Bleacher-blocked Wrigley rooftop buildings on track to be torn down

Bleacher-blocked Wrigley rooftop buildings on track to be torn down

Three Wrigleyville buildings whose iconic rooftop signs and bleachers overlooking the ballpark were blocked a decade ago when the Cubs added massive outfield video boards are now on track to be redeveloped into a new apartment building.

The buildings between 3627 and 3633 N. Sheffield Ave. long had seating and views of Wrigley’s right field, along with the “Eamus Catuli” sign and the famous Torco billboard. But the buildings’ icons are no longer viable, and the City Council Zoning Committee voted Tuesday to allow the structures to be torn down.

In their place, owners plan to build a five-story, 29-unit apartment building complete with rooftop pickleball courts.

Zoning Chair Ald. Bennett Lawson acknowledged the connection many fans have to the old outfield outcroppings after the committee vote, but said the blocked view made the change necessary.

“There’s always a connection that goes far beyond the four corners of Wrigley Field,” he said.  “But we’ve also seen a lot of change around Wrigley in the last 20 years.”

The two dozen-plus units replacing the three-flats will add “smaller, more accessible” housing for would-be Wrigleyville residents, Lawson said. Most of the new building will not be visible from the ballpark, and the development includes a covenant preventing rooftop seating and signage, he added.

A petition calling for the 103-year-old buildings to be preserved garnered over 2,300 signatures. But with the sight line between the buildings’ rooftops and the field severed, the properties no longer make economic sense, Lawson said. He hosted three community meetings about the project, he added.

“They really have no commercial viability left,” he said. “You can’t see the sign over the scoreboard, can’t see anything on the field, except for maybe other seats.”

The full City Council is set to vote on the development next month.

The Zoning Committee had also been scheduled to weigh a controversial 615-unit Lincoln Park development opposed by Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, but supported by Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration. But it got delayed.

The Eamus Catuli rooftop sign at 3633 N. Sheffield Avenue shows new zeroes, Oct. 29, 2016, before the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians play Game 4 of the World Series at Wrigley Field. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)
The Eamus Catuli rooftop sign at 3633 N. Sheffield Ave. shows new zeroes, Oct. 29, 2016, before the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians play Game 4 of the World Series at Wrigley Field. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

Waguespack considers the Sterling Bay development blocks away from the mostly unbuilt Lincoln Yards site to be too big and dense for the area. Johnson’s support of the project had set up aldermen to vote Tuesday against so-called aldermanic prerogative, potentially teeing up a rejection of the customary final say aldermen get over developments in their ward.

Both Waguespack and a Sterling Bay attorney separately requested the project not come up Tuesday, Lawson said. The project must be considered within the next six months and could face a vote at the committee’s next meeting in July.

The anticipated debate still loomed over the committee Tuesday, however. When an unrelated basic zoning change in Waguespack’s ward came up for consideration, Ald. Brendan Reilly made a point to nod to the tradition of only moving forward with a local alderman’s support as he called for a vote.

“Because Ald. Waguespack supports this zoning change, I move to pass,” he said.

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Chicago Tribune

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