SOAR Position Statement

This section contains the SOAR position statements as well as Alderman response letters about issues within Streeterville.

April 20, 2022

Timothy Knudsen
Chairman, Zoning Board of Appeals
121 N. LaSalle St. 10th Floor
Chicago, IL 60602

Re: 212 East Ontario

Dear Commissioner Knudsen,

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the review of the proposed adult cannabis dispensary at 212 East Ontario. SOAR has participated in three events regarding the proposed project. SOAR’S Land Use & Development Task Force received a presentation from the development team via Zoom on March 9th. We also participated in a community meeting on March 22 and the SOAR Board reviewed the project. In addition, SOAR highlighted the project in our weekly Spotlight newsletter, and we have received well over 100 comments regarding the project. The SOAR Board has determined, based on input from the community, that the proposed adult recreational cannabis dispensary at 212 East Ontario is not appropriate for this location and therefore SOAR cannot support the special use permit.

The community has overwhelming commented to SOAR, that this location is not appropriate for this use. We are very much in favor of the property owner’s desire to renovate this historic landmark, which was built in 1895 and included within a 2020 historic district. We most certainly hope that the property owner would diligently pursue a different use; one that is more compatible with the neighborhood. SOAR’s reasons for not supporting this proposed project are twofold: traffic congestion and community safety.

TRAFFIC CONGESTION

The 200 block of East Ontario is currently very congested due to the very commercial nature of this block, which contains several hotels, a cultural institution, and several mixed-use structures. Adding a use, which the operator indicates will bring at least 400-600 individuals a day is beyond the breaking point. While the operator indicated that this operation is able to process a customer in less than 10 minutes, that people would walk to the facility, and there is no curb side pickup is not realistic or acceptable. There is continuous double parking in this area, particularity for drop off of the hotel and cultural institution. This may add to that at this location.

As you know, this section of East Ontario is not only the thoroughfare for exiting LSD, it is the main artery to the expressway out of the city. More importantly, it is also the main route for emergency vehicles and individuals going to Northwestern’s emergency room. There are numerous times during the day and night, that traffic on this portion of Ontario is at a standstill.

At many of the other dispensaries in the surrounding areas, there are lines which extend outside the buildings. The representatives for Green & Bransford, indicated that their two security staff could patrol not only the inside, where only ten customers are allowed at any time; but that the staff also be outside to manage both the crowd waiting to get in to the dispensary. They further indicated that the two security guards could also monitor the street traffic and so that no individual could double park and run in for a purchase. We know the situation on Ontario, and we do not believe that this is at all feasible. A use such as this, with this kind of customer traffic, whether arriving on foot or in a vehicular, would certainly create the breaking point for the 200 block of East Ontario.

COMMUNITY SAFETY

We are aware that adult cannabis dispensaries operate in accordance with State and Local ordinances regarding the sale of cannabis to adults and that 212 E Ontario would potentially do so also. We appreciate that there will be two unarmed security staff on the premises when it is open, but we are concerned that there will not be any security when it is closed. While they indicated that there will be 60 cameras throughout the facility, there is no indication of any cameras outside the building nor that the security guards would be outside. The operator is planning for situations, so that their property is protected but there is no guarantee that the rest of the residential and commercial properties on the 200 block of Ontario will not see increased activity. Hours of operation have not been determined but the West Loop facility operates from 10 A.M. – 10 P.M. and the Andersonville facility operates from 9 A.M. – 9 P.M. at their Clark St location, they are able to process 120 people an hour and they have had up to 900 people a day. These late hours just add to the evening congestion on Ontario and the safety of the surrounding residents. Residents already complain of hotel guests who choose to smoke tobacco and cannabis outside the hotels that already exist on Ontario Street and some have had negative interactions with the guests. We know that the pandemic has taken a toll throughout the city but it seems that the hotels in Streeterville have suffered greatly. As they slowly return to their pre-pandemic occupancy levels, we want to be assured that this area and all of Streeterville and the city can be assured of safe streets once again.

We are also concerned that this location’s proximity to the outstanding medical institutions in Streeterville, will create potential safety issues for the staff and visitors to these institutions. The Arts Club has many evening events with large gatherings with foot and vehicular traffic. As you are well aware, there have been many incidents of street crime in this area and we believe that this operation may create an attractive nuisance.

We want to remind you of the Sun-Times article 9/30/21, in which Mayor Lightfoot indicated that “We’re not turning Michigan Avenue into a pot paradise.” We believe that this area and other areas east of Michigan Avenue should be considered part of the protected downtown area. The totality of this vibrant mixed-use area which hots: residents, commercial, tourists, cultural and major medical uses, does not need this additional attractive nuisance.

Finally, we are also concerned about the whole permitting process and the fact that this and all the social equity licenses are being ligated and that there is not a definitive timetable for resolution. This could tie up this project for a significant period of time and we would prefer that the owner pursue a use and user who could bring this historic building back on-line sooner and provide a positive contribution to Streeterville we support.

Again, we thank you for the opportunity to review this project.

Sincerely,

Deborah Gershbein
President SOAR

cc: Alderman Brendan Reilly
Joanna Angarone
Robert Kearney
SOAR Board of Directors

SOAR’s position statement on the proposal for the proposed development of 150 E Ontario.

SOAR’s position statement on the proposal for redevelopment of 900 Dewitt.

SOAR’s position statement on the proposal for renaming Lake Shore Drive.

CHICAGO CRIME: ‘This is Out of Control’: Downtown Residents Worry As Crime Soars

Alderman Reilly’s letter pertaining to “Curbside Parties”

SOAR voted to support the preservation and landmarking of 212 E. Onratio and 222 E. Ontario.

SOAR’s position statement on the development proposal for the Tribune Tower East.

Alderman Reilly’s letter pertaining to Police Observation Cameras installed at the pedestrian path connecting East Grand and Inner Lake Shore Drive and at the Ohio Street Underpass at Inner Lake Shore Drive.

SOAR’s letter to Alderman Hopkins pertaining to 227 East Walton Pl Zoning Change.

SOAR’s position statement on E-scooters
The Streeterville Organization of Active Residents is aware of the City’s interest to pursue the addition of E-scooters availability for the residents. The Board of Directors of SOAR have reviewed available information regarding E-scooters and the city’s proposed ordinance, and we are opposed to the use of scooters due to safety concerns for the residents of Streeterville

SOAR is requesting a meeting with the CTA transit police team, 18th District Chicago Police Commander Daniel O’Shea and representatives of Alderman Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) and Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) to discuss increased monitoring of social media and police coverage at the Red Line’s Chicago/State and Grand/State stops.

SOAR’s position statement on Dave & Busters Water Tower proposal.

SOAR’s position statement of the initial review of the proposed development of 400 N. Lake Shore Drive.

Alderman Reilly’s invitation to community members about an upcoming Community Meeting on the topic of the 400 N. Lake Shore Drive Development.

SOAR’s letter to Alderman Reilly pertaining to the proposed Aerial Cable Cars on Riverwalk.

SOAR’s letter to Alderman Hopkins pertaining to Wildberry’s proposed Sidewalk Cafe.

SOAR’s position statement on E-scooters
The Streeterville Organization of Active Residents is aware of the City’s interest to pursue the addition of E-scooters availability for the residents. The Board of Directors of SOAR have reviewed available information regarding E-scooters and the city’s proposed ordinance, and we are opposed to the use of scooters due to safety concerns for the residents of Streeterville

SOAR’s letter to Alderman Reilly and Alderman Hopkins pertaining to new developments along the Chicago Riverwalk.

SOAR’s position on Ohio Street beach access in response to the shooting along Lake Shore Drive


Letter that SOAR received from Alderman Reilly about the Ohio Street underpass and the parking restrictions he has suggested

This is a letter SOAR received from Alderman Reilly about the Tavern License Moratorium which will be instituted within Streeterville.

This is a letter SOAR received from Alderman Reilly’s office about the condition of the Grand Street underpass.

SOAR’S letter to Alderman Reilly about the Tribune Tower redevelopment.

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