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Tunney threatens to try to block Wrigley unless changes made

Ald. Tom Tunney is threatening to withhold his support for a massive Wrigleyville redevelopment unless changes are made to a hotel the Cubs owners want to put up across the street from Wrigley Field.

The 44th Ward alderman’s comments came as the city Plan Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on the $500 million Ricketts family plan to renovate the aging ballpark, build the hotel and an office building and make other changes to the bustling North Side neighborhood.

Weeks ago, Tunney said the Cubs needed to give up a pedestrian bridge over Clark Street connecting the planned hotel at Clark and Addison streets to the park. He also called on the Ricketts family to move the hotel entrance and a proposed outdoor patio above the entrance off of residential Patterson Avenue, where he said they would be too close to people’s homes.

On Wednesday, Tunney said the bridge is a concern because an inebriated fan walking over the street could drop a beer on a passing car. “It’s a safety issue,” he said.

Despite Tunney’s position, it remains to be seen whether the Ricketts family needs the local alderman on their side, or if Mayor Rahm Emanuel will push the entire development package through without the alderman’s backing.

Wrigleyville community group the Lake View Citizens' Council was to hold a Wednesday evening rally for the corner of Clark and Patterson Wednesday evening to protest what they say has been a lack of public input in developing the plan.

Cubs officials have stood by their proposal, pointing out that the Ricketts family is not seeking public financing for the project and arguing that entitles the team to wide latitude on specific facets of the construction.

“Every single asset we’re seeking has value to the Cubs and potential partners,” Cubs spokesman Julian Green said in an email Wednesday. “And we understand better than anyone every part of this project has to be done responsibly with the safety of our neighbors, fans and visitors in mind. Like always, we’re continuing talks with Alderman Tunney and the City.”

Tunney said he also wants a 10-year moratorium on signs rising above the bleachers in the outfield at Wrigley after the city Landmarks Commission last week granted the team the right to build a 5,700-square-foot video scoreboard in left field and a 650-square-foot video billboard in right field. The Cubs have resisted such an agreement, saying they might want to request additional signs.

Tunney said he has been working his aldermanic colleagues, urging them to join him in voting against the Ricketts plan when it comes before the full City Council if it still includes the bridge and the Patterson Avenue hotel entrance and patio and doesn’t include the sign moratorium.

That could set up an open fight on the floor of the City Council, a rarity during Emanuel’s tenure. Aldermen have not come close to defeating an Emanuel-backed ordinance in an up-or-down council vote, however.

Since taking over as mayor in 2011, Emanuel has shown a tendency to concede a little bit to the concerns of aldermen. That was on display as the Cubs to agreed to Tunney’s request that they reduce the size of the left field scoreboard very slightly from the 6,000 square feet they initially asked for, and to bring the right field sign down from the 1,000 square feet originally requested.

But while a local alderman’s opposition normally spells doom for a large construction project in his ward, the mayor has staked out a strong public position in favor of seeing a deal get done on Wrigley without public funding. Tunney opposed the outfield signs even after they were shrunk, and that part of the Wrigley plan still passed the Emanuel-appointed Landmarks Commission without dissent.

jebyrne@tribune.com
hdardick@tribune.com
Twitter @_johnbyrne

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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