Catholic student center pitches smaller building, but University Village neighbors still opposed

Newman Center holding ground

09/05/2012 10:00 PM


28 Comments - Add Your Comment

A rendering of the proposed Newman Center dorm and student center at 1352 S. Union St.

The John Paul II Newman Center, a Catholic student center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is maintaining its push to build a new dorm in University Village. But local aldermen have been hesitant to endorse the project, as neighbors have consistently stood against it.

The building is proposed for the site of 1352 S. Union St., currently a Baptist church that’s been vacant since 2005. According to the project’s spokesman, Chris Hill, the building would be a five-and-a-half story, 100,000 square-foot building.

It would have about 300 student beds and a small chapel, as well as housing for priests, nuns and student resident assistants.

The project’s total projected cost would be around $32 million, Hill said, which would be raised through a combination of fundraising and debt.

It’s been chopped down from its original proposal, which was for a 14-story building. The move that was made in response to criticism from the community, Hill said, and a good-faith effort from Newman Center chief the Rev. Patrick Marshall to work with them.

“Right now, as a result of the community saying what they’re concerned about, the height has been significantly reduced. This is a five-story building with a penthouse on the top,” Hill said. “The design has evolved because Father Pat has listened to the community. He’s been here in the community for years, and he’s not going anywhere.”

Hill claims they’ve got 2,000 signatures in support of the project, but at least one community leader isn’t buying in. Dennis O’Neill, head of Connecting4Communities, said the Newman Center needs more public vetting on the project.

“They have a little bit of duty when they’re talking about marketing student housing,” O’Neill said. “The people who live on Emerald Street [right next to the proposed center] have the most to say about it. They bought these houses with an idea of what would be built there, and this isn’t it.”

Ald. Danny Solis — whose 25th Ward currently holds the site but who will pass it on to Ald. James Balcer (11th) under the city’s new ward boundaries — said he’s still up in the air about the project.

“I think it’s a beautiful building, I think that they’ve lowered it since they made their first presentation, and I think it’ll be better than what stands there now. I personally think it’s a good addition, but I’m not the one who’s living right there,” he said. “I think it’s a good project, but I can also understand the feelings of the people who live on Emerald.”

Balcer did not return a call requesting comment, but in a letter to Marshall said he wouldn’t move forward on the project unless the Newman Center had majority support from residents living within 250 feet of the site, a sentiment Solis echoed in a similar letter.

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By George from UV
Posted: 09/22/2012 3:14 PM

Although I think the dorm not a terrible idea, I think the pro-dorm folks who think people are only opposed to the project is because its Catholic affiliation are way off base. Many of the opposed are actually Catholic as well. They are alienating their own neighbors over a simple difference in opinion and reading too much into the rest. I do wonder if those who strongly support this project would still do so if it were just a dorm without affiliation or another faith (Jewish, Muslim, Bahai?)..

By Steve from Bucktown
Posted: 09/17/2012 1:12 PM

Wow. People\\\\\\\'s objections to some developments never cease to amaze me. 1) There are already about 1,000 dorms within 1 to 3 blocks of the site, and they were their when these single family home were built. 2) The property is currently zoned M1-3 that would allow a very large FACTORY and lord knows what other types of noxious uses on the site with absolutely no community input. 3) The Dan Ryan expressway towers over these folk\\\\\\\'s homes across the street to the east with a 24-7 truck traffic.

By Anonymous
Posted: 09/14/2012 1:27 PM

to By anon from everywhere; I am so happy that you mentioned what DePaul did in Lincoln Park and how they drove the value of the properties up!!! I would urge those opposed to the project to consider all the positives because I haven't read from those opposed exactly why they are opposed to this project. We do live in a University owned community. There are plenty of students renting condos right across the alley from the Emerald st homes so not clear why this isn't an issue.

By Anonymous
Posted: 09/14/2012 1:15 PM

I live right down from Emerald and I don't see a problem with this edited proposed project. the height has been lowered significantly and students need this. I have lived in UVillage for 9 years and this project has my vote!

By George from Far West Side
Posted: 09/11/2012 10:56 AM

Note to people who are house hunting: Near buy a home near an airport, school, ball park, hospital, expressway, halfway house, and concert venue. Because in the future, there will be a chance that the property will expand.

By David from Near West Side
Posted: 09/11/2012 10:43 AM

Someone should had asked the neighbors: What type of building would you rather have across the street, a college dorm, a dorm for ex-offenders, or a dorm for register sex offenders. Like others had already posted, this area is not called University Village for nothing. That is just like people who get a home/condo near O'Hare and Midway airports and complain when the both airports make plans to expand.

By irony from west loop
Posted: 09/10/2012 8:38 AM

Hello. Am I the only one that sees the irony in all this? The neighborhood is called UNIVERSITY Village for a region. It is by a UNIVERSITY. If you didn't like that fact, you shouldn't have moved into the neighborhood. Maybe you should have moved into suburbia or some other area not by an expanding university.

By UV Resident from University Village
Posted: 09/10/2012 0:20 AM

I live near the proposed location and I am opposed to the dorm. I would be happy if the dorm was in the neighborhood but not directly across the street from residential homes. The dorm should be located a block to the north of the current proposed location. There is an open parking lot a block to the north where the dorm can be located.

By KL from University Village
Posted: 09/09/2012 1:32 PM

Neighborhoods are great when they reflect the natural growth of its inhabitants. The UIC dorms are very close to this development but yet home owners did not find them intrusive so why now for this. Students have been in this neighborhood since 2000 and without them it would have been a ghost area. Concessions have been made on both sides, now lets let progress and inclusion take shape so that we live in the future and not just the past.

By Ted T. from Emerald Ave
Posted: 09/08/2012 1:39 PM

Although factually correct, the first paragraph of the article is somewhat misleading in that it reports that "neighbors have consistently stood against [the project]". More accurate is that SOME neighbors have consistently stood against it. I initially opposed the project but after careful consideration now support it. I think Fr. Marshal and his group made critical errors in their initial presentation to the neighbors. This created vehement, possibly insurmountable opposition.

By Sir Isaac Newton from Printers Row
Posted: 09/08/2012 6:47 AM

3) The Newman Center has made many concessions in good faith - when they probably didn\'t even have to - and there are still people in University Village complaining. 4) From the reactions of some of the University Village residents, you would think that the Delta fraternity house from Faber College was moving into the neighborhood....when actually, it is a Catholic student center that will also be housing nuns and priests!!!

By [email protected] from Printers Row
Posted: 09/08/2012 6:39 AM

Just a few comments: 1) I think the general concept that a handful of NIMBY's whose only concern if their "curb appeal" could have veto power over a project benefiting a far much broader broader base of the Chicago population. 2) Using Depaul/Lincoln Park and other college neighborhoods as examples (not to mention, common sense), I don't even see the development having any negative impact on home prices in the area....if anything, it will have a positive effect......

By University Village Resident from University Village
Posted: 09/07/2012 11:51 PM

Anon everywhere: you are entitled to your opinion in support of the dorm. I am also entitled to express my opinion against the dorm in this specific location. I simply do not believe a dorm (of any type) should be located next to residential homes. To imply that I am against the dorm because it is a catholic institution is wrong and divisive. This is an open forum for commentary. Let people express their opinions (for or against) without making judgemental illogical comments.

By WestLooper from West Loop
Posted: 09/07/2012 4:23 PM

"250+ twenty-something" Sounds like a great source of babysitters to me. There are already a lot of young people in the area too. I think the real issue is that homeowners on Emerald don't want to admit they bought a pig in a poke -- million dollar homes right next to a massive freeway. The land is more suitable for dorms really. The model was so nice though, wow, nearly fell in to that honey pot.

By anon from everywhere
Posted: 09/07/2012 1:06 PM

Condo w/20 somethings or dorms with a church? Wow, don't you ppl have anything better to be against besides a bunch of Catholics. Maybe someone should buy the old Baptist church and re-mondel it into a half-way house. Then you might have some legitimate complaints. It's no different than putting up a condo building. Seriously, find something really worth getting fired up about.

By University Village Resident from University Village
Posted: 09/07/2012 1:24 AM

I have lived in University Village for 8 years and I am opposed to the dorm being built in this location. The Newman Center team did decrease the height of the building but they added a church to the site in their second proposal. I am supportive of a dorm being built near the university but not in a location within 50 feet of single family homes and condos. I am glad our elected officials are listening to their constituents that will be most effected by the dorm.

By anon from everywhere
Posted: 09/06/2012 4:46 PM

Would you have a problem if it was a new condo development?

By Tracy from Emerald Ave
Posted: 09/06/2012 3:45 PM

Maintaining safety is of greater concern when you drop 250+ twenty-something year olds in a street filled with elementary-age kids. The dorm would more than double the population; with that increase undoubtedly bring issues. I would ask those of you who are in “For” the dorm to consider yourself as a homeowner with young children, would you want this built next door? I doubt it, unless it would have passed in the previously proposed site. Its always a great idea when its not in your back yard.

By Amazed from S. Loop
Posted: 09/06/2012 3:26 PM

So now neighbors whose only concern is effect on their "curb appeal" get veto power through their alderman? Wow, peple used to complain about S. Loop Nimby's I think UVA has vaulted way ahead.

By anon from everywhere
Posted: 09/06/2012 2:35 PM

The residents would rather have a vacant building that is falling apart and a possible haven for squatters and drug dealers, then students. There are million dollar homes surrounded by dorms in Lincoln Park. And when DePaul managed to get possession of some townhomes through eminant doman (about 19 years ago), it didn't decrease the property values there. What are you really afraid of? There are never really any 'promises' of what will be built on the land next to you unless you own it.

By David from Emerald Ave
Posted: 09/06/2012 12:30 PM

While the picture of the building appears to be somewhat attractive it is not a good fit for our community and residential area. I am convinced that such a structure located so close would have a negative impact on the curb appeal to our homes.

By Richard Miller from Maxwell Street
Posted: 09/06/2012 11:15 AM

The \"smaller\" proposed building is still vastly out of scale with the adjoining residential uses. The entire area has been developed pursuant to the meticulous guidelines of Planned Development 549 and the proposed dorm is drastically incompatible. There were to be no dormitory structures south of Liberty Street; all student residential use is supposed to be north of Liberty. The dorm should be stopped. Richard Miller

By Colleen from Emerald Ave.
Posted: 09/06/2012 11:09 AM

I do not want a dorm this close to our homes. There have been other sites where residents have also felt the same way. The concept is great just not in a residential neighborhood.

By Colleen from Emerald Ave.
Posted: 09/06/2012 11:08 AM

I do not want a dorm this close to our homes. There have been other sites where residents have also felt the same way. The concept is great just not in a residential neighborhood.

By Michael
Posted: 09/06/2012 10:08 AM

I agree with the concept, NOT the proposed site of the development. It does not belong within a residential neighborhood and does not fit/blend well within the existing housing in the neighborhood. In 2007, a similar proposal was made at 700 S. Morgan St. but rejected by the residents in that area. For the same reasons, I reject this proposed development at 1352 S. Union St.

By Jesse from Emerald Ave
Posted: 09/06/2012 9:45 AM

Paul don't think you live int he 250ft. Also the only reason Father Marshall lowered it is for tax reasons. This is a great building not for this location. There are plenty of other locations that are better.

By Paul from University Village
Posted: 09/05/2012 11:21 PM

I don\\\\\\\'t see the problem here with this project. I it\\\\\\\'s a grat addition to the area that will improve the surroundings.

By Paul from University Village
Posted: 09/05/2012 11:21 PM

I don't see the problem here with this project. I it's a grat addition to the area that will improve the surroundings.