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City Council Approves Lincoln Park Hospital Redevelopment Plan

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The full City Council on Wednesday gave the green light to a controversial redevelopment plan – at the last Council meeting for the retiring alderman who supports the idea.

Ald. Vi Daley (43rd), who is retiring and will be succeeded by Michele Smith, has given her support to the plan. But Smith accuses the property's developer of pushing the project through during a lame-duck session of the council, and says she will move to repeal the ordinance approving it.

Smith's opposition to the project figured heavily in her election as Lincoln Park's alderman in April.

The development, called Webster Square calls for one existing hospital building to be converted into high-rise condo tower, and for a second residential building called "The Flats" to be constructed on the site. The project also calls six floors of medical offices in an existing hospital building.

A Fresh Market grocery store is planned for the old hospital parking garage right across from vintage homes.

Many neighbors have expressed concern about the project, particularly additional traffic congestion and delivery truck traffic for the grocery store on quiet and narrow Webster Avenue. Some neighbors have expressed concern that the store would take business away from Carnival Foods, a small neighborhood grocery store located about a block away at Lincoln, Cleveland and Dickens avenues.

Some neighbors have also argued that the zoning change for the grocery store could pave the way for a big-box store someday, ushering in even more traffic.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Smith accused the developer of subterfuge by applying for a building permit for the grocery before the zoning was even granted.

"I don't think the citizens of our ward want to deal with people who are underhanded and deceptive," she said.

Mayor Richard M. Daley, however, said she wanted the project approved in her remaining days in office because it addresses a potential blight in her ward.

"I don't want to have an empty hospital sitting around for the next couple of years," the mayor said. "I mean, that's not going to be good. Children's [Memorial Hospital] is leaving in 2012. That's a block away. I can't have that happen. It's important for me to move this ahead. It's a good project. Overall, it's good for our community."

The council last month deferred a vote on the zoning to give the developer more time to reach a deal with Smith, but the incoming alderman said no concessions were offered.

The Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire

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