University officials met with nearly 100 community residents on June 22 to talk about long-term campus planning and preview a municipal process that will take place later this summer.
The meeting precedes a proposed amendment to the University’s Planned Development, City of Chicago zoning legislation that outlines how the University utilizes its land and what uses are permitted. University officials expect to apply for an amendment later this summer, and promised a second meeting with community stakeholders and area property owners to discuss details of the proposal.
The first meeting, which included Ald. Leslie Hairston of the 5th Ward and Ald. Willie Cochran of the 20th Ward, focused on the University’s approach to long-term planning, and a broad explanation of the Planned Development process.
Ellen Sahli, a director of Civic Engagement for UChicago, said the University wants to give residents a framework for understanding the Planned Development and answer questions.
“We convened the meeting to inform you, as community stakeholders, about the University’s planning for its campus and how we think about campus development and consider new buildings,” said Sahli. “From our perspective, sharing the framework for planning will make subsequent discussions about our proposed changes to the PD more informed.”
Alicia Murasaki, executive director of Planning and Design for Facilities Services, said the University thinks strategically of the campus in zones that include the Main Quadrangles, the northern part of campus, south of the Midway, east campus and west campus areas.
For each zone, planners develop principles that provide a framework for decisions, both in the short and long term.
For example, the recently completed Midway Crossings project was designed to widen the walkway and increase lighting at the pedestrian level. It also connected the campus and created a safer pedestrian experience for the University and its neighboring communities — a priority for the zones that the crossing joined.
That strategic approach works well with the Planned Development, which allows the University and the City of Chicago to look at the entire 214-acre campus as a single piece of property, instead of working within the limits of individual parcels.
From time to time the University re-opens the Planned Development, in part to add newly acquired parcels. Murasaki said the University intends to add 16 new parcels  to the document in this amendment. The University strategically creates a roadmap to ensure building projects ultimately enhance the University, by supporting both the academic mission and enhancing the character and identity of the physical campus.
In addition, Sahli said the amendment could help move forward several projects that are currently in process.
“We have purchased the 5757 S. University Ave. building and are very excited about moving ahead with that project, but we are limited in how far we can proceed on that building without adding it to our PD,” she said. “Additionally, the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, with the assistance of the University, will be moving to the McGiffert House, which we are also adding to the PD.”
The Planned Development does not substitute for normal municipal planning processes, however.
“When the University wants to construct a new building or add an existing building within the PD boundaries, we must submit an application to the City Department of Housing and Economic Development to make sure the project does not exceed the limits of site coverage, floor area ratio, building setbacks and to ensure that the landscape design is in accordance to the City’s landscape ordinance,” Murasaki said.
Sahli and Murasaki were on hand to field questions from residents, which ranged from the impact of parking to jobs and the next steps in the process. University officials will continue to update residents regarding the proposed PD changes within the next few months.
“Following this meeting and as we finalize our proposed changes to the PD, we’ll have another discussion to talk in greater detail about what those changes are,” said Sahli. “We work closely with Alderman Hairston and Alderman Cochran throughout the planning process for the campus. Ensuring that the University talks with community stakeholders is also something that each feels strongly about.”