Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Zoning Committee Approves; Bridge Scrapped, 10-Year OF Sign Moratorium in Place
Today, the Zoning Committee unanimously approved the Wrigley Field renovation and development plan a day before it heads to the full City Council for a vote. But it did so only after a handful of changes.
The Mayor’s Office, in conjunction with Alderman Tom Tunney, announced (while the Committee meeting was going on) that the plan has been changed, such that a few of the issues with which Tunney has had a problem for a while now have been modified per his requests, according to the Tribune. (UPDATE: It now sounds like the Cubs agreed to the changes, and were included int he discussions.)
First, a pedestrian bridge that was to span Clark Street from the proposed hotel to the proposed plaza has been “deferred indefinitely,” which sounds like a nice way of saying it’s DOA. Tunney’s objection was couched as a matter of public safety, because apparently every bridge in the city near bars is subject to numerous random beer throwing events, but would seem to really be about not funneling Wrigleyville patrons into the Cubs’ plaza. Had that happened, those patrons would be more likely to spend money there, rather than the various local commercial establishments. I understand Tunney’s opposition, as well as the Cubs’ desire. Personally, I liked the bridge and would have found it convenient.
Second, the Mayor indicated that there will be a 10-year moratorium on new outfield signs, except for the two (the JumboTron in left and the large advertising sign in right) that have already been approved. Recall, the Master Sign Program, approved by the Landmarks Commission, would have allowed the Cubs to add additional signs, including on and around The Old Scoreboard.
Finally, the Cubs have agreed to defer the patio off of the hotel (which would have overhung residential Patterson Avenue), and the parties will continue to discuss where the entrance to the hotel will be. Alderman Tunney wants it on Addison or Clark, rather than Patterson. Presumably the Cubs would prefer to reserve that frontage for commercial space, rather than using it on a big hotel entrance. Once again, I understand where both sides are coming from.
Alderman Tunney, with these changes in place, reportedly now will sign on to the plan when it goes before City Council tomorrow.
So, where does this leave the renovation? Well, it sounds like, from Mayor Emanuel’s and Alderman Tunney’s perspectives, the deal is now done, and will be approved by City Council.
We haven’t yet, however, heard from the Cubs about these changes. It’s hard to tell from the Tribune’s report whether they’re on board, or if this was done unilaterally. The report says that the changes, and Tunney’s approval, came after a day of closed door meetings between the Alderman, the Mayor’s team, and the rooftop owners around Wrigley. That probably tells you everything you need to know about what’s driving the decisions in this process, but it also suggests that the rooftop owners – with a 10-year sign moratorium in place (which conveniently lasts until the end of their contract with the Cubs) – will no longer sue when the Cubs put up the two outfield signs. Obviously no one can guarantee that at this point, but it seems plausible, given how things have played out. The Mayor’s statement apparently suggests those negotiations are ongoing.
In that case, maybe the Cubs would be on board with these changes, if it avoids the risk of litigation. Indeed, the Sun-Times report on today’s events suggests that may well be what’s happening, though there remains work to be done on just where the sign in right field would be located (the Cubs may build an overhang all the way over Sheffield Avenue so that the sign would block no outfield views at all … but then there’s the issue of compensation to the City for taking additional air space. It sounds like that fight/discussion will not hold up approval of the overall plan, or hold up construction. But you never know.).
We’ll see what the Cubs’ response is, if they make a formal one, and then we’ll see what happens at City Council tomorrow.
UPDATE: The DNAinfo write-up makes it sound as though the Cubs are, indeed, on board with these changes. It does have a quote from Cubs VP of Communications and Community Affairs Julian Green, however, saying that the Cubs have received no assurances from the rooftops that they will not sue. So, to the extent that the sign moratorium was designed to prevent a lawsuit, that has not been directly negotiated with the Cubs.
UPDATE 2: Since today is all about updates … just a comment: I wouldn’t go so far as to say, as some of you are, that the Cubs “lost” in these negotiations. We don’t know how much the Cubs expected to get, and to what extent they “over asked” for various items. It’s possible that the process has landed right where the Cubs wanted it, even if they cannot concede that publicly. We’re not really in a position to know.