In a Win for Wrigleyville Residents, Cubs Won’t Build Parking Garage

clark and addison - day
Clark Street and Addison Avenue, as seen from the top of Wrigley Field. Note the pedestrians streaming across Addison. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/9452880@N05/2321707331/##systymf/Flickr##

Today Mayor Rahm Emanuel, 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney, and the Chicago Cubs announced that they’ve reached a deal for modifications to Wrigley Field and the surrounding neighborhood. Thanks in part to a petition signed by over 230 people and other organizing efforts, a proposed 500-space parking garage near the ballpark won’t be part of the bargain, sparing the neighborhood a traffic generator and that would have made existing problems worse. However, the final agreement also includes the removal of sidewalks on two streets next to Wrigley, so the stadium can be expanded.

As part of the deal, for the next three years the Cubs will subsidize a remote parking lot for fans, located about two miles west of the stadium at Addison and Rockwell on DeVrey University’s campus. Remote parking is already a bargain at only $6 per car, plus a free shuttle bus ride to the ballpark for everyone in it; eliminating the fee should encourage more people to drive to the remote lot, located near the Kennedy Expressway, instead of the neighborhood streets near Wrigleyville.

The Cubs will also be doubling remote parking capacity from 500 to 1,000 spaces; it’s not clear yet where the additional spaces will be located. After three years, the fee may be reinstated if the annual expense for the Cubs exceeds $100,000. Alternately, the free parking may be bankrolled by other local sources.

One of the distinct setbacks in the deal is that it will allow the Cubs to eliminate sidewalks from one side of Waveland and Sheffield to make room for expanding the stadium – at no charge. The city will also permit the Cubs to build an overhead pedestrian walkway – Minneapolis-style – between the new hotel and the stadium, again without charge.

In another effort to alleviate game-day traffic headaches, the Cubs will be paying for three new traffic lights on Clark Street (including one at Waveland) where there are currently all-way stop signs. Since the traffic lights will be synchronized, the thinking is that this will help car traffic flow faster through these intersections. However, replacing all-way stop signs with lights creates new delays for pedestrians and cyclists since, unlike cars, they currently don’t need to queue up at stop signs.

In a nod to the fact that the best way to alleviate game-day congestion is to shift trips from driving to other modes, the Mayor’s Office promised in a press release [PDF] that “the Cubs, Alderman’s office and the Chicago Department of Transportation will jointly develop a marketing and awareness campaign designed to educate fans to use remote parking or other transportation alternatives, such as bikes and the CTA.” It’s not clear who will be paying for this outreach effort. While the CTA and Pace have been running bus-to-the-ballpark ad campaigns for years, spreading the message to a wider audience than existing riders may increase transit use.

The marketing effort won’t include enticements like free transit passes, however. The major new financial incentive at work is just the free remote parking.

Additionally, the proposed hotel on Clark across the street from the stadium will include 75 car parking spaces, far fewer than the 400 spaces that were initially planned for that site, the Sun-Times reports. The reduced number of parking spaces is one of many proposals in the “framework” agreement between the Emanuel administration, Tunney, and the Cubs that are subject to approval from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, the zoning administrator, and City Council.

Overall, the deal seems like a mixed bag for Wrigleyville residents and the rest of the city. Preventing the construction of the garage is certainly a win, as is the lower number of parking spaces for the hotel, since building more parking would only have encouraged more driving and made congestion worse.

The loss of sidewalks, meanwhile, is undeniably a loss. Most of the time, pedestrians on Sheffield and Waveland will now be crowded onto a single sidewalk on each street. The exceptions are game days, when those blocks are open to pedestrians and closed to traffic, and weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when the agreement calls for holding street festivals on those blocks.

The Rink at Wrigley
In winter, the triangular lot between Clark and the stadium has been used for a temporary skating rink. It will soon be a public plaza. Photo: Erin Nekervis

The press release from the mayor’s office also mentioned that the Cubs will make “contributions to the School Street Play Lot funding effort and make annual contributions each of the next ten years for public projects benefiting the community agreed upon by both Alderman Tunney and the Cubs.” The “agreed upon” projects will be funded to the tune of $3.75 million over ten years.

In January, the North Center-Roscoe Village Patch reported that funding was “95 percent there” for the playlot and that the Cubs were possibly using the deal with Tunney and the city about their economic expansion plans “as a bargaining chip,” withholding $750,000. The Cubs will now contribute $1 million for the $2.5 million playlot.

In one more piece of good news, the triangular lot between Clark Street and the stadium, which is currently used for everything from parking to an ice rink, depending on the time of year, will be converted to a permanent public plaza, with “Movies in the Plaza” for neighbors and possibly a farmers market.

Wrigley Field 1935 World Series
A view of the transportation mix at Clark and Addison in 1935.
  • Josh K

    This ultimately will be a large decrease in game parking around Wrigley with the McDonalds surface lot (which probably held 75 cars before they built the temporary Cubs store last year) converted to hotel parking and the Cubs triangle parking lot converted to the triangle building/plaza.

    As far as the LF & RF sidewalks, there seems to be some conflicting information right now. Carrie Muskat, the Cubs.com reporter says:

    “The city of Chicago has agreed to vacate the sidewalk and one street
    lane on Waveland Avenue (from Sheffield to Clark) at no cost to the
    Cubs, which will be incorporated into the ballpark, subject to a
    requirement to maintain eight feet of sidewalk.

    The city also will vacate the sidewalk on Sheffield Avenue (from
    Addison to Waveland) at no cost to the Cubs, which will be incorporated
    into the ballpark, subject to a requirement to maintain eight feet of
    sidewalk.”
    http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130415&content_id=44830862&vkey=news_chc&c_id=chc

  • Anonymous

    The Ricketts are making a lot of poor choices in this plan, but they’re not stupid enough to remove sidewalks that lead to the bleacher entrance.

    The agreement is in place between the Mayor’s Office, the Cubs, and Tunney, but when CDOT gets down to the nitty-gritty details I’m sure they will come up with a revised design that preserves a sidewalk on both sides of Sheffield and Waveland, although the sidewalk may be arcaded behind Wrigley columns.

  • Ryan Wallace

    This is the first article I have read that calls the plan a “mixed bag”. Make no mistake this plan benefits everyone: the neighborhood, the fans, the Cubs, and the City (with the exception of the rooftops, who no one sympathizes with). The community is getting a BOATLOAD of money.

    I agree the sidewalk issue is concerning, but the article seems to misrepresent what has been proposed with the building expansion. My understanding/interpretation of the agreement is that, in an effort to get the new proposed signage as close to the rooftops as possible, to minimize impacts on their sight lines, the outer walls will be moved out to basically remove the existing cantilever of the bleachers. However, the work would not end there, which would result in the loss of the entire sidewalk on the ballpark side of the street, but rather a parking lane will be removed such that a minimum of 8′ of sidewalk can be provided. My hope is that similar will happen on Addison, were a stretch of sidewalk can’t be any wider that 5-6′. Addison is far wider than it needs to be, take away this parking lane as well and provide wider sidewalks.

  • Conditions or changes for Addison haven’t been mentioned anywhere, except that the Captain Morgan thing would double in height.

    What I think is mixed: free parking + transit promotion (paid for by whom?) = no change in driving. There may be a change in the amount of driving in the area immediately surrounding the stadium (it would be reduced) but that driving in Roscoe Village and Avondale (where the DeVry-hosted remote parking lot exists) would also change (it would increase).

    I am opposed to the additional traffic lights for the same reason I am opposed to the new traffic lights being installed on Kinzie Street: where there is currently no delay for pedestrians, there will be a delay and where there is currently no to some delay for cyclists, there will be no to some more delay.

  • Where are all the entrances for ticket holders?

    You point out a key part of the plan: it’s a “framework” that will lead the agencies – DHED (zoning), CDOT, Landmarks Commission, Plan Commission – to come up with the appropriate ordinances and any changes to regulation.

  • WAVELAND

    The press release from the Mayor’s Office states:

    “The City would vacate a parking lane on Waveland Avenue for Cubs to build a new exterior wall.”

    The Sun-Times wrote:

    “The left-field wall would be extended outward by as much as 10 feet — taking out a lane of parking on Waveland — to give the Cubs more concession space and mitigate the impact of a 6,000-square-foot video scoreboard in left field.”

    Chicago Tribune:

    “The team wants to use sidewalks on Waveland and Sheffield avenues and one street lane on Waveland to push back the exterior walls without paying the city of Chicago to vacate the land.”

    SHEFFIELD

    Sun-Times:

    “The right-field wall also may be extended outward, taking out the sidewalk on Sheffield, to lessen the impact ofa 1,000-square-foot see-through sign “in the style of the existing Toyota sign” that’s in left field.”

  • Ryan Wallace

    Sure if you look only at the transportation portion of this framework, I can understand the viewpoint that ONLY those aspects can be viewed as a “mixed bag”. However, to call the entire framework a “mixed bag” is misleading, again this benefits just about everyone (I could argue this could actually be good for the rooftops in the long run).

    Most of the reason the transportation portion can be viewed this way is because this is only a FRAMEWORK. The vast majority of the details still need to be worked out regarding ALL the transportation proposals, and this must be taken into account when reviewing them.

    As a resident of the ward, I plan on attending as many meetings regarding the restoration as is possible. Transportation items that I will be advocating at the future meetings:

    (1) Pedestrian accommodations need to be maintained if not improved around the entire stadium. Minimum sidewalk widths should be provided on BOTH sides of Waveland and Sheffield, even if this means removing parking lanes. The pedestrian accommodations along the north side of Addison need to be investigated, I believe its possible to increase the sidewalk width here, if necessary by taking a parking lane.

    (2) Transit promotion, not just parking promotion. Transportation options need to be looked at in their entirety not just each aspect. The shuttle bus will be expanded to any possible new remote parking lots, but should also be provided for nearby Metra stations. Additional options, and possible expansion, for Pace shuttles should be explored. Additional resources from the CTA should be explored (additional bus or train trips provided). ALL of these options should be advertised and promoted together (the parking option should be provided LAST), along with additional promotion for the bike valet service. The goal needs to be to REDUCE the overall amount of people driving, and to provide those that do drive, more options further from the park.

    (3). The pedestrian bridge over Clark needs to be made easily accessible for the public, not just the hotel guests.

    (4) The option of “turning off” the new traffic light when traffic levels are reduced to an amount that it is not warranted (probably most non-game days). This would mean reverting the signal to flashing red operations, meaning it would operate as a stop sign.

  • I think we have to view the free parking at DeVry as a good thing. That lot is located two miles west of the ballpark near the Kennedy Expressway. A lot of the people who will use that lot will be arriving from northwest via the Kennedy, or from neighborhoods directly south, west or southwest of DeVry. Using that lot will eliminate four miles of additional driving to-and-from the stadium (not to mention circling around Wrigleyville looking for parking) for each car and replace it with shuttle bus rides, greatly reducing the total amount of vehicle miles traveled.

  • Anonymous

    http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/chc/ticketing/seating.jsp
    the gates are on that seating map, they’re at each corner. Only the one at Sheffield/Waveland serves the bleachers.

    I suspect there will still be sidewalks, they’ll just have an overhang similar to what they do now.

    And honestly, even if they don’t, I don’t think it’s that big a deal. Outside of games (when the streets will be closed), those are low traffic pedestrian streets. It’s not like they’re shutting down a sidewalk on Clark or Addison that have a ton of traffic even when there isn’t a game.

  • Brendan

    The city did not want competition for its police station parking garage which is also used for as a pay-to-park garage on game days.

  • Here’s a review that I think reads as a mixed bag:
    http://my.chicagotribune.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-75420564/

    The Ricketts family is seeking a tax break, also, despite also wanting to create 35,000 square feet of video advertising on Clark/Addison.

  • Ryan Wallace

    Sure but those video boards will also be used to show the game and/or for community use (such as “movies at the park”).

    Sure they are seeking a tax break, but Wrigley/the Cubs seems to fit precisely in that category. Plus they will be providing a minimum of $3.75 million to the community for project. That seems more than fair compensation for the tax break and the ROW.

    We ALL benefit if the Cubs are a good team and thus make more money. The restoration of Wrigley and the included advertisements are a requirement to make all that happen.

  • I agree with you, except for that last point. The Cubs are the most lucrative team in the league and they still don’t win. Arguably, that’s *why* they don’t win: the Cubs don’t bother spending cash to hire better players, because they don’t need win games in order to get high attendance. But let’s not digress into a baseball discussion here.

  • Ryan Wallace

    I assume you are referring to the Forbes article that indicated the Cubs are the most profitable franchise. This article is very misleading if not put within the context of what the Cubs is (and has been) doing to improve the team. The last 3/4 years have seen the Cubs remove A LOT of high paid players from the rosters and replace them with young talent and/or short term-lower cost veterans. Spending cash to hire better players is simply not in the cards for the Cubs, at least not for a few years. They need to reestablish the farm system, then after that is ready, they can buy free agents.

    The point is that although theoretically, the Cubs COULD intentionally decimate the team in the name of higher profits because of the loyal fan base (a la Major League or other movies), but that simply is not the case.

    Profit is a lot different from the amount of money you have available to spend or even the total amount of money you are bringing in. In order to afford those higher paid players, they need to create more revenue. This plan is how they have to do it.

    I see that you don’t want to digress into a baseball discussion, but is very important to everyone to understand that ALL these things are related. The desire for a better product on the field is the whole reason we are having this conversation in the first place.

  • Honestly, true Cubs fans don’t really care if the team has a winning record or not. It’s so fun to go to Wrigley and watch a game, that’s mainly what they’re in it for (or, at least, it’s what my family’s in it for).

    If the Cubs suddenly won as much as the Yankees, I think we’d lose something that makes them awesome.

  • I thought this wasn’t going to cost taxpayers anything, but the Cubs announced they will seek an “L” re-zoning for Wrigley Field, which will greatly reduce their property tax bill. Undoubtedly, this is a done deal, negotiated away by the Alderman and the Mayor. The lost property taxes will probably cost the city way more than the time-limited contributions to the Alderman’s slush fund.

  • Why is it the responsibility of Chicago taxpayers to see to it that the Cubs win the World Series?

  • The Ricketts are the only ones who benefit if the team does better. The video boards will show advertising 99% of the time, including when they’re showing Cubs games. The movie nights will never, ever happen. Like so much of this plan that is supposed to “benefit” the neighborhood, none of it is in stone, it only exists in Cubs press releases.

  • Train Fan

    Apparently you haven’t been to Movie Nights at Wrigley.
    Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was a HUGE success.

  • It’s not a done deal in that some of the agreement components must be approved by city council, the Landmarks Commission and the Plan Commission.

  • Are movie nights at Wrigley free events?

  • Which are all controlled by the Mayor. This will happen.

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