Hyde Park residents confronted developers over parking plans for the renovated Shoreland at a Wednesday night community meeting in the historic hotel’s Crystal Ballroom.
The meeting was mediated by Eli Ungar, founder and president of Antheus Capital and its affiliate MAC Property Management, which is converting the former University residence hall into luxury apartments aimed at graduate students.
Attendees expressed concerns about the availability of nearby parking spaces once the 325 to 350 students move in. Diana Koff, executive committee member of the neighboring Jackson Shore apartments, asked Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston not to approve the proposal, calling the parking plan “unacceptable.”
MAC’s current plans would include 220 parking spaces, about half of which would be valet spaces or “stacked” parking spaces using lifts, a plan which has not yet been approved by the city. The lot would use part of the first level of the building and a second mezzanine level stopping short of the famous Crystal Ballroom. Claiming that a dearth of parking in East Hyde Park has people “competing for spots in a vicious sport,” Koff said the renovations would increase the neighborhood’s parking problems.
Ungar felt the current parking plans are sufficient. “We can’t solve East Hyde Park’s parking problems, but we don’t present externalities and do address the demand of the building,” he said.
Many attendees appreciated MAC’s attention to historical preservation. Ungar opened by assuring residents that the company’s highest interest is preserving the historical identity of the building, as it was in renovating the Algonquin Hotel and Windermere House. “We take very seriously our responsibility as stewards of these buildings,” Ungar said. “These are not just buildings, they are community landmarks.”
When Robert Mason, director of the Southeast Chicago Commission, told the audience that the Commission is supporting the plans and has asked the city to also approve them, most applauded.
According to Ungar, other features of the plan include filling the Louis XVI Ballroom with a restaurant and renting out the Crystal Ballroom, the English Room, and the Hoffa Room for private parties.
To shore up support for the plan, Ungar is presenting it to the community, starting with Wednesday’s meeting. MAC’s Director of Community Development Peter Cassel and his wife Danielle, the zoning attorney working the case, are leading tours of the Shoreland to show how the plans would effect the building.
Hairston said she would gauge the feelings of the community before making a recommendation to the city. “This [proposal] will not make it to city council until I sign off on it. And I don’t sign off on it until you [residents] sign off on it.”