em agreed on,” Emanuel said.

“But it was brought up toward the end. It’s too soon to have shoe-horned it in to the planned development that City Council passed. ... The right way to do this — and what we all agreed to — was the alderman is gonna run a community process because the community has to be heard as they were throughout the process.”

Will DeMille, president of the Lake View Citizens Council, said local residents have “mixed feelings” about the Sheffield deck and its potential to create a darkened street below akin to Lower Wacker Drive.

“Some people are steadfastly opposed to putting the deck on Sheffield because of the concern about eliminating a parking lane. Some folks are opposed to any expansion onto that residential street,” he said.

“However, if there’s a new benefit to the community — by connecting the deck to the L platform and reducing pedestrian traffic — it definitely warrants further discussion to see if it’s possible.”

Jill Peters, president of the Southport Neighbors Association, said she has scheduled an Aug. 14 community meeting to present the plan.

“We are taking this into consideration in exchange for their agreement to remove the [pedestrian] bridge from Clark Street,” Peters said.

But, she quickly added, “I said from the beginning we didn’t want to see a party deck over Sheffield because of the potential for that to be perpetuated up and down the entire block and on Waveland. It is a private use of public space for private gain and they’ve already received a lot of compensation for the use of public way.”

Sources said a rooftop club owner first suggested the Sheffield deck, but it was confined to just a couple of buildings. The Cubs countered with a much larger deck that would extend for most of the block.

Ryan McLaughlin, a spokesman for the Wrigleyville Rooftop Association, issued a statement declaring the group’s opposition to, what he called, “this massive patio deck” on Sheffield.

But he said, “We look forward to continued conversations working towards a solution that do not block the views of the rooftop owners.”

Opposition from the two groups helped kill the Cubs’ plan for a pedestrian bridge over Clark Street.

Emanuel sloughed off the threat Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts made after last week’s unanimous City Council vote on the Wrigley project not to begin construction until the rooftops drop their threat of a lawsuit to block two massive outfield signs needed to bankroll the $500 million development.

“We reached an agreement on the planned development and Mr. Ricketts and the rooftops have the direction from both the mayor and City Council to continue discussions and bring them to a conclusion. I actually do believe they’re making good progress in those conversations,” the mayor said.

He added, “Wrigley is one of the few stadiums done in the last 20 years anywhere in the country that was not done with any taxpayer support. It is also the only stadium done in Chicago without taxpayer support and I’m proud of that.”

To further minimize the impact on rooftop views, the Cubs are exploring the possibility of building a 650-square-foot see-through sign in right field behind a deck that would hover over Sheffield.

That would require the right-field wall to be extended outward at least twice as much as previously planned — taking out a lane of traffic, instead of just a sidewalk.

Since the sign would be closer to the rooftops and lower, it would not block any of their bird’s-eye views.

In exchange, the Cubs want the rooftop owners to agree not to sue.

The plan is controversial because it would cover Sheffield from one side of the street to the other. Wrigleyville residents, who have already complained about giving up a lane of parking on Waveland and a sidewalk on Sheffield, will not be happy about that.

That’s why Emanuel is promising a “community process.”

Last week’s unanimous City Council vote gave Ricketts the go-ahead to begin five years of construction as soon as the regular season ends. But sources described the Cubs chairman as “adamant” about resolving outstanding rooftop issues before ordering materials and signing construction contracts.

The Cubs “only agreed to a 10-year moratorium on additional outfield signs” on the condition that the rooftops drop their threat of a lawsuit and the city “strictly enforce existing rooftop ordinances.”

The Ricketts family also was miffed by what they viewed as Ald. Tom Tunney’s “bizarre comments” on the council floor — particularly the alderman’s claim that the Cubs “are supposed to be a catalyst for the other businesses, not try to snuff them out.”

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