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CHICAGO-Despite assurances they will retain their aldermanic prerogative over development in their wards, not all aldermen are pleased about the sale of surplus properties shifting between departments. The city’s department of planning and development will be in charge of selling vacant city-owned land throughout the city, rather than the department of general services.

City-owned properties have been redeveloped primarily for residential use, including new condominiums and townhomes. Most of the parcels are concentrated on the South and West sides of the city, notes 3rd Ward Alderman Dorothy Tillman, who objected to the shift before the measure was recommended for approval by the city council’s committee on housing and real estate.

“This is not just a simple consolidation,” Tillman charges. “You’re changing the rules of the game.”

Before city-owned properties are sold, prospective purchasers turn in a letter of intent, which is forwarded to the respective aldermen for their recommendation, says department of general services asset manager Cosmo Briatta. Denial by an alderman is a virtual veto, as fellow council members typically follow suit when development proposals, including sales, come up for a vote.

The shift will allow the department of general services to focus on managing city facilities. The department recently handled the 283,530-sf lease renewal at 30 N. LaSalle St. with Equity Office Properties. However, Tillman is not the only alderman concerned about the department of planning and development’s new authority.

“In planning, they want to plan your community,” claims 26th Ward Alderman Billy Ocasio.

However, 50th Ward Alderman Bernard Stone suggests checks and balances are in place. “Just as we can move it to the department of planning, we can move it back,” he warns.

Among the largest vacant parcels in the city’s portfolio is a 35,140-sf site in the 4800 blocks of S. Cottage Grove and Evans avenues, in Toni Preckwinkle’s 4th Ward. The city has set $316,000 as the minimum bid for the site, which is zoned C2-3 and R-5. Current zoning could accommodate at least 77,000 sf of new development.

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