Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Alderman Tunney Still Not Crazy About the Plaza

respect wrigleyOn the triangular shaped parcel of land just west of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs intend to build an open-air plaza with shopping, concessions, video screens, advertisements, and an area for community events. Sounds swell, and it also sounds like a fine, community-directed use of property that has otherwise laid essentially fallow for far too long.

But, as anyone who’s ever watched an episode of ‘Parks and Recreation’ knows, some community members will find a reason to complain about everything. Because the Wrigley Field renovation process is subject to various commission approvals and community inputs, things like the plaza will have their contours shaped by those complaint-oriented folks (in addition to actual, helpful, thoughtful community members). It is to be expected.

Given that the framework of the renovation plan, including the plaza, has been agreed to by Alderman Tom Tunney, you wouldn’t expect him to be giving an exceptionally loud voice to those complaint-oriented folks, but it seems that he is, and he recently said some strongly oppositional things about the plaza. Then again, if you’ve been following the process closely, maybe it isn’t completely unexpected.

“What [the Cubs'] opinion has been is, ‘We’ve got to build a bigger mousetrap so everyone will spend their money at Wrigley Field, but not necessarily on the Clark Street corridor,” Tunney reportedly said at a recent community meeting, per Patch.com. “They want to build a lot of food and beverage opportunities in addition to the hotel and everything else, because they’re jealous of all the things that are happening and they’re not getting the dollars for. I’ve only heard this about 20 times.”

I don’t think anyone could argue that the Cubs don’t want to generate additional revenue with the completion of the plaza, but I also don’t think you can reasonably argue that the Cubs, as one of the many business in the area, don’t have a right to try and sell some grub on their property if that’s where folks want to eat.

Cubs VP of Communications and Community Affairs suggested to Patch that the plaza project, and the renovation in general, is likely to generate more business for the bars and restaurants on Clark Street, not less. And it isn’t as if those bars and restaurants don’t already benefit by being located next to Wrigley Field.

“The first thing I want to say is to suggest that we’re jealous of bars and restaurants on Clark Street is laughable,” Green said, per Patch. “We’re partners with a number of them on Clark …. We’re an important engine for these bars and restaurants. What some people fail to mention is that there are more than 81 bars that certainly benefit from the economic engine that is Wrigley Field. We’re not only hoping [this renovation] will benefit these businesses in Lake View, but across the city.”

All in all, it’s probably a small dust-up. Tunney has to represent the interests of all businesses in his ward, and who knows the context in which he made his comments. It doesn’t sound like Tunney is pushing to block the Cubs’ plans for the plaza (but what about those street fairs on Sheffield?), but instead is just concerned about a possible negative impact. Shrug. From the Cubs’ perspective, the net impact will be positive.

The impact to the Cubs will definitely be positive, and I think community members will enjoy having the extra open-air space for various events. Still seems like a great idea to me. Complainers gonna complain.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

27 responses to “Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Alderman Tunney Still Not Crazy About the Plaza”

  1. Drew

    And Again Alderman, What would happen to those businesses if the Cubs left Lake View. . . I know slim to no chance but By God, he continues to ignore the fact that without the CUBS, Wrigley/Wrigleyville/Lake View is NOTHING! Of those 81 Bars, 90% of them would never have even opened if not for the Cubs presence.

  2. OlderStyle

    I saw a game at Chase Field in April and they have their own concourse with a similar description to what Wrigley is proposing. People were eating and boozing it up at 11:30am before the game. I’m sure the Cubs want a piece of the pie the neighborhood businesses have enjoyed for years. And why shouldn’t they?
    Tunney=sour grapes

  3. DarthHater

    Tunney also commented that Ann Sather’s is jealous of all the dollars flowing to other yuppie d-bag restaurants in the area. … Oh … he didn’t say that? Never mind.

  4. Tom

    Like Drew stated , without da Cubs the community would be another Edgewater !!
    And for all those other idiots who opposed the renovation .. Move … Move now !!

  5. JulioZuleta

    I’m sure Tunney will be happy once the Cubs put a little more cash into one of those not-at-all-transparent “charities” that they donated to last month in connection with the deal.

    1. Kevin

      Move already!

  6. DarthHater

    Tunney’s statement foolishly suggests that he thinks the city’s zoning power should be used to protect existing businesses in the neighborhood from economic competition.

    See Rathkopf, The Law of Zoning and Planning, § 2:19:

    Zoning enabling acts do not expressly authorize controls on business competition and zoning ordinances. Decisions directed at protecting private economic interests often are held ultra vires under such statutes. Numerous court decisions expressly hold that protection of existing businesses is not an authorized object or purpose of zoning.

  7. Camiata2

    Alderman Tunney truly is Councilmen Jam. What a phallus.

  8. curt

    shut yr hole Tunney you can stop running for re-election , you already agreed to all this . cease and desist yr pandering.

  9. PiattCountyGuy

    Just how many straws does Tunney think the Cubs’ camel will carry?

  10. Rparz

    Ricketts must not have not made enough political donations. Seriously, the Alderman would rather have that property sit vacant and not collect the GINORMOUS tax revenue from what the Cubs are trying to put up, to save a few mom and pop business’? (Really, they’re all investor owned anyway, not like Mom and Pop can afford to be there anyway) Business that if they closed up shop tomorrow, three prospective investors will be looking to renovate the place next Monday. Sheesh. Go Chicago, step over dollars to pick up dimes.

  11. itzscott

    I don’t think it’s 100% about bars & restaurants….

    It seems to me that the Clark St. retail corridor (Cub souvenir shops, fast food joints that don’t currently compete with Wrigley’s offerings, etc) is saying that they fear the project will basically turn the Cubs into the “Walmart” of the area by sucking the sales out of the small businesses and in doing so could destroy the vibrancy and retail diversity of the neighborhood itself.

  12. aCubsFan

    itzscott…that maybe true, once again who was there first? Wrigley Field and the Cubs or the retail and fast food joints? Additionally, the Cubs are only in operation for 6 months of the year and none of that during the treasured holiday season in which most retailers make all their money for the year.

    Does it surprise anyone that Tonney is attempting to squeeze more out of the Cubs to line his pockets? It doesn’t for me. It also doesn’t surprise me that most of the people aren’t looking at the big picture. Rparz has it right ‘stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.’ That’s what they did with the parking meter deal and now the money is gone and the only one making any money are Friends of Daley.

    1. itzscott

      aCubsFan…

      It’s not about who was there first!

      Both add to the neighborhood and the goal should be to find a common ground in order to accommodate both without jeopardizing either.

      All of these objections are healthy and part of the process in order to recognize both party’s needs/concerns to be able to get to that ideal place.

      It’ll all work out…. the whole thing just needs to play itself out.

  13. Cizzle

    I’m sure the Cubs are hoping that the plaza (as with the Street Fairs) will extend their revenue stream for their property beyond the current 6 month period the team operates in. Sounds like smart business and dumb government to me…what’s new.

    Tunney doesn’t understand much apparently, but I’m shocked that he doesn’t see the benefit of the Cubs dumping Millions in development dollars (during a recession) into the ward he represents. He must think that there’s only so much pie, and if the cubs get a bigger slice, then the other businesses get less. In reality, what the Cubs are trying to do will make a bigger pie and benefit all of his cronies in the long term. How idiots like him get re-elected shocks me sometimes.

    1. Pat

      Apparently Tunney understands the concept of finite resources. Admittedly that’s kind of rare for a politician. Nothing they do in the offseason is going to generate anything more than possibly paying to keep the doors open during that time period.

      1. Cizzle

        Finite resources? How is business in his ward possibly a finite resource? Apparently neither he nor you understand the concept of growth and development.

        You do point out an interesting philosophical difference between Tunney and the Cubs. The Cubs see revenue opportunities that are currently lacking in their neighborhood and they want to capitalize on it. Whereas you and Tunney think that business is maxed out in his ward and any development is detrimental to the current hierarchy and revenue mix. I tend to agree with the former.

        But I see your point, how could bringing more consumers into the neighborhood possibly a good thing for the peripheral businesses or employment of his constituents…oh wait.

        1. Pat

          Yes finite resources. Not the business itself, but the disposable income of people going to the games. There is a limited amount of money people going to the games are going to spend on tickets, food and beverage, souveniers, etc. The more of that money that goes to Ricketts, the less goes to the neighborhood businesses.

          The Ricketts aren’t talking about creating new revenue opportunities. To do that, they would have to come up with ideas that don’t center around getting as much money from people already going to Cubs games as they possibly can. What they want is a bigger piece of an existing pie. That’s fine. Maybe it’s even their right since they are the initial cause of those dollars being in the neighborhood. But they shouldn’t expect the support of people they are going to damage in the process. And to suggest that isn’t what they are doing is misguided at best. A boutique hotel is not going to make for the dollars lost for the rest of the businesses in the area.

          1. MichiganGoat

            You are under the assumption that the amount of visitors to Wrigleville is fixed and will/can not change. If the plaza offers another reason to visit Wrigleyville (especially when Cubs don’t have game) through fairs, events, museums, kid activities more people will visit Wrigleyville which increases the amount of people with wallets and thereby increases everyone’s business. To continue the bakery analogy:

            More pie = more people = more dollars

            everyone has more potential customers. What’s hard to understand? Or are you just trying to argue?

            1. Pat

              “You are under the assumption that the amount of visitors to Wrigleville is fixed and will/can not change.”

              I am not arguing that cannot change, simply that it will not to enough of a degree to replace the lost business of the Cubs opening their own restaurants and bars.

              Wrigleyville is a destination for Cubs games and bar hopping. That’s not going too change significantly by adding a Cubs museum and kids activities – certainly not where it is going to hhelp thhe local businesses replace lost business.

              And yes Brett, more people coming to games (although that not being maxed out is only the last few years in recent times) would make the pie larger. But the lack of kids activities and street fairs isn’t the reson for the declining attendance.

              I don’t doubt that the renovations themselves willl bring in more people for actual games (people want to see what’s new). But nothing thhey have proposed so far is going to increase non game day traffic significantly, and nowhere near enough to help the local businesses recoup business they will lose to the Ricketts on gamedays. Not even close.

              1. Cizzle

                It’s not a zero-sum game. There are 284 days/year that the Cubs don’t have games in Wrigleyville. The Plaza/fair/market/museum/hotel are designed to attract visitors for the 75% of the year where the Cubs don’t have games. It’s odd that the Alderman would be against this expansion and imo it shows his true colors.
                Do you really think that Ricketts is going to build a multi-million dollar hotel that only rents rooms 81 days/year?

                1. Pat

                  Essentially yes. I’m sure that’s not his goal, but it will likely be the end result. I would be shocked to see occupancies above 20% in the offseason.

                  First off, remember that the Ricketts are partering with Sheraton hotels on this, so it isn’t all their money being spent. Then remember that they are likely to only put maybe 10-15% of their part of the costs out in cash.

                  I fully expect that the hotel will bankrupt inside of ten years and Sheraton will be out after 5 or 6. Hotels go bankrupt all the time, that’s one of the resons you willl see them change ownership so often.

                  1. JB88

                    That’s a whole lotta assumptions you are making there.

                  2. Cizzle

                    You and Tunney are entitled to your opinion, but I’m gonna go with the projections of the guy with a vested interest in a Billion dollar product over an admittedly corrupt politician and “Pat” on the BN message board, no offense to you (offense intended to Tunney).
                    Even if the hotel goes bankrupt as you predict (which it won’t), someone else will take it over and run it. Do you think they’re gonna tear it down in 5 years and re-build the McDonald’s???
                    I give Rickett’s a lot of credit. He’s doing what should have been done a looooong time ago (but wasn’t because neither the Trib nor Zell had the vision or commitment). It’s nice to see the owner finally willing to invest in the future of the team & neighborhood to the benefit of ALL…even if he’s had to be demonized and thrown under the bus by every other party involved.

                  3. hawkcub

                    Bankrupt in 10 years, that’s funny. There are about 3 boutique hotels, a run down B&B, a days Inn a mile away and a small Best Western Hotel in the area. Yet a hotel build right across from Wrigley is going to go bankrupt. OK.

                    Just like any hotel during the winter it will struggle to fill up. I’d venture to say even non game days in the summer it will be pretty full(especially weekends). It’s still a desirable area.

  14. Die hard

    Would rather it be a dog park… Would then be a natural gathering place for entire surrounding community likely not to include outsiders

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