Updated Details Revealed For Fern Hill Development In Old Town

Future high-rise site via Fern Hill

Updated details have been revealed for the upcoming multi-lot development in Old Town. Originally revealed in 2021 and made up of three distinct areas centered around the intersection between N LaSalle Street and W North Avenue, developer Fern Hill held a community meeting this past week to offer a further look into the updated plans. The team at Fern Hill has also tapped prolific architect David Adjaye and local firm GREC Architects to work on its design, though those have yet to be made public.

Development programing diagram via Fern Hill

When we last covered the project had removed the Stanley Tigerman-designed Walgreens on the corner, which still remains off the table. After that a large community outreach program began in order to shape the development to local needs, these included a concern with rising crime, preserving the local charm and history, addressing all of the gas stations, and managing growth among others. Starting from the east, these are the plans being proposed:

Updated look at 1639 N Wells Street via Fern Hill

1639 N Wells Street

The long vacant Treasure Island grocery store space will be re-skinned and partially redeveloped. As demanded by the community and needed for the future growth of the area, it will remain a grocer with the building receiving few alterations as the parking garage above the store is owned by a nearby building.

Moody Temple massing diagram via Fern Hill

The Moody Church Triangle

The wedge-shaped block anchored by the historic Moody Church Auditorium and flanked by two gas stations will become the cultural heart of the development. This will begin with the diagonal N Clark Street receiving a new layout, a parking lane will be removed to create wider sidewalks, new bike lanes, and more along the busy stretch of road on which the Chicago History Museum also sits. The gas stations would be removed and replaced with new commercial structures which won’t rise taller than the auditorium to preserve the neighborhood context.

Development diagram via Fern Hill

1610 N LaSalle Street

The vacant parking lot directly east of the aforementioned Walgreens will receive the majority of the development’s construction. Being the only space without as much historical context, the developers plan on consolidating all of the surrounding unused air rights onto this one site in order to build a singular larger tower. Though at the moment no details on it have been made public for the 100-foot by 150-foot spot.

Proposed Clark Street plans via Fern Hill

Unfortunately the meeting did not bring any new renderings or formal details aside from the few massing diagrams. We now know that plans are moving forward though the developer had been pretty silent for nearly a year now, however further meetings with those involved will continue for the next few months with renderings coming by this spring.

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17 Comments on "Updated Details Revealed For Fern Hill Development In Old Town"

  1. The comments on the community feedback site are hilarious. They demonstrate how NIMBY and small-town-minded residents have become.

    From arguments to keep the gas stations to cries of ‘anything but a high-rise’ to wanting dog parks along with the obligatory increased crime rants they really are quite pathetic. Then the developers are orientating the single “tall” building so there’s no obstruction of views.

    I don’t know why people like these live in a city, the 3rd largest one at that and especially one that has tall buildings in its DNA.

    Keeping that Treasure Island lot a grocery store rather than building a tower with one in the base is the antithesis of a “world-class” gateway development connecting three iconic neighborhoodst.

    • Do you have a link to the website? Also, I’m fed up with all the NIMBYs in this city man. How can people have such a small mindset loving in this city is beyond me.

      • Here you go, enjoy! Very comical reading.

        courbanize. com/ projects/ engagefernhill/

        The site won’t let you link to another website so I had to break it up, just go to “Feedback” on the page.

    • I hate almost everyone who attends these meetings. Only the south and west sides ever push the design or density envelope anymore. Our aldercretaures are too pandering, seeking only an easy re-election sound byte, rather than leading a new vision. Children should not be the parents!

    • So why not attend these *public* meetings and gather a group of people to weigh out the imbalance of what you feel is NIMBYism? Also get to know the locals who live around there, what are the actual problems they face and understand why they think they’re problems. Seriously, this is how public input and community engagement are supposed to work. There isn’t a set outcome and culture is local and can be evolved over time for the better. Don’t give up hope.

      • Jim – I’ve been tempted many times to go to those meetings and provide a basic arithmetic lesson, by noting that of the 100K people living in an area, 50 of them are here bloviating about their God-given right to park everywhere all at once, “crime” (the new way of saying “those people”), and the need for all new construction to comply with the architectural guidelines at colonial Williamsburg/Celebration, FL by Disney (TM). Especially if the alderman is there, I’d note that 50 votes isn’t going to change much.
        For me, the problem is inertia, plus I would need to buy a football helmet to protect me from flying BMW key fobs and folding walkers (I’m old enough to get away with the walker comment).

    • I’d be surprised if this gets through. “the community” is activated, and will stop at nothing to torpedo anything bigger than a dog park. The average chicagoan is fine with being mediocre and sadly Chicago is quickly being dwarfed by Toronto and falling far behind the likes of New York let alone Dubai and Shanghai etc.

  2. Shawna Eldridge | February 5, 2023 at 1:14 pm | Reply

    Unless you live in the neighborhood shut up. No one asked you, and no one cares what you think. Go spew your negativity at your own neighbors, please.

    • Maybe get off this site?

    • I’m sorry but why should we let a few people that hate change prevent housing from being built during a housing shortage. When you prevent development in old town, you push would be residents to Logan square and uptown and displace longtime residents. All so a few boomers can inflate their property values and prevent growth and change. This mentality is why there’s no longer Hispanics in Lincoln Park and homeless people litter our big cities.

    • Shawna – no one needs your approval to have an opinion.

  3. As an architecture student, I actually really like the bp gas station, and don’t want to see it demolished, but as an urbanist, I love to see gas stations demolished. Ideally, I’d love to see them somehow repurpose the structure into something not a gas station – perhaps it could become a restraint with covered outdoor seating? I don’t know. I hate gas stations, but really like that structure architecturally. It has some really nice curves.

  4. Those gas stations gotta go, because they owned by people who only care about making money and don’t care about their business looking like trash from the 70s. Not a single dollar back into business in all these years. Have you ever been inside of them? They’re disgusting.

  5. Ah, read carefully – they’re wanting to build a HUGE tower on the Walgreen’s site using development rights that would be associated with the parcels on the Moody Church block. It’s a carefully calibrated PR exercise by cynically using ordinary tropes about “context” and “neighborhood charm” and all that is good and wonderful. The NIMBYs will be soothed – somewhat, if that’s possible.

    (Interesting note: they don’t yet control the properties whose development rights they want to co-opt. Perhaps this is part of campaign to create pressure to acquire them.)

    Which is fine – one needs to be a little cynical to urge something like this through. I don’t object – I’m actually a big fan of transferring development rights from structures one would like to protect, though the city doesn’t have a good mechanism for doing that, thus requiring this careful, long-term PR plan.

    • That lot has a small footprint in Chicago terms. We aren’t Manhattan building skinny towers plus we don’t do underground parking so a podium will be needed. I would say it’s a bit misleading to say a “HUGE” tower will be built on that site. Maybe something 25-30 stories is possible.

      A 700’+ building with that small of a footprint would be iconic for sure but I can’t see it happening. The Treasure Island lot is where something bold needed to be built with a complimentary high-rise for the lot next to Walgreens. Whenever Chicago uses “World-class” as a descriptor it’s usually a promise that something being planned will be completely underwhelming.

  6. The increased nimbyism of established northside neighborhoods helps to drive new investment in the West and South Loops.

  7. Hi chicagoyimby.com webmaster, Keep up the good work, admin!

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