At last, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) has agreed to the Wrigley Field renovation deal hammered out by the Cubs and the City of Chicago. The Chicago Plan Commission approved the deal Thursday afternoon following ... believe it or not, some compromising:
With a surprise endorsement from local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), the Chicago Plan Commission on Thursday approved the Cubs’ $500 million plan to renovate Wrigley Field and develop the land around it. Tunney’s acquiescence — after another round of concessions from the Cubs and a promise to "continue dialogue" about a controversial pedestrian bridge over Clark Street — appears to avert a City Council floor fight over aldermanic privilege that would have been a bitter redux of the 2008 showdown over a Children’s Museum in Grant Park. "We’ve now arrived at the point where I have no objections to this project," Tunney said, noting that the mayor has assured him there will "no additional outfield signs for many years to come if we pass these." He added, "The Cubs are an important and valued business stakeholder in my ward . . . this is about retaining the most valuable hospitality asset we have in the city."
At last, Tunney acknowledges that this deal is good for his ward and for the city, so it can move forward. There were some comments by local residents at the Plan Commission meeting that claimed Wrigleyville was being turned into "Rickettsville", but nothing further to that was explained or added. Some expressed concern about the bridge that's in the proposal from the proposed hotel across Clark Street from Wrigley Field, but the Cubs have addressed potential issues this way:
Under hostile questioning from Plan Commission members, Cubs Vice-President Mike Lufrano said the team is "seriously considering" covering the open-air pedestrian bridge to appease Tunney, who’s afraid of drunken fans tossing bottles and cans.
As was pointed out on Twitter by many, people can't drink from open containers on Chicago streets now, so this should be a non-issue. There's no reason a fence can't be put on this pedestrian bridge in such a way to keep the "open-air" character of it, while still preventing people from tossing things onto the street.
Fran Spielman tweeted this during the meeting:
Central Lakeview neighbors rep says pedestrian bridges over streets are "rare and usually reserved for hospitals." Urges no vote.— Fran Spielman (@fspielman) July 18, 2013
Which prompted this response -- by BCB member kaseyi:
Heh. Heh. There's a real lack of understanding of this project by almost everyone who hasn't studied it, and it appears many of the local neighbors haven't.
In any case, the Plan Commission's approval was really the final hurdle for the Cubs; next up is the full City Council, but with Tunney now on board, their approval is expected, and this project can get started. Five years or so from now, the Cubs will have their renovated and restored Wrigley Field -- probably have some parts of it by next year or 2015 at the latest -- and the Cubs will then have a ballpark with fan and player amenities to match any of the modern parks, and the history of Wrigley, too.
It shouldn't have taken them so long, but I'm glad it is, at last, a done deal.