• Joe Ward
    JUN 16, 2022

    Shedd Aquarium improvements, controversial West Ridge library sale get key city approval

    The Shedd Aquarium plans a new entrance and outdoor pavilion as part of a larger renovation. [Chicago Department of Planning and Development]

    The Chicago Plan Commission granted key approvals to a Shedd Aquarium renovation and a South Side affordable housing developmentvThursday.

    The board also signed off on the sale of the former West Ridge library building to a local refugee group after neighbors blasted an earlier attempt to sell it to an organization that planned to lease part of the space to a group co-founded by Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th).

    Here’s more on the projects. They still require City Council approval.

    Shedd Aquarium

    Shedd Aquarium plans to renovate portions of its exterior, building a new ticket and entry pavilion near its accessible entry. Aquarium leaders also are planning to widen the building’s terrace deck on the north side of the building by 10 feet and rebuild the north gallery’s roof, officials said at Thursday’s meeting.

    Additions to the historic museum are part of a planned $500 million renovation which will also include the building of new exhibits and galleries, a new learning commons and new science labs, officials said.

    The renovations will allow Shedd to open some original windows from the 1930s building that have not been open in decades, officials said.

    South Chicago affordable housing

    Sacred Apartment Developers are proposing an all-affordable housing development in South Chicago that has been in the works for over a decade.

    The project would bring 81 affordable units in a five-story building at the corner of 92nd Street and Burley Avenue. It would also have 6,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and 44 parking spaces, officials said.

    The units will be 15 studios, 11 one-bedrooms, 21 two-bedrooms, 25 three-bedrooms and nine, four-bedrooms, officials said.

    Sixteen of the apartments will be rented to those earning 60 percent of the area median income ($43,800), 48 will be rented to those earning 50 percent of the median income ($36,500) and 17 units for those making 30 percent ($21,900 or less of the median income).

    Renderings also include a playground and sports court.

    The development has been in the works since at least 2010, when community meetings began, according to a presentation on the project. It is a project being funded in part through the city’s Invest South/West initiative to generate development on the South and West sides.

    Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
    The former Northtown branch of the Chicago Public Library.

    Northtown Library sale

    The city is one step closer to selling the Northtown Library building, 6435 N. California Ave. Forging Opportunities for Refugees in America is in line to buy the former library for $962,786, following the commission’s approval.

    The nonprofit is the second prospective buyer for the project. City officials scrapped a previous effort to sell the building after neighbors slammed a lack of transparency in the process.

    Initially, Yachad Chicago’s offer of $400,000 for the library was accepted. But after Block Club highlighted the lack of a public process surrounding the sale, and one proposed tenant’s ties to Silverstein, the sale was taken off the Plan Commission’s agenda.

    That allowed time for a public bidding process, with Forging Opportunities becoming the highest bidder.

    The city will see a net gain of $562,786 thanks to the new process.

    The sale will now go to the city’s Housing and Real Estate Committee before heading to the full City Council.

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