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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Destroy Ohio St. Beach

Burt Natarus, and the City of Chicago seem intent upon destroying a key asset of the lakefront, namely the Ohio St. Beach.

From the Trib
With pressure mounting to fill a vacant lot at 600 N. Lake Shore Drive, a scheduled Chicago City Council Zoning Committee meeting Wednesday may set the stage for a final loss. Committee members will consider a new proposal to build a pair of condominium towers at the Streeterville site whose combined shadows on late-August afternoons would cover about 75 percent of the beach used by several hundred thousand people a year.

"We're losing one of the city's most precious assets," said Arani McHose, who has been among a handful of local residents to oppose the luxury development actively. It is scheduled to be completed by 2010. "We don't have as many people fighting against it this time."

I'm curious about this phrase: pressure mounting. Who is mounting pressure?

The 46-story and 40-story towers--to be developed by Chicago-based Belgravia Group Ltd.--would join a Streeterville neighborhood gleaming with hotels, luxury condominiums and four-star restaurants. Prices for the development's 401 units would range from about $400,000 to more than $1.4 million. Next door, a 33-story W Chicago-Lakeshore hotel already towers over Lake Shore Drive, casting its shadow onto the lake on the beach's northern edge.

So, sell million dollar condos, but destroy one of the few beaches downtown. Great.

Created in 1916 and expanded during the early 1980s, Ohio Street Beach is a favorite for families with children because of its calm waters that, thanks to an extended sea wall, remain shallow for more than 50 yards, neighbors say. Lauded on tourist Web sites for its convenience to downtown, the beach is also popular among out-of-town visitors staying in Streeterville's luxury hotels.

"It doesn't do any good to have a beach without sun," said Brendan Duffy, a Streeterville resident who uses the beach in the late afternoons with his 17-month-old son Charlie. "Most people around here use it in the early mornings or late afternoons, when they have time to come out."

Duffy is among a core group of residents who during the last two weeks have been passing out fliers warning beach-goers of the "cold, dark shadow" approaching. They've launched a Web site,, and are considering filing a lawsuit to stall the project based on what they say is a violation of the city's Lakefront Protection Ordinance. That law is meant primarily to keep new development from occurring east of Lake Shore Drive.

"The developer should be required to pay a shadow-assessment fee or to build an appropriate beach [nearby] to replace what they're taking away from the public here," Duffy said.

ha, fat chance. Says Alan Lev, president of Belgravia, "more concessions are unlikely"

Natarus jumped in to remind voters who is most important to him, developers, and their fat expense accounts....

Ald. Burton Natarus (42nd) said it's crucial to fill the vacant site while the city's residential development market is strong.

"A beach is very important, but what are we supposed to do, stop the building because of a beach?" Natarus asked. "We can't ignore the fact that this is very expensive land. This isn't land way over on the West Side of Chicago."


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