“Call the Tune” by Mike Anthony
Hardly a day goes by without someone asking about the status of UrbanStreet Group of Chicago’s roughly $104.3 million mixed-use redevelopment of the former Crestwood Plaza at Watson and Sappington roads.
While demolition appears to be complete, it doesn’t appear much else is happening there other than trucks hauling fill materials to the site.
That’s confusing because two years ago this month, Bob Burk, managing partner of UrbanStreet Group of Chicago, told the Crestwood Tax-Increment Financing Commission that he was confident retail tenants could be secured for the project.
In making his pitch for economic assistance for the project, Burk said no retail tenants could be secured until that assistance was granted. He also said the project would not proceed without that assistance.
Of potential tenants, Burk told the commission, “They’re out there. We are very, very confident that we can secure them … Collectively we need to go out to that marketplace … This site has a history in the marketplace.
“The potential users are aware of that history. They are looking for a signal from collectively, again, from the private sector and the public sector that this project has the capacity to move forward …”
Based on Burk’s assurances, the TIF Commission recommended approval of UrbanStreet’s proposal to the Board of Aldermen, despite the fact that details of the project were murky and no tenants were identified.
On March 8, 2016, Burk told aldermen, “… We’ve been trying to be very realistic. We didn’t want to come to you guys at the outset of this thing and promise you a three-ring circus and Mars. I said it before and I’ll say it again, we’re not in the fantasy business. We are in the real-estate construction business, and we have felt since day one that this plan is attainable …”
Two weeks later, aldermen granted approval of UrbanStreet’s request for $25 million in economic assistance.
Under the terms of a redevelopment agreement between UrbanStreet and the city, the developer is required to substantially complete the project within 36 months of the date of the pact, which was effective in early April 2016.
That seems highly unlikely given the fact that roughly 20 months have elapsed since the approval of the agreement and that details of the project remain as elusive as when Burk addressed the TIF Commission in December 2015.