ELMHURST – The City Council chose to negotiate with Morningside Group with respect to their six-story proposal on the Hahn Street Redevelopment project, which includes first-floor retail, public green space, public parking and luxury rental units.
"This is the beginning of negotiation," Mayor Steve Morley said. "There's a long way to go before we put a shovel in the ground."
Aldermen voted to negotiate with Morningside over Lincoln Property Company with a 9 to 4 vote, with one Alderman absent.
The aldermen voting against Morningside seemed to value Lincoln's higher predicted financial benefit to the city.
"If it's not about the numbers, what is it about?" Seventh Ward Alderman Patrick Wagner asked.
Fourth Ward Alderman Kevin York also commented about the additional financial impact he predicted Lincoln's tenants would bring the city. He specifically noted the company's management abilities and targeted tenants with disposable income and a demographic of 25- to 45-year-olds.
"I think it will add a lot more economic incentives that aren't measured in any of the numbers that we're seeing here," York said.
Aldermen supporting Morningside favored the developer's architecture and design.
"I continue to believe that it will be easier for city staff and city council to work with the developer to get the numbers where we want them than to get a design where we want it," said First Ward Alderman Marti Deuter.
Deuter also noted benefits she saw in Morningside's design, including the placement of the building's residential entrance. While Lincoln's design placed it on York Street, Deuter believed Morningside's idea to put the entrance on Addison Avenue would give the building a second front side. She also favored Morningside's deep setbacks among other features.
Seventh Ward Alderman Mark Mulliner liked Morningside's flexibility to transform the luxury rental units into condos. Fifth Ward Alderman Scott Levin argued that the future of condos was too hard to predict, but still favored the Morningside concept.
Once the council chose Morningside, members then discussed which proposal – four or six stories – they preferred.
First Ward Alderman Diane Gutenkauf argued that a six-story building would change the character of the downtown and set a precedent for other larger buildings.
"We've already spent the money on the land," Gutenkauf said. "At this point its really about the quality of the building we get, what it looks like and what it says about how far we're willing to go."
Third Ward Alderman Michael Bram questioned the "down-the-line cost" of building a six-story building downtown. He questioned what type of impact the development might have if it creates too much congestion.
Aside from Gutenkauf and Bram, the rest of the council favored Morningside's six-story proposal.
"Four stories doesn't even come close to making economic sense for the taxpayers," Fourth Ward Alderman Stephen Hipskind said.