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CHICAGO-A 15,000-sf building at the northwest corner of Broadway and Montrose Avenue might be the missing piece to the puzzle to developing the six-acre Wilson Yard site in the Uptown neighborhood on the north side of the city. Negotiations between the owners and master developer of the site have been on-again, off-again, but the city is adding leverage by giving the department of planning and development authority to acquire the property.

Peter Holsten was chosen as master developer in April 2002 after a request for qualifications process but has yet to unveil his plans for the property, which is traversed by the Chicago Transit Authority’s elevated Red Line. Those plans would change, says 46th Ward Ald. Helen Shiller, if the prime site was included in the Wilson Yard project.

Besides offering first-floor retail space on a limited amount of frontage along Montrose Avenue, another idea being considered is developing housing for senior citizens above the 15,000 sf, which is now fully occupied by 13 tenants.

The community development commission gave city planners authority to spur negotiations with the threat of eminent domain despite objections from community groups, including the Uptown Chicago Commission. Opponents say the neighborhood already lacks retail space, and has a disproportionate amount of subsidized and low-income housing, including shelters.

“If you want to do a retail development, that’s a key corner,” says department of planning and development commissioner Alicia Berg.

The master developer will be urged to preserve the 79-year-old building’s terra cotta facade.

Although the Highland Park family that owns the property has not named a price, the market value is less than $500,000, according to the Cook County Assessor’s office. However, the ultimate price may likely be closer to the $1.1-million equalized value.

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